Do hard times make for softer tunes?

COLUMBIA, S.C. _ "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)," a fervent ode written by country singer Alan Jackson, was a response to a terrorist attack.

So was Toby Keith’s truck-grill bruising "Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue (The Angry American)."

The shooting that killed 33 on a college campus inspired R. Kelly to pen the memorial "Rise Up." And "Tie My Hands" was Lil Wayne’s release of lyrical frustration, his city mentally still under water.

Everyone remembers the days referenced above.


Virginia Tech.

Hurricane Katrina.

Catastrophes that shake a broad cross-section of people inspire musicians to record heartfelt music.

So who's talking about the recession? And how will a crippled economy affect or change what popular performers sing about?

A glance of the top selling songs and albums thus far this year suggests pop material is what even Warren Buffett isn't: recession proof.

Terry F. Pettijohn, a social psychologist at Coastal Carolina University, co-authored a study that found when social and economic times were threatening, chart-topping songs are more meaningful, comforting and slower.

"They’re really kind of reflections of what’s happening in our environment at a time," said Pettijohn about the songs he studied, Billboard No. 1 hits from 1955 to 2003.

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