The issue: Pop Music

There are a number of arguments I could make for why you shouldn’t listen to pop music–it’s trashy, it’s low quality, when you listen to pop that means you’re not listening to country–but none of those arguments quite do justice to a genre that weaves itself irremovably into the tapestry of our culture. I am going to argue that pop music is not worth listing to, that most pop music is not morally acceptable and that the genre is not necessary to being a friendly, relatable person.

From the outset, I want to make the distinction between pop that is lighthearted and innocent and pop that is vulgar and salacious. The sort of pop I primarily address in this argument is the latter, the sort that you wouldn’t play at a birthday party for first graders. I am not necessarily attacking the morality of songs written about having fun, fun, fun on the weekend, though those should perhaps be shunned on different grounds. Music is indeed made for different places and purposes, but, in any circumstance, depraved music will form our souls in a negative way.

Some of my close friends argue that pop music is made for shallow, mindless consumption and therefore is justified to be enjoyed in such environments. But in what context is it ever okay to compromise your morals and indulge in something cheap and easy for the sake of immediate consumption? Is there not an inherent problem with this mindset towards music? It is true, we probably shouldn’t listen to Beethoven with the gang on a road trip to the beach, but we can listen to music that is neither Beethoven nor sexually suggestive.

A serious qualm I have with pop music is that it sets low standards and poor examples. Clearly, we do not all become drug abusers and fornicators simply by listening to the radio. However, one of the marketable features of pop is that it sticks. The repetitive and low quality beats stay with us throughout the day. This wouldn’t matter so much if the lyrics were not just as sticky, but there is no moderation or proper place for something that is wicked. Young people emulate what they see. Participating in something for which we have to lower our standards and dumb ourselves down presents a bad example by condoning something that is so base.

A dear friend of mine argues that pop music allows us to relate more sincerely to our culture. It is here I remind him that it is impossible to form a friendship on a foundation of wickedness. It’s sort of like that youth minister whose strategy for evangelism involves making South Park references to his middle schoolers to make them think he is cool, so once he’s gained their trust he can later ambush them with the Gospel. The Incarnation is a beautiful example of God relating to us without compromising his divinity.

No, we shouldn’t run away screaming from pop music, but we have to evaluate in what capacity we participate in it. Many Christians want to abstain entirely from everything “pop culture” while some indulge in it without second thought. Again looking to the Incarnation as an example, we can participate in culture in a way that redeems it. And this doesn’t mean slightly changing the lyrics of pop songs so we can sing them at Young Life. “Jesus Would Catch a Grenade for You” quite certainly misses the point.

If listening to pop music is something you frequently desire to do on your own, perhaps you should reexamine your music tastes. Let us give both people and art their proper due, which, I believe, means turning down the pop.

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