Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


Taken to the Extreme: Heavy Metal Cover Songs – The Impact of Genre

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Melissa Spirek (Advisor)


Investigations of popular music forms that have been negatively portrayed in popular media, such as heavy metal and rap, have been largely limited to analyses of lyrics (e.g., Hansen & Hansen, 1991; St. Lawrence & Joyner, 1991; Ballard & Coates, 1995; Anderson, Carnagey, & Eubanks, 2003), even though evidence of the sound being more important than the words was demonstrated as far back as 1969 (Robinson & Hirsch). The present investigation was conducted in response to this void in the literature. To test the music, a two-part multimethodological study was employed, consisting of an experiment and surveys, to analyze how music genres are cognitively processed by listeners. The first study tested differences in people’s perceptions of different music genre labels and their impact on song lyrics. The second study tested differences in musical genres using pop original and heavy metal cover songs as stimuli. Data collection was gathered via questionnaires consisting of both open- and closed-ended items. When rigorously assessing people’s behaviors, perceptions, and self-reports identifying media consumption preferences, the investigation’s findings refute a direct effects approach to music listening and underscore the complexity of individual difference factors. Most notably, a distinction between the concepts of music and lyric was found, providing evidence that previous research in this area has not accounted for the complex nature of music consumption. Detailed results of hypotheses testing are provided and discussed in relation to previous research. Additionally, arguments are advanced for using more complex theoretical perspectives and data collection methods. Finally, the results of both studies provide directions for future research to explore.