Definition Essay – Justin Baker

Heavy Metal Helps

“Heavy metal music is about shutting out the tensions of life, putting it away.” Peter Tork, bassist for The Monkees, made this statement when asked about how important heavy metal was. Peter Tork, though an early rock musician, has much appreciation for heavy metal and the positives the genre has to offer. Heavy metal has gotten a bad reputation because of various assumptions, such as that it is strictly for satan worshippers and serial killers. Also, subgenre names such as Thrash metal, Death metal, and Black metal sound like music that is just loud music and angry vocals. Those genres do encompass those characteristics, but there is so much more to the music. A closer look under the surface of the music shows lyrics that many troubled people can relate to and an aggressive sound that can help people vent frustration and depression.

Heavy metal is a highly amplified harsh-sounding, violent therapeutic genre of music. Due to it being harsh and aggressive, the music diffuses the anger in its listeners. At Loyola University in New Orleans, an experiment was done by to see if there was a link between Heavy Metal and aggressive tendencies. After listening to metal, the participants who had been tested with the non-heavy songs scored higher on the depression inventory than participants who had been tested with the heavy songs. Heavy metal helps take the edge off. Another study done by Jeffrey Arnett at the high point of metal in the late 80s and early 90s showed many young adults used heavy metal as a way to cope with being bullied at school or with family issues. Many of the young adults interviewed claimed that if they did not have heavy metal to calm them down, they could have done something they would later come to regret. Heavy metal was also a way to help guys deal with rejection of girls because of the lyrics in many metal songs dealing with a similar rejection.

Heavy metal is a type of therapy for people who could not tell their troubles to a proper therapist. Whether they are too stubborn or too egocentric to go to therapy, heavy metal is a great way to vent and relieve tension. Also, many people do not want to come to the realization that they are depressed or too stressed out. Heavy metal is a way to subconsciously help their depression. Heavy metal provides people a way to vent their feelings and brighten their day up. A study done by The National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth at the University of Warwick surveyed more than 1,000 gifted students aged 11-18 and found that heavy metal provides cathartic release and a way to dissipate negative emotions. Many smart kids are picked on in school and heavy metal provides a way for them to eradicate any violent retaliation feelings they may posses.

Music is a reflection of what is going on in someone’s heart. Heavy metal is the purest form of music. Some issues that many people have to deal with, such as death, anger, fear, illness, sex, repressed weakness, and shortcomings are all issues portrayed in metal songs. People burdened with issues such as depression love to hear about other people going through similar things so they don’t have to feel alone. Heavy metal musicians usually come from a bad background. Dave Mustaine, lead singer and guitarist of Megadeth, lived with only his mother and resorted to doing drugs due to depression. By the young age of 17, he lived in a one-room apartment alone making minimum wage at a record store. Mustaine learned of heavy metal while he worked in a music store and it helped him deal with the hardships of his life. Ozzy Osbourne, lead singer of Black Sabbath, grew up dealing with dyslexia and many other learning disabilities. He left school at the age of 15 because he did not want believe learning was important, so he went to find menial jobs to do such as construction, and even decided to try burglary. Osbourne was picked on as a child because of his various disabilities. Known now as the Prince of Darkness, Osbourne helped forge what was to be known as the heavy metal sound. Whether people are bullied, depressed, or too stressed out, there are metal musicians out there that can relate to them and who write music about it.

Heavy metal is considered the genre of music that is very aggressive, satanic, and has no positive message. Heavy metal is the genre that has saved countless lives. By easily relating to the general population and basic hardships that everyone goes through, such as breakups and death, it is the most relatable genre of music. Unlike in pop music, every hardship can be found in the lyrics of metal songs. Heavy metal is also a very broad term. Whether the listener prefers the softer metal bands such as Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith, or the harder metal bands such as Pantera and Death, many of the messages portrayed in the songs are similar. In “Altering the Future” by Death, the man in the song is plagued with an awful life and a dim future. “Creating a life only to destroy, Saved from a life of the unemployed, Where crime is the only way to survive, Which is the best to be dead or alive?” The man has no hope for a good future. In “Good Times Bad Times” by Led Zeppelin, the man in the song talks about growing up and having a bad future when he can’t become the person he wants to be and can’t have the things he wants. In the days of my youth, I was told what it means to be a man, Now I’ve reached that age, I’ve tried to do all those things the best I can. No matter how I try, I find my way into the same old jam.” The man in the song keeps getting into the same old “jam” and can’t seem to do things right. Since metal has evolved so much over the years, people tend to think of the heaviest metal they can think of as what heavy metal truly is. Heavy metal is such a broad term, but its message across all subgenres of it is the same. Heavy metal helps the listener cope with the hardships of everyday life. It is therapy in the purest sense.

Works Cited

Arnett, Jeffrey. Adolescents and Heavy Metal Music : From the Mouths of Metalheads. 1991. http://yas.sagepub.com.ezproxy.rowan.edu/content/23/1/76.full.pdf+html

Cadwallader, Stuart. Heavy Metal a “Comfort for the Brain Child.” 2007. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/3352230/Heavy-metal-a-comfort-for-the-bright-child.html

Coss, Shaleen. The Effects of Heavy Metal Music on Aggression in College Students. 2009. http://clearinghouse.missouriwestern.edu/manuscripts/209.php

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2 Responses to Definition Essay – Justin Baker

  1. davidbdale says:

    Hey, Baker! As you may recall, I make comments as I read your essay, so you’ll get a “live” impression of how one reader reacts to your argument as it unfolds.

