Song of Myself

| 4/18/2011 12:06:56 PM

Here in the Utne offices we’ve been thinking a lot about ourselves lately. Not necessarily because we’re narcissistic—though if we believe what we read, we probably are—but because our latest issue tackles the whole idea of narcissism in the modern world. From Christopher Lasch’s prophetic take on the narcissism pandemic to a millennial sticking up for her generation to a look at the state of the novel in today’s narcissistic culture, the current Utne Reader looks at the issue from many different angles.

The good folks over at Miller-McCune have chimed in on the subject, too, by way of song lyrics. Apparently the trend over the last few decades in pop music lyrics has gone from “we” to “me.”

“Vocalists often warm up by singing “Mi, mi, mi, mi, mi,” writes Tom Jacobs. “But increasingly, the songs they perform—or at least those that make the top 10 lists—are odes to ‘Me, me, me, me, me.’”

Using something called the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count program researchers analyzed lyrics, looking for words that would imply a shift to “a focus on the self,” such as first-person singular pronouns (I, me, mine), as opposed to first-person plural pronouns (we, us, our). The researchers also found an increase in “words reflecting anger or antisocial behavior (hate, kill, damn).”

So, what does it all mean? In the spirit of all this self-love, why don’t you tell us?

To see the rest of the articles on narcissism go to the table of contents for the May-June issue. 

4/20/2011 9:42:14 AM

I've thought that the "Mi mi mi" sung by tenors came from Rodolfo's lament at Mimi's death in Boheme. As for narcissism, consider the BBC's quartet series "Century of the Self," showing how Edward Bernays' retailoring of Freud's ideas created PR and prevented precious democracy from being left to the people. Result: self-absorbed consumers of product, and a wholly-owned government subsidiary of business.

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