Friday, September 7, 2012

Song #4--Theology & Popular Music

Here's my #4 song for my Theology and Popular Music project. One of the most interesting things about popular music is its ability to convey the deepest questions of the human spirit for purpose and meaning. These are the questions we all feel but don't know how to articulate them in a way that will be heard by others. Music has this ability because it is conveyed by more than the emotions that are evinced from the melody, rhythm, sound and vocal passion.

Some Nights
by: fun.
album: Some Nights
genre: alternative
video: Some Nights official video

Subjective: The rhythmic percussion instrument base in this song along with the layered harmonies is addicting. I find myself involuntarily turning the volume control to maximum when this comes on the radio or my playlist. Perhaps it’s the resonant tribal rhythms that speak to primal human emotions.

Objective: The song speaks of a questioning of life’s choices and wanting to make something of life that is worth the struggle. But confusion reigns and the artist is not even sure of what he wants and who he is, in life and in relationships. The battle, which the music and words convey, is not necessarily with external forces, but is with oneself. Old beliefs are not sufficient for answering the questions of why things happen and the regret that sometimes follows one’s choices. And, no answers are forthcoming. The song lingers with the question, “What do I stand for?”

Theological: All of humanity experiences existential questioning and the anguish of uncertainty. This song, as much of art does, asks the questions that are often kept hidden in the depths of our psyches. What is our purpose when there seems to be only disillusionment and disenchantment? Is there something more than this life? Perhaps this song distains an answer and only wants us to think and question, What are my convictions? What gives me strength, life and joy? Sometimes, only by living through the questions with patient perseverance can we find peace and purpose. God is in the questions. Are we willing to ask them?

Monday, September 3, 2012

My #3 Song--theology and popular music

Anyone who knows me will realize I cannot have a top ten song list W/O including the Master of Pop, MJ. What can I say? His music has been around all my life. I had a hard time picking just one song, because I love them all. So, here it is.

Black or White
By: Michael Jackson
Album: Dangerous
Video: Black or White - Michael Jackson

Subjective: I have lived with Michael Jackson’s music all my life and confess that I am a fan. From the days of the Jackson 5 to Michael’s debut of his moonwalk singing Billy Jean on the Motown 25 TV special to his This Is It planned tour, I followed his career. Because of my exposure at a young age to R&B, soul and funk, his music rooted deep within me, setting my spirit free and remained with me for decades. All of his songs, but this one especially, with its mixture of pop, Hip Hop, rock and soul, makes me want to get up and dance.

Objective: Michael’s concern with racial equality and world peace are clearly expressed in this song. He wanted everyone to get along and eliminate the, “turf war on a global scale.” His earth-shattering dance moves changed the world of pop music like no other artist because of the opportunity to turn his songs into visual stories through the advent of MTV. Even though he decried violence, his extended video for this song ends with his acting out the violent and sensual instinct of a black panther. Michael was a contradiction in so many ways, yet a brilliant artist whose creativity consumed him.

Theological: This song questions how we see other people who are different than ourselves. How prejudice are we? What keeps us back from accepting people for who they are as unrepeatable children of God and rejoicing in and appreciating their uniqueness, customs, language, race? Kindness is a gift freely given. As human beings, we crave for acceptance and are moved by someone’s kind action toward us, especially in this maddeningly violent world. Love goes a long way. Love heals. Love changes. Love redeems.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Next top ten song

Here's my #2 song for my project on Theology of Popular Music. Everybody needs a little SOUL:

by: Aretha Franklin
Album: 30 Greatest Hits

Subjective: Aretha’s soul speaks to mine. Her gut-wrenching vocals express profound emotion and a desire for change. I listen to her when I feel intense emotion about a situation and need to give it expression.
Objective: This song, written by the Queen of Soul in 1968, was her feminist anthem and empowers women to stand up, refuse to be taken advantage of and claim respect for who they are.  Even though our society has changed tremendously since the 60s, there are still situations, which I have personally experienced, where prejudice toward women is tangible. This was an important song when it was released and can presently challenge the many ways injustice infiltrates our society.
Theological: Each human being is a unique and unrepeatable gift from the Creator. And freedom is one of the greatest of our individual rights. Oppression, which limits others’ freedom and independence, is an injustice that cannot be tolerated. Freedom is not just the ability to choose independently between alternate options, but true freedom is the choice of a personal path toward and for another. Freedom is love—true, authentic, self-giving love.

Some thoughts on Popular Music and Theology...

I finished a class on the Theology of Popular Music and completed my final project last night: pick 10 songs from your play list and give, 1. why you like it, 2. what the song is about, 3. theological/spiritual assessment of the song. I'm going to be posting my 10 songs one at a time in various posts. I would appreciate comments and thoughts about what song would be on your list.

As in an introduction, though, for theology to engage the culture it's about inquiry. We ask questions. Music is very subjective. What a listener may understand from a song may be very different than what the artist intended. Both are making meaning. Yet, the music, the sound itself gives a meaning. The lyrics give another layer of meaning. In theological reflection, we try to listen deeply at the issues, emotions, feelings being expressed so as to engage in the dialogue. Music can sometimes give voice to the emotions and desires that lie hidden--What is the meaning of life? How do I deal with disillusionment? Who am I? In an Incarnational theology, we reflect on who God is by looking at who the human person is. So, here we go....

My first song:
by: Alanis Morissette
Album: Havoc and Bright Lights
Guardian-Alanis Morissette official video

Subjective: This song’s hard-hitting guitar intro and subsequent soft ballad strike deep in my soul. But, being an Alanis Morissette song, the lyrics play a significant, yet often confusing role considering her unique use of language and grammar, or the lack thereof. Reflecting on my own experience, I connect with this song about being a guardian for those we love, yet at the same time leaving them free to be themselves.
Objective: Considering that the album, Havoc and Bright Lights, of which this is the opening song, is released shortly after Alanis became a wife and mother, I sense that she addresses these life-altering choices. This song is different than the angst-ridden-music she is known for. She speaks of being a, “warrior of care, your first warden” and an “angel on call” yet does not see it as a burden, but a privilege. Authentic love naturally protects, shields from danger and wishes the best for the loved one.
Theological: Our concern for those we love is an admirable and god-like quality. We naturally want to protect them, guard them and defend them from harm.  But it cannot be a smothering concern that stifles the other. When we love others, we want to see them happy, but we cannot live their life for them. We must let them be free as God leaves human beings free. Our love, when genuinely selfless, is a God-like love which always allows the other to be the best of who they are and to grow to their full potential.