I plugged my iPhone into the car and flipped it to our favorite album. “Now remember, boys,” I told my three sons, “the only things worth singing are worth singing loud.”
And so my seven-, five-, three-year-old and I busted into, at the top of our lungs, “HOW DOES A BASTARD/ ORPHAN/ SON OF A WHORE AND A SCOTSMAN/ DROPPED IN THE MIDDLE OF A FORGOTTEN SPOT IN THE CARRIBBEAN …” for all the world to hear.
It was Hamilton, of course. My kids even know the R-rated parts of the song, though we had to have a conversation when we visited Grandma about how we can’t sing certain parts of the musical.
But every time I hear my kids singing “Boom goes the cannon/ Watch the blood and the shit spray/Boom goes the cannon/ We’re abandoning Kip’s Bay,” my heart swells. Not because they know Hamilton necessarily, but because they are singing — unabashedly, unashamedly, and loud.
Bottom line: Singing is good for you. And singing loud in a group is best of all. That’s why riotous drinking songs are so much fun. And this isn’t just bar room bullshit either. There is actual, serious scientific research to back this up. If you sing enough — whether it’s in your shower or car, or belting out the Sunday hymns in an off-key voice — singing has numerous physical and psychological benefits.
A London study comparing the prevalence of snoring in semi-professional choral singers and people who don’t sing found that, all else being equal, singers were less likely to snore. So if your hubby is sawing logs at night, you might want to encourage him to belt out some of his man-music that you can’t stand. This is because, as Prevention says, “When the muscles of our airways are soft or weak, they vibrate, causing that disruptive nighttime noise.” When you strengthen them, you cut back on the snorting yak sounds.
Singing also helps your heart. In a study of choral singers – which can be extrapolated to any kind of people singing in a group, including my kids and me belting out “Yellow Subarmarine” – cmuse reports that, “Researchers discovered that members of a choir saw their heart rates beat in unison in relation to the speed of their breathing. Heart rates were directly affected by the melody of the music, and the pulses of those tested rose and fell at the same time when they sung in a group.”
And the more you sing, the better the benefits. So while it might not be a free pass to go out to bar and belt out “Finnigan’s Wake,” it might mean a lot more car sing-a-longs, though I recommend something more stimulating than “The Wheels on the Bus” or “The Farmer in the Dell.”
Music also might help mild asthma. A meta-study done in 2014 by Complementary Therapy Medicine found a weak association between between “positive effects on lung function in mild asthma.” Other conclusions found it was just as good as breathing exercises or playing an instrument, but that singing did definitely lead to “mood improvement, decrease of depression, [and decreased] anxiety.”
In fact, a study found that choir members with depression, after one year, sometimes no longer met the criteria for depression. This is a big deal, folks. Yes, they likely had mild depression, not major, serious, horrific depression. But this reason in itself is good enough for us to drag out whatever our jam is and make the whole family sing it aloud, over and over. Who cares if it’s “Champagne Supernova?” No one’s judging you here.
Actually, study after study has shown that music does wonders for mood. A study from Psychology of Music found that choral singers had significantly “higher psychological well-being” than solo singers or those who play team sports. Choir members also reported that “they considered their choirs to be a more coherent or ‘meaningful’ social group than team sport players considered their teams.”
In other words, singing brings people together. It makes them feel all warm and fuzzy about each other; it releases endorphins, which TIME Magazine explains are “associated with feelings of pleasure.” Singing also releases oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone,” the article continues, and singers have “lower levels of cortisol,” a hormone which signifies stress.
More pleasure, less stress? Yes please!
Don’t you want that for your family? I certainly want that for mine. So we’re going to keep singing Hamilton loud and proud — including the curse words. Whether it’s The Beatles, David Bowie, or The Velvet Underground, we’ll sing it loud and proud. And soon we’ll be walking through Target singing “The Ten Duel Commandments” and not giving a fuck what anyone thinks, because we’re singing our hearts out. And it’s beautiful, wonderful, amazing thing.