Thursday, January 6, 2011

By Your Vote: Religion on Pop Culture Music

Let me first begin by explaining a few things about musicology. Musicology also known as music history is a branch of music study. There's two others related to musicology: music theory, which studies the structure of music similar to how people dissect prose, and ethnomusicology, which studies music from non-Western cultures. Musicology employs each of the other two fields. We look at Western music from a historical perspective complete with the structure of the piece, instrumentation, composer's background, and anything else really. We're the ones who write articles that performers read to make decisions on how to perform a piece of music. Musicology started in Germany and although it's not a very new field like ethnomusicology it's still very new compared to the study of music as a whole.

So how does that apply to me: well, unlike most musicologists I study what's happening in music now. My particular thoughts are thus: music is an art form and as such it shows what's happening in the composer's/performer's life as well as the culture at large. I study pop music, because contrary to a lot of art/classically trained musicians' opinions, I believe it to be the biggest reflection of the culture at large. Even composers study it and why it's popular.

I don't study it necessarily for chord structure because most pop music revolves around 3 to 5 basic chords in the entire piece. And it's highly repetitive, which is something that some art composers noticed and replicated in their own compositions. I do look at the instruments chosen to perform a work and how that affects the over all mood the musicians are trying to evoke, but mostly what I study is the lyrics. You see, to me, the lyrics are what is the biggest reflection of our culture. My biggest "passion" is to watch how slowly Latin American and even the Spanish language is infiltrating main stream English-language pop music. A number of artists make it a point to produce a song in English and in Spanish. But that's not the subject of this post. No, you voted on religion in pop culture music so I'm here to present it to you.

Now, I want to point out that I'm very aware that there is religious pop culture music subset. I'm not going to look at that today. My focus is on bigger or rising named "pop stars." I'm going to look at three and how their faith or lack of faith shows up in their music. Let's start off positively and then show how society in general has perverted religion.

Up first, U2. I saw another song related to U2's song and I will highlight this at the end of the piece. The song I'm going to look at is called Vertigo. And I'm sure you've heard it before but if you're anything like my husband, you don't pay that close attention to the lyrics. Hubby is always asking me what the songs are about. Note the first part of the song is in Spanish (bad Spanish too). U2, as a group, are pretty religious people. Bono, the lead singer, is a fairly devote Catholic. The song overall isn't terrible. One can interpret it being about devotion to God or perhaps the love of a person. I get this idea because it says "you're love is teaching me how to kneel." The other interesting line that I want you to remember is this one "Girl with crimson nails has Jesus round her neck." Basically it's says she's wearing either a crucifix or a metal of Jesus.

Here's the video:

Up next, Shakira. Shakira considers herself to be Catholic. She was raised as such and has attended Catholic school. Now, I would not say that she is Orthodox Catholic because she lives with her boyfriend and she has said that they are basically married and don't need a piece of paper. Plus most of music is pretty risque and not nearly ambiguous that it is about boy-girl relationships. This is different than U2. The song I want to highlight is Loca. There is an English version and a Spanish version. I'm showing the English version. In both video's Shakira crosses herself and says in Spanish "My God." It's about 2:30 into the English version if you want to skip the song. Now this is not overtly offensive, but considering the context of the song, you could say that it is.

And lastly and most offensive is a song by Kesha called We R Who We R. Kesha, as far as I know, is not religious nor claims to be. She was most recently quoted as making a New Year's Resolution on national tv to "not be a douche bag." So I think it qualifies that she's not really Christian. The beginning lyrics "you don't want to mess with us. got Jesus on my necklace." This is similar to U2 except here she is saying that you shouldn't do anything to her because she is religious. It doesn't even really fit the context of the song because it's about partying, discusses hitting on guys, and "we'll be forever young" which is a slap in the face to reality. So unlike U2's ambiguous song with a woman wearing Jesus, Kesha's song shows the way the culture at large views Christianity. Meaning something they can claim to be but don't necessarily behave as such. I also suggest watching the music video because not only is she wearing skin tight clothing, she also has a cross earring. And later on she appears to be holding what I think is a set of rosary beads, but it's hard to tell. Is this again a slap in the face of Christianity or a marketing of Christianity as being a fad or the "in" thing? I leave you to judge. Kesha reminds me of a 21st century version of the 1980s Madonna, but that's another post.

So congratulations, you've learned a small bit of what I study and in the process may have realized that in pop culture music Christianity is reflected in different ways, some more pious than others. Hope you enjoyed it. At some point, I hope to put up another poll and to type up a review of cloth diapers since it came in second.

Til then!

1 comment:

  1. Um.. Thanks. I know see why my husband calls Kesha what he does. I think I could have lived without seeing what she looks like lol.

    No the subject is interesting.


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