Cultural and Ethnic Studies

SOCI 220 – American Popular Culture
American Public University System

Assignment 2: Music Analysis (Option 1)
Due: by 11:55p ET Sunday of Week 4 –

PURPOSE: The purpose of this assignment is to use content analysis to critically analyze how one social issue/problem is discussed and represented in popular culture through music lyrics.

BACKGROUND: There are many agents of popular culture though which the messages, themes and symbols of popular culture are produced and consumed. Media is a key agent of popular culture, and within it music is one mode for the production and consumption of popular culture. The music of the 1960s marked a key period of transition in the United States as themes of social problems and dissidence started to fill the radio waves. This assignment will allow you to explore one social issue or problem in music today.


1) Choose ONE social issue or social problem (i.e. drugs, the environment, war, teenage pregnancy, hate crimes, etc).

2) Find at least 5 songs with lyrics that address your chosen social issue/problem. You will need to cite these songs using proper APA formatting (see below).

3) Analyze the songs for similarities and differences in how they address the social issue/problem
– look for themes within and among the songs (i.e. songs about war that talk about ‘ending war’
– consider the year the songs were copyrighted
– consider the genre the song fits in
– is the song directed at a particular audience? (think socio-demographic characteristics: age, race/ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status (SES), and sexuality)
– what type of vocabulary, words, grammar, euphemisms, vernacular is used for the lyrics?
– Consider the actual production of the song as well: tempo, emotion, male/female singer, individual singer/band, etc.

4) Find at least two sources that address music AND your social problem (i.e. the sources are providing similar analysis or commentary on how your social problem is addressed through music). These may be popular sources (i.e. magazine articles or websites), but Wikipedia is NOT acceptable.

5) Find at least ONE peer-reviewed article that discusses your social issue problem and how it is portrayed by the media (ideally this would be focused on your social issue and problem, but this may be difficult to find – so an article on TV, radio, internet, movies is OK).
– See Finding Peer Reviewed Journals guidelines for how to find a peer-reviewed journal article through the APUS online library (under weekly Lessons)

5) Write-up your paper
a) Cover Page
b) Clearly identify your chosen social issue/problem.
a. Why are you interested in studying this?
c) Write-up your analysis of how this social issue/problem is addressed in the 5 songs you chose
a. NOTE: this is the majority of your paper. It is a ‘comparative critical’ analysis of how your chosen social issue/problem is addressed in these songs. It is NOT a summary of each song, and it should not include cutting and pasting the lyrics of all of the songs into the paper.
i. If you submit a paper that is full of copied lyrics, you will receive a ZERO.
b. Use the prompts in step 3 to help you organize this analysis
c. Information about the singer/band should be a VERY minimal part of this analysis; the lyrics are the heart of the analysis
d. APA-formatted in-text citations should be used throughout this section
d) Briefly describe the TWO sources you found that discuss music and your chosen social problem.
a. Discuss how the analysis or commentary in these two sources compares to your analysis
b. Remember your APA-formatted in-text citations
e) Briefly describe your chosen peer-reviewed article.
a. What is the main research question/thesis of the article
b. What is the research method used in the article (i.e. survey, interview, content analysis, observation, experiment, etc)
c. What are the key findings of the article
d. Discuss how the findings in this article can help you to better understand/explain your chosen social issue/problem and how it is addressed in your chosen songs
e. Remember APA-formatted in-text citations
f) Conclude by discussing how your analysis is helpful and relevant in the study of American Popular Culture


– length: 3-5 pages
– APA formatting should be used throughout
o 1” margins
o 12 pt arial or times new roman font
o in-text citations and corresponding full references
o See APA formatting help under Lessons

APA Formatting for Music Recording must include:
1. Name(s) of composer(s)
2. Date of copyright in parenthesis ()
3. Title of song [Recorded by (if available) artist if different from writer]
4. On Title of album (italicised) [Medium of recording; CD cassette etc.]
5. Location: label
6. Recording date if different from copyright date

Nicks, S. (1977). Dreams [Recorded by Fleetwood Mac]. On Rumours [CD]. Burbank, Calif.: WB Records.

Vine, C. (1996). 5 bagatelles [Recorded by I. Munro]. On Mere bagatelles [CD]. Australia: Tall Poppies.

Mussorgsky, M. P. (1994). Coronation Scene from Boris Godunov [Edited by K. Marie Stolba] On Development of western music, Vol. 2, No. 4.[CD]. Madison, Wis.: Brown and Benchmark.

Example of Rerecording by artist other than composer with different recording date:
Goodenough, J. B. (1982). Tails and trotters [Recorded by G. Bok, A. Mayo, & E. Trickett]. On And so will we yet [CD]. Sharon, CT; Folk- Legacy Records. (1990).

In text citations singer or band, copyright year and track number.
– E.g. for the song: “Tails and Trotters” (Goodenough, 1982, track 5)