In anticipation of the shutdown of Apple’s MobileMe service, I am re-posting some of my old blog entries before they become harder to retrieve.
This entry was originally posted on January 12, 2006. I have modified the URL’s of the references to older blog entries of mine by linking to the re-posts of those entries.
I called the song “Come to Jesus,” by Mindy Smith the worst song of 2004 and “Let Go,” by BarlowGirl the worst free download of the week from the iTunes music store. The former song has a very overt message, expressed in its title. The latter is much more subtle and subversive in its lyrics. (Read them here…)
Back in the 1950’s, Rock and Roll music was regarded as a tool of the devil. A lot has changed in 50 years. Both songs that I mention here have catchy beats that are brought down — hard — by the message that the songs are trying to convey. And the message is one I cannot embrace, which is ostensibly a willingness to move away from personal responsibility in the name of religion.
I want to underscore that I don’t have an inherent dislike of the marriage of music and spirituality. Were it not for religion, we probably wouldn’t have music at all today. In just about every faith’s hymnals, you are bound to find songs to inspire and impress you.
Even in the rock music era, there is definitely room for spirituality. When I put in my votes for all-time greatest songs on WXPN , the two songs that came out on top of my list (“Fallen Icons,” by Delerium and “Idol” by Amanda Ghost) have extremely spiritual connotations, which I more than embraced. The former tells the story of the pursuit of “firecracker, lightning seed” culminating in the narrator realizing “It was always in me.” And the latter questions “Why can’t I find myself an idol, somebody that I can look up to?”
If the subtlety of the spirituality of these two songs is lost on you, how about the more overt lyrics of a song like “Hallelujah,” by Leonard Cohen? (I’ve always had a fondness for Jeff Buckley’s version of that song.) Over and above the title, what about the reference to the Biblical tale of Samson and Delilah? “She tied you to her kitchen chair / She broke your throne and she cut your hair / and from her lips she drew the hallelujah.”
The simple truth is, when it comes to music and spirituality, the message is important. That was true back when all music was religious in some capacity, and it’s still true today. The only difference is that not all music is religious today. Unlike other kinds of music, you can appreciate the song without agreeing with the message. But when religion is used to further a religious or spiritual message, the music becomes the message. Therefore, if the message is objectionable, it needs to be regarded as such.
And I have found, in my experience, that bad lyrics can bring down a song that is good, musically, faster than bad music can bring down a song with decent lyrics.