Have you ever felt sad or lonely and wanted to listen to a sad song because of it? Just to get that feeling that you weren’t alone in feeling that way? Or when you’re about to go for a workout, you specifically pick the playlist based on the songs that get you amped up and excited, right? That’s something we’ve all done. Music is the amplifier of emotion, it’s “Welcome to the Jungle” that they play in the stadium when the team comes out before the big game. It’s “Pomp and Circumstance” that underlies every graduation ceremony that swells up the emotion in proud parents.
This is complete and total emotional manipulation. But it’s emotional manipulation that we accept. that we not only understand, but often instigate. The music stimulates the release of chemicals that adjust your mood. Music works on our brains exactly like a drug. Of course, it’s a drug whose worst side effects usually consist of little more than dressing like an idiot. We pick a track on our playlist for a reason, we know what we’re going for. When we listen to a song that we know will effect us in a certain way, we know exactly what will happen to us when we take the drug.
But just like the drugs you buy off the street, certain music isn’t 100% pure. It can be “cut with” something else. Messages put into the music that we’ll never hear, that will only be heard at the subconscious level. That’s a kind of emotional manipulation that we didn’t agree to, that’s taking a drug where we don’t know what’s going to happen to us. These are subliminal messages hidden inside the songs that are supposed to deliver some kind of communication to our unconscious to make us feel and do things that we wouldn’t necessarily do.
The most popular examples of these kinds of messages are “back masking” which is reversing a vocal or line so that the only way to hear it properly is to play it backwards and then having barely audible messages inside the songs, things that you might be able to hear if you really strain, but are usually pretty ambiguous inside the song. These are the kinds of messages that were alleged to Ozzy Osbourne and Judas Priest and led to their famous subliminal message suicide court cases in the 1980s.
But from audiotapes that say they’ll help you quit smoking to TV stations using images to try and convince a killer to turn himself in, subliminal messages are part of the culture. Whether they’re effective or not, a lot of people believe that they’re being used on us all the time by the government, advertisers, and of course, musicians.
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