It’s no secret to anyone that I have plenty of criticisms for Christian music. It’s cheesy, tired, and not really doing what is should be. But as many criticisms as I have for CCM, I have as many (if not more) for secular music.
Secular isn’t a term commonly used by anyone outside of the Christian sub-culture. It’s basically any kind of music that isn’t “sacred” (a.k.a. any music that references Jesus or celebrates Christian values). Pop, Rock, Country, Hip Hop, Rap, Metal, Folk, EDM, and everything in between. The most popular of these, unsurprisingly, is pop (literally short for popular music). In the past couple of decades, the amorphous and ever-changing genre has come to include other chart topping genres such as Rap, Hip Hop, EDM, and, lately, certain “Country” tracks. (We’ll have to discuss what constitutes as country another day.)
Regardless of specific genre, the songs appearing on Billboard 100 often share the same flaws. What are those flaws? Well, I’m glad you asked
1. Pop Music is Gross
(Love Me Harder by Ariana Grande; Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke feat. Ti and Pharrell)
Western culture is so infected with lewd images and crass language that it’s become clichéd to use sex to sell an album. Some call it empowerment. I call it self-degrading.
Up-and-coming starlets and Queen Bey’s alike dress in the equivalent of bedazzled lingerie while performing songs filled with sexual innuendos. Women aren’t the only culprits here. Plenty of male singers have equally promiscuous songs, though they do typically opt for different outfits when performing.
Rap music is especially notorious for not only being sexually promiscuous but downright vulgar. There are countless rap and hip hop songs that refer to women with disrespectful slurs. Some even go so far as to glorify domestic abuse and rape. (Some of these artists are guilty of that same abuse. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, google it.)
This isn’t edgy. This isn’t even shocking anymore. It’s been done before. Much of the time, it’s not even sexy. It’s just gross
2. Pop Music is Meaningless
(Me Too by Meghan Trainer; Stay With Me by Sam Smith; Tik Tok by Kesha)
I love a song that’s written just for fun, but pop music takes this to the extreme. There is a time and place for songs that just talk about having fun or with lyrics that don’t make much sense. The problem is that some of these meaningless songs masquerade as being deep and meaningful while being about as shallow as a kiddy pool.
A lot of these tracks fall into the above category of “gross.” These are the kind of songs that think they’re original for coming up with a new euphemism for sex. Others try to make a break-up or a one-night stand sound deep.
Many don’t even try to act deep. They’re blatantly superficial party songs that glorify getting blackout drunk (Why is that fun?) and waking up next to a stranger. (Again, why is that fun?)
Like everything on this list, there are exceptions to the rule. There are plenty of very deep, meaningful songs that identify with the pop genre. Unfortunately, radio DJ’s and label executives drown these rare gems in a sea of the same shallow songs we’ve all come to know and despise.
3. Pop Music is Boring
(Baby by Justin Beiber; This is What You Came For by Rihanna and Calvin Harris)
Christian music gets a (well-deserved) bad reputation for being predictable and dull, but secular music doesn’t do much better. Turn on the radio, find a top 40 station, and listen for a full hour. You’ll practically hear twenty variations of the same song, sung by different artists who sound like slightly altered copies of each other.
Most pop songs fall into one of three categories: songs about sex, songs about break-ups, and songs about partying. The music framing these shallow and predictable lyrics is just as tired and boring. They generally have four chords, with maybe an extra one in the bridge. Pulsing beats are added to everything to make sure they can keep the attention of the lowest common denominator. Many are overproduced to make up for being underwritten. There’s also usually a featured artist that gets passed around from track to track, making the uniformity even more obvious. (Six years ago, it was Pitbull. Now it’s Justin Bieber.)
How to Fix Pop
If you read my blog article on Christian Music, you’ll know my answer to the issues I’ve addressed about pop music. It’s a classic two birds, one stone scenario. Christian music has a lot of the converse problems that pop music does. Instead of sexually saturated, it’s silent on messy issues. Instead of immoral dribble leaking out of the speakers, Christian music is full of nauseatingly wholesome lyrics. While Christian music is relegated to a niche corner, pop music is as popular as ever.
If Christians would be salt and light in the culture that surrounds us, rather than digging in and creating a subculture bubble, pop music might actually improve. EDM might become more of an avenue for worship than raving. Mainstream rap might espouse moral values. Pop princesses and hip hop stars might become deserving of their level of fame and influence.
I think we deserve better than what’s repeatedly given to us to mindlessly consume. I also think those of us who are songwriters, artists, and musicians in general can do better. We can write deep, wholesome, and well-written songs. We can perform with integrity and passion. We can make music that’s better.