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05 March 2014

Devil's Music: Lyrics

This is the second installment in a series I'll be presenting over the next several blog posts regarding the research I've been working on with several students that we'll be presenting soon at Southerns. (For an early post on the topic, see here.)

We conducted a content analysis of a sample of lyrics from Christian metal bands. Here are the main findings:
  • Surprisingly few of the songs would fit what a typical listener would recognize as "Christian music" or even "religious music."
    • Altogether, only about a quarter (24%) of the songs in the sample explicitly mention any title for the divine.
      • 16% of the songs in the sample explicitly mention "God."
      • 4% of the songs in the sample explicitly mention "Jesus."
      • 10% of the songs in the sample explicitly mention some other title for the divine (e.g. "Lord" or "Almighty").
    • Only 16% of the songs contain praise elements (e.g. "You are great!" or "We magnify you.").
    • Fewer than one in five (18%) of the songs are overtly religious.
The sample of lyrics comprises 100 songs, 10 songs from 10 bands. The sample of bands (see list below) began as a convenience sample drawn from bands known to the researchers to fit the definition of non-industry-crossover Christian aggressive music. Other bands were selectively added from lists of Christian metal acts on Wikipedia. Obscure or regional bands were not included. Other bands were added given their proximity to the existing bands on music-map.com (part of the Gnod network) if they were identified on Wikipedia as Christian. Songs were randomly selected from the studio LP’s for each band. Instrumental songs were replaced. We do not claim that the sample is representative. Lyrics for songs were drawn, whenever possible, from official band websites. Otherwise, lyrics were drawn secondarily from azlyrics.com and corroborated with other lyrics sites on the web. The coders worked independently and without listening to the songs, only coding the lyrics to avoid bias. Each song was coded by three coders, each coder coding 60 songs in total. The intercoder reliability is 85% overall, ranging from 99% ("Jesus") to 70% (overtly religious) for the individual variables. I calculate intercoder reliability as the percentage of items on which all three coders agree. Coding discrepancies are reconciled to the majority opinion.
  1. As I Lay Dying
  2. August Burns Red
  3. Blessthefall
  4. Demon Hunter
  5. The Devil Wears Prada
  6. Haste the Day
  7. Maylene and the Sons of Disaster
  8. Norma Jean
  9. Oh, Sleeper
  10. Underøath

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