'Healthy' and 'Unhealthy' Songs: Boston Commission's Top 10

The Grammy Awards it's not, but many of us fusty old parents will welcome the new Top 10 lists from the Boston Public Health Commission: the songs that are best and worst at promoting healthy relationships. (They're posted on the commission's home page here.)

Personally, I'm glad of official confirmation for the way I bristle every time Eminem's "Love The Way You Lie" comes on the teeny-bop radio station my daughter forces me to listen to in the car, and the compulsion I feel to explain to her all the ways that the song gives the wrong message.

Here are the top 10 lists, and the commission's release:

BOSTON – A teen violence prevention program at the Boston Public Health Commission has released its second annual Top 10 lists of healthy and unhealthy relationship songs. Train’s song “If It’s Love” topped the list of healthy relationship songs, while music veteran Usher had the top two songs on the 2010 unhealthy list - “Lil Freak” and “Hot Tottie.” One of this year’s breakout stars – Katy Perry – was also a healthy choice for music fans; her song “Teenage Dream” followed Train as the second healthiest song of 2010.

Using the Sound Relationships Nutritional Label it started a year ago, Start Strong peer leaders analyzed songs from Billboard’s "Hot 100" chart, a record of the top 100 songs purchased, played on the radio, and streamed online across all music genres. Monica’s “Everything to Me” took the third spot on the healthy relationship songs list while Bruno Mars had two healthy songs on the list. Although the lyrics on Perry’s “Teenage Dream” include themes about sex, it was in the context of a healthy relationship, said participants in Start Strong, a program of the Commission’s Division of Violence Prevention.

“We don’t see sex as an unhealthy part of a relationship, especially if it also includes caring, support, and love,” said Start Strong teen Desire Peguero, 16, of Roxbury.

Usher, the Grammy Award-winning musician who was one of Glamour Magazine’s sexiest men of 2010, took home this year’s top awards for unhealthiest relationship songs for “Lil Freak” and “Hot Tottie.”

“Teens were particularly bothered by Usher’s lyrics for ‘Hot Tottie’,” said Casey Corcoran, director of the Commission’s Start Strong Initiative. “In it, Usher describes a relationship world view where it isn’t cheating if nobody knows and brags about his partner not wanting him to use a condom. These kinds of attitudes aren’t just unhealthy, they’re dangerous.”

Eminem, who returned to the musical spotlight in 2010 with “Love the Way You Lie,” came in at number three on the unhealthy relationship songs list.

“We had a hard time scoring the song ‘Love The Way You Lie’,” Peguero said. “While the song does accurately portray an abusive relationship, it doesn’t do enough to condemn that type of relationship.”

Last year’s winner of the healthiest relationship song – Justin Bieber – found his way to the unhealthy list with “Eenie Meenie.”

For more information about the Commission’s Start Strong Initiative, and to download copies of the Top Ten Lists, Sound Relationships Nutritional Label, or TrueView Tool, visit or call (617) 534-5674.

This program aired on December 21, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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Carey Goldberg Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.



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