What’s with all the druggie pop songs?

by Jessie K on November 8, 2013

lady-gaga-dope-628Referencing drug usage in song lyrics is nothing new (“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” basically every Lou Reed song ever recorded) but there seems to be an epidemic of narcotic obsession in current pop music.

Lady Gaga (almost unrecognizable in the photo above) wails about a love she needs more than stimulants in her latest single “Dope.” She even has the trucker cap to prove it.

Miley Cyrus declares “We like to party / dancing with Molly” in her hit “We Can’t Stop.” Because, you know, Hannah Montana will prove to all just how edgee she is.

Basically every single line in Justin Timberlake’s “Pusher Love Girl” references needles, veins, smoke, dealers, blah, blah, blah, thus ODing on the theme to its absolute junkie end. Seriously, JT, we get it.

Lorde’s debut album is called Pure Heroine — hey, great pun, not — which is so crazy creepy considering she’s only 16.

Not one to be left behind, Madonna titled her last album MDNA, a double-entendre for MDMA and Madonna.

I know there are a slew of others — Nicki Minaj “Starships,” Rihanna’s “Diamonds,” every Kesha song there is —  these are the ones off the top of my head.

What’s going on? Part of the trend may be mainstream artists’ attempts to demonstrate how gritty and real and “street” they are rather than puppets of the pop industrial complex, or maybe it’s an indication of  how widely accepted drug usage — even hard drug usage — has become in American culture. Who isn’t doing drugs? (I’m totally freebasing Elmer’s glue as I write this.) Plus linking a chemical addiction to falling in love has been a staple cliche of songwriting forever.

What do you think? Am I just getting old? (Update: See the post below for confirmation.)

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Paula November 8, 2013 at 2:09 pm


None of those artists appeal to me and I haven’t heard the songs. The way you describe them, the are very gritty and unpleasant compared to drug references in older music.

I’ve never used an illegal drug in my life and have no sympathy for the lifestyle, yet I loved “Coming into Los Angeles” by Arlo Guthrie because the sound of the song was very appealing to me.

Susan November 8, 2013 at 2:35 pm


Hahah I totally thought that was Justin Bieber in the picture!!
I think what’s out there being packaged and sold to youth is a little scary and yes it does seem like hard core drugs are being pushed as mainstream. I think the whole party culture scene is all a little much especially when it seems to start younger and younger. I think the songs you mentioned aren’t terrible if that’s your thing the problem I have with them is that they’re marked towards 12 year olds.

Annette November 8, 2013 at 4:30 pm


Perhaps you aren’t getting old but instead you are now thinking like a mother. What seems edgy and cool scares the crap out of you when you start think about your children and drugs. That said, I realize that listening to “drug” music doesn’t make you a user since I used to love singing along with “Cocaine” and the closest I came to using anything was second hand pot smoke. (Pretty surprising since I went to college in the 70’s.) Let’s hope that it is just a short term trend since we certainly don’t need a rise in drug use and the people of Mexico certainly don’t need any more chaos fueled by our need to be “cool”.

Penny November 8, 2013 at 4:36 pm


I listened to,and still do, the old stuff. The difference now is that they are so open about it. The songs I listen to are because of the beat.

SusanF November 8, 2013 at 4:37 pm


Well, we’re all getting older even Justin. I agree it’s probably the mom in you noticing it more. There also seems to be a big return to smoking on screen. It was so good when smoking was virtually absent from TV and movies unless it was relevant to the time period.

It’s so important to start teaching our children early in life, by word and example, good health habits. Also that we can have lots of fun without drugs or smoking or getting drunk.

Mom24_4evermom November 8, 2013 at 8:28 pm


Heroine is not the drug, right? I agree with you completely, up to that point.
her·o·ine (hr-n)
1. A woman noted for courage and daring action.
2. A woman noted for special achievement in a particular field.
3. The principal female character in a novel, poem, or dramatic presentation.

Jessie K November 11, 2013 at 11:52 am


It’s a double-entendre.

Mom24_4evermom November 13, 2013 at 1:07 pm


I’m not arguing, just curious, how do you know that?

Mom24_4evermom November 13, 2013 at 1:18 pm


I mean obviously it’s a homophone, and I guess ideally I wish she had stayed away from that, as my 10 year old sings Royals at the top of her lungs, just so far I haven’t seen any lyrics that reference heroin, but again, not a lot of knowledge of her work.

Olga November 11, 2013 at 2:24 am


Yep, getting old. The older generations never like the music of the younger generations. I just think for us it’s hard to see ourselves as “old”. Beatles were completely scandalous in their time and now they are classic. In the songs you listed I wouldn’t say that the drug reference is too outrageous, pretty mild stuff really. However… I had to look up “Starships” and hmm… “Starships were meant to fly – hands up and touch the sky”…. These lyrics should be punished by law… totally criminal. The Beatles did some cutting edge things musically and lyrically in addition to singing about drugs, these artists are just singing about drugs and nonsense, no innovation. I would be more worried that my kid’s brain turns into mush from listening to these dumb lyrics than from possible drug use that would come from it. Plus, watching porn doesn’t equal promiscuity so hopefully listening to drugged songs doesn’t equal doing them (don’t have any studies to back that one up, but the porn one has lots of studies about it)

sarina November 12, 2013 at 8:09 am


I think that it is a combination of getting older/being a parent. While “we” are mature and feel that we can listen to things without being influenced.. we do worry that our kids might be getting a bad message.

I also would have to say that back in the 60’s/70’s/80’s.. the drugs and the awareness of how devastating they can be to people’s lives wasn’t quite as widely understood. Also, a lot of the drugs these days appear to be (to me) much more harmful and chemically toxic.

I guess the novelty of drug reference in songs has gotten a little stale too. Used to shock and make everything “cool” has gotten tired and old. We’ve all heard it before.. and are not impressed.

Brad K. November 12, 2013 at 11:30 am


Let’s see. There is Clapton’s “Cocaine”, just out a few weeks ago.

Robert Mitchum singing the theme song to “Thunder Road” (song: “Whippoorwill”), about a Prohibition moonshiner.

Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen sang one version I recall, of “Lost in the Ozone Again” (Well it’s/one drink of wine, one drink of gin, and I’m/Lost in the Ozone, again).

I recall visting Grandma, and taking a sip of her nightly can of beer. I couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6. The last 12-pack lasted me a bit over three weeks — the second of this year.

Anyone recall seeing, or hearing of, the movie “Reefer Madness”?

The drugs have changed. The cultural impact can be tracked by government suppression efforts. Nothing spreads the use of a “vice” deeper than noisy government attacks. Prohibition was only the most visible failure, after enriching organized crime and introducing heavy weapons into the crime world.

It is no coincidence that the weapons developed for Vietnam are familiar to generations of Veterans — and accumulating rifles despite disapproval by some politicians — is something most communities experience today.

Censorship of past generations and suppression today merely keep pornography more profitable.

Look at the alcohol and drug songs of early Kristopherson and Johny Cash. And Chumbawampa’s “Tubthumpinh” (some 9,000,000) views on YouTube.

I would have to see if the drug songs act more like Sex Ed class than Math class in school (“Some parents are protesting Sex Ed class. They are afraid if we know about, we will want to Do It. Didn’t work with Math class.” Foxtrot cartoon, circa 1991).

Perhaps the answer is to teach the government, “Don’t feed the trolls”, and the news and entertainment media “Don’t reward (with attention) bad behavior.” Wars on — insert political hay-making-ploy of the day — don’t seem to work. Poverty, drugs, guns, obesity, etc. Just my thought.

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