Teaching Teens to Analyze Music Messages

Heather Weston

Music has a massive influence on the lives of adolescents. Though teens might not realize it, they are being bombarded with musical messages relating to sexuality and relationships, and it is of paramount importance that they learn how to analyze how these messages affect their health.

For teachers looking to arm their students with the ability to analyze musical messages, try these two tools. (Just click on the heading for a link!)


1. The Sound Relationships Tool

This resource from the Boston Public Health Commission allows students to assess the “nutritional value” of a song as it relates to relationships. Students identify which of the following relationship characteristics are present within the song lyrics, and rank them on an intensity scale. They then determine the overall value of the song based on whether it portrays a predominately healthy or unhealthy relationship. 

Health Relationship Ingredients Unhealthy Relationship Ingredients
Fun  Drama
Support Possession/Obsession
Respect Disrespect
Equality Relationship = Sex
Trust Manipulation 

2. The “True View” Analysis Tool

Also provided by the Boston Public Health Commission, this tool allows students to analyze music videos by employing the “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” modality associated with videos on YouTube. Students go through a similar process as the one above to assess the video, then decide whether they would “share,” “dislike,” or “replay” the video. 

Teachers can use one both of these tools in their classrooms, as it may be of interest to students to see whether the health of a song’s lyrics and music video match. For those who choose to let students pick their own songs, be sure to set parameters in place regarding appropriate language.

After discussing the results with students, have them complete a journal entry with the following open response questions:

  • Does the song portray a healthy or unhealthy relationship? Use the healthy relationship qualities to defend your answer.
  • How can the messages in this song influence how teenagers act, think, and feel about relationships?