The day’s mailbag brings word that a research team listened to three years’ worth of Billboard hits, tabulated all the references to alcohol therein, and published its findings in a journal called Substance Use & Misuse. The headline news? The brand names dropped most frequently in the most popular songs between 2009 and 2011 were Patrón tequila, Hennessy cognac, Grey Goose vodka, and Jack Daniel's whiskey.
It would not take a rap genius to predict that Patrón would be the pacesetter here. As a recent book titled The Patrón Way indicates, for much of this century, it has been a preferred spirit of the “hip-hop community”—a group that has likewise grabbed the Courvoisier and the Hennessy and whatever other French brandies are around by way of seizing on a status symbol. Grey Goose swans into this company quite naturally. Per Young Jeezy, Grey Goose is best enjoyed out on the town, mixed with pineapple or cranberry juice, while your nearby rivals sip on haterade:
When ya in the club and it’s a hater in your face
Go to the bar, order your Grey Goose, this what ya tell em'
I'm on that Grey Goose, do I know you?
Do I know you?
Do I know you?
No, Mr. Jeezy, I don’t believe we’ve been introduced, but that’s not important right now.
The business of the researchers—some of whom hail from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at Johns Hopkins—is to encourage thought about what all this means for public health. OK: Ooh, ooh, I’ve got an idea! What is most striking about these references—and most potentially deleterious to the morals of our nation's youth—is not that they sing the praises of adult beverages while tender ears are listening but that they promote conspicuous consumption of the dullest sort. In terms of gastronomy, these choices are decent but hardly discerning. In terms of bang for the buck, they are not at all good values—which is where their pop value lies.
Grey Goose is, famously, the preferred vodka of modelizing douchebags, of douchebags who aspire to modelize, and anyone else eager to pay a 1000-percent markup for the privilege of inhabiting a table in a nightclub, really. Patrón is the perfect tequila for people too lazy to discover that they can purchase a superior product at a lower price point. Like the Jack Daniels labels brandished by self-made outlaws from Sinatra to Ke$ha, these luxury-brand names, dropped into song lyrics, are most intoxicating as totems.
Do these lyrics encourage minors to experiment with top-shelf? Survey says no, the minors can’t reach that high. When I went to CAMY’s website in search of further information on this study, I discovered the abstract of another study, “Brand-Specific Consumption of Alcohol Among Underage Youth in the United States.” This one found that teenagers are putting away a lot of Bud and Bud Light, just like their parents. The day that teenagers begin consuming Grey Goose en masse is the day Young Jeezy moves on to Stoli Elit.
It has been 15 years since the Beastie Boys offered “Body Movin’,” with a full-bodied simile—”Like a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape / I'm fine like wine when I start to rap”—that isn’t at all as clever as I’d remembered. Perhaps it is time to work on some rhymes that please both the ear and the palate? I am inviting you to bloat the comments with your suggestions for lyrics celebrating bottles more refined than the chart-topping positional goods discussed in this study. Here are three quatrains to get you started.
Roll into dinner
From the floor of the casino
Stimulate my appetite
With Vermouth di Torino
When my homeys call for Grey Goose,
I exercise my veto.
The best bang for the buck
Is a vodka called Tito’s.
I get no kick from champagne.
Mere alcohol doesn't thrill me at all.
But now and then after dinner I kick back
With a nip of Chateau de Laubade XO Armagnac.