Saturday, 2 November 2013

Music and Recessions: An Unexpected Correlation

By Brenna Fisher
Her author profile can be found below this article.

Commonly known throughout the world are the economic effects of inflation and recession. Inflation, when increasing at a steady rate is more prosperous, while recession means, to some degree, a financial crisis. However, one of the lesser known facts about inflation and recession is how it affects a country euphonically. A noticeable trend in music occurs during the ups and downs of the economic cycle. During recessions, the popular music tends to be upbeat and positive, while during an inflation, it tends to be melodiously slower and slightly more melodramatic. During the Great Recession from 2007 until 2009, many countries, including the United States of America, was entering into a downturn. Norway however, was entering a period of financial prosperity, as seen in the graph below. Comparing the popular music during this time, it appears that the trend stays true.

2008 was the peak of the recession for America. Over a million employees were out of a job and the labor force was suffering. However, some of the Billboard Top 100 Hits during this period were “So What” by P!nk, “When I Grow Up” by the Pussycat Dolls, and “Pocketful of Sunshine” by Natasha Bedingfield. Despite the economic downfall, these songs emphasized a catchy up-beat tune and lyrics meant to empower. “When I Grow Up” focuses on the future, rather than the present and “So What” is an offbeat piece meant to highlight the general mentality “who cares, it doesn’t really matter anyways.” Natasha Bedingfield’s hit stresses the positive events and the triumphs, encouraging listeners to be optimistic and forget about the bad. It is no coincidence that many of the listeners were having a difficult time actually finding the positives in their life, so they looked to popular music to encourage it.

Meanwhile, in Norway, the GDP was increasing steadily and the unemployment population was only about 148,000 employees. This allowed for a surge in production, supply and demand, for even the most lavish items. The GDP graph below shows Norway coming out above all other countries in total Gross Domestic Product for 2008.

As expected, the songs in Norway that hit immense popularity, though many of them were US songs released that same year, included “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis, “Grenade” by Bruno Mars, and “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz. All slow moving but touching and emotional ballads, these songs drove Norwegian pop-culture, and inevitably, social mentality. Norwegians were not confined by financial struggles. Rather, they could spend their days listening on reflecting on such popular songs, instead of looking for a distraction. They were content with their lives so they could listen to the thoughts of popular artists.

While these trends are obvious and have been recorded as early as the Roaring Twenties, they are not 100% consistent, as with any trend. They were some popular ballads in the United States during 2001 and some trendy pop songs in Norway. However, they were the exception, not the rule, and based on economic figures and Top 100 charts for both countries, it is the undeniable conclusion. Again, it is noticeable in 2012, a smaller economic recession for the US, where songs that are popular are upbeat and emphasize living for the now”, “YOLO”, and not concentrating on the future, presumably because it isn’t looking all too bright. A recent government shut-down, a political battle that has essentially divided the county, and high unemployment rates force the public to turn to music for a cheerful outlook.

About the author:

Brenna Fisher is a 17 year old home-schooled girl from the United States. She has recently taken up
learning about economics and has found it to be a new favorite subject! In addition, she is fascinated with criminology, psychology, any reading she can get her hands on, and history. In her free time she enjoys acting in local plays, working with children, and volunteering anywhere! This is her third published economics article overall, and first for The Teen Economists. In the future, she hopes to work for the FBI as a behavioral science analyst. She hopes you enjoyed the article!


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