    P1. I appreciate that you did not start by telling readers that you planned to define heavy metal. Starting with a quote that identifies a specific characteristic of the art form from the point of view of an admirer is a much better approach. Rather than apologize that the source of the quote didn’t actually make metal music, you could emphasize that appreciation for the form can be found in unexpected places. (A quote from a symphony conductor would be even better for that purpose, if you can find one.)

    I like the way you’ve avoided getting personal, Baker. You might have said “People give metal a bad name when they . . . . ” but instead you’ve depopulated your comment with: “has gotten a bad reputation based on various assumptions.” That keeps the rhetoric from getting out of control. But, instead of naming the “assumptions,” you get a bit sidetracked by offering the style names. Who is responsible for those names? They’re positive terms for fans, coined by them and by critics whose job is to categorize styles. The “reputation” you refer to might create resistance from outsiders put off by the tags, but it’s deliberate for the fans. So, when you say “hey, it’s not all Thrash and Death,” you’re either sharing the perspective of those who appreciate the richness of the form or you’re selling it out and apologizing for it. Be very clear which one you’re doing.

    In other words, decide if you mean: Yes, it’s that, of course, but so much more; or: No, it’s not that at all; it’s just misunderstood. One is worth arguing very emphatically. The other is just a cop-out.

    P2. I really hate the “is defined as” language. It sounds formulaic (I am writing a Definition Essay, so unless you’re into that sort of thing, go find something else to do) and academic (Milton Friedman’s “Invention of Money” is certainly academic, but it reads like a detective story). Couldn’t you blend the two “definitions” into just one of your own and leave out the “is defined as . . . I define it” language altogether? After all, you abandon the definition angle in the very next sentence and go directly at the topic for this paragraph: the link to aggression.

    So a subliminal definition you could offer without calling it that would say (not admit but assert) that heavy metal is harsh and violent and therefore therapeutic. In that way, you’re no longer trying to disprove someone else’s definition. Sure it’s violent; yes the sounds are aggressive; but that’s what makes it so effective at defusing not causing actual aggression in listeners.

    P3. Your “many people . . . a lot of people . . . many people . . . gives people” approach is OK, Baker, but it takes a while to reveal its purpose and creates a very vague category of “people.” A related approach would concentrate on the music instead of the people. For example: Heavy metal is therapy for those too stubborn or egocentric to tell their troubles to a therapist. Follow that through if you like and see how it shifts the emphasis to the positive values of the music, which is after all your point. The study doesn’t show that “gifted students use,” it shows that “heavy metal provides.” See the difference?

    Watch out for messy pronoun references. What does “those violent retaliation feelings” refer back to? You haven’t named the feelings, so you can’t use “those” to refer to them. (Plus your subject again should be the music that gets rid of the revenge wish, not the smart kid.)

    P4. Never say “I believe.” Readers have more respect for an assertion than for your impressions. Plus, we take it for granted you believe what you say. Adding “I believe” creates doubt.

    In your second sentence, what is the antecedent of “it”?

    Be more careful with your singulars and plurals (Fails for Grammar Rule 4) and depopulate whenever possible. Your “Everybody likes” is worse than “I believe,” because it invites unnecessary argument. “Says who?” is the most common refutation for accusing your reader of being like “everybody.”

    If what you say about the musicians is true, you can attribute all this “sharing” stuff to them, instead of making your reader own it. Dave Mustaine puts all that death, anger, fear, and inadequacy into his music in order to provide his fans “a reflection of what is going on in their hearts.” You come around to this approach eventually, but lead with it to avoid picking fights with readers who don’t want to admit they’re looking for comfort before their idols give them permission.

    P5. One more time, try to avoid the: what others say/what I say argument. You don’t need it. Heavy metal is aggressive, dabbles in satanism, appeals to those whose imaginations are dark (like most adolescents, and adults who aren’t too repressed to admit it) . . . and that’s what makes it so therapeutic and life-affirming!

    You are forbidden to address readers with the Banned 2nd Person (Fails for Grammar Rule 12) for the reason that it’s creepy. You are also banned from calling heavy metal anyone’s “cup of tea” because that’s just silly.

    A much better closing paragraph would compare lyrics from Led Zeppelin or Aerosmith with lyrics from Death to demonstrate the subject matter similarity. “They all talk about the same things” is lame. Such a technique would also avoid the “people tend to think of” language too. You’ll still need to convince readers that the lyrics somehow “help the listener cope,” but I have faith in you, Baker.

    Very impressive overall. 🙂
    Grade recorded. Please consider earning more mad respect by revising and letting me know when you’ve done so. I’d really like to see Metal Rev. 2.0.

    • justinbaker2007 says:

      I updated my post and incorporated many of your suggestions. Thanks so much for them! Can I get another critique of my revision?

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