by Zach Harris
A new study from Addictions.com says that country music contains more drug references than any other genre. The anti-drug website claims that Willie Nelson and his peers mentioned some form of illicit substance in about 1.6% of their songs, while rappers mentioned intoxicants only slightly less than in 1.3% of their tracks.
With ready made headlines like “Country Artists Sing More About Pot Than Any Other Music (Even Rap)” and a chance to shock their readers, respected news sources like Forbes, CMT and Newsweek picked up on the study and the bright graphics that Addiction.com made to accompany it. The problem is that Addiction.com’s broad claims sound bold because they’re backed up by some less-than-stellar data.
Under the methodology section of the study, authors of the study describe how they arrived at the data - “We scraped song lyrics from Song Meanings API for over 1.41 million songs and analyzed drug mentions, what drugs were involved, and how it changed over time.”
The researchers even claim that they “scrubbed the data by hand to make sure the lyrics were in fact about drugs and not another definitions of these nicknames.”
But when you look at the drug references they tracked, and the way they interpreted the lyrics, it appears that Addiction.com’s music experts could use a few lessons in cannabis, rap, and graphing.
The study used a large net of drug-related search terms, but also left out more than we can think of. They included spliff, but forgot to look for any individual strain names. So while Migos mentioned “Cookies” on just about every track off their new album Culture, or while every rapper in the world mentioned how much “loud” they smoke, it all flew over the researchers at Addiction.com’s heads. They didn’t even search for “kush,” a term that produces literally thousands of results on Genius.com.
In addition to their lack of understanding of current weed slang, one look at the study’s section about which artists mention which drugs most will have you both laughing and crying at the same time, once you figure out that some people are actually taking the study seriously.
Though the researchers say they “scrubbed the data by hand” to make sure the references were legit, they also claim that Method Man spends most of his time rapping about methamphetamine. LOL.
We’re not trying to throw shade at Johnny Cash or Hank Williams Jr., but c’mon folks, there’s no way that country musicians are mentioning drugs in their lyrics more than rappers, and we definitely don’t need an algorithm to know that.