I’ve been musing recently about how we express our musical opinions. Why do we feel so strongly about songs, bands, and styles? And why do we draw conclusions so quickly? Nope. Don’t like it. That stinks. I can’t stand that kind of music. You like that stuff? Is there anything wrong with raving about the music/artists we love and being swift to trash those we despise?
If we’re Christians, yes. Let me suggest ten reasons why musical forbearance might be good for our souls.
1. Being a self-appointed music critic is often just a sign of pride. Using outrageous or exaggerated words to put down certain songs, styles, or artists can be a symptom of selfishness, laziness, or arrogance. We don’t want to spend time investigating whether or not our assessment is accurate because we’re too busy sharing our opinions. (Prov. 18:2)
2. Music doesn’t define us. Why do we become offended when someone critiques our favorite song, group, or style of music? Because they’re insulting “our” music, which means they’re insulting us. That’s idolatry. Music isn’t our life — Christ is. (Col. 3:4).
3. Great songs don’t always sound great the first time through. Some songs require repeated listenings to appreciate their value. Albums and songs often grow on us over time. Is all the best music always instantly accessible or appealing? I hope not.
4. The introduction to a song isn’t the same thing as the song. The first twenty seconds of a song usually doesn’t represent the whole song. It just introduces it. Deciding we don’t like a song from the start can keep us from hearing something we might truly enjoyor benefit from.
5. Listening to music the masses have never heard of doesn’t make us better. Some of us derive a particular joy in finding and listening to obscure, undiscovered artists. As if being unknown was admirable in and of itself. Some bands are undiscovered because they’re not very good. And if we do happen to discover a talented unknown band, it’s an opportunity to serve others, not look down on them.
6. Listening to music that is massively popular doesn’t make us better. This is the opposite craving of the previous point. It’s the mindset that says if the song or artist hasn’t been on the radio, at the top of the charts, or on TV, it’s not worth listening to.
7. Learning to appreciate unfamiliar music is one way to prefer others. Why does everyone have to like the music I like? What might I learn about my friends by patiently seeking to understand why they like the music they do? (Phil. 2:4)
8. Learning to like other kinds of music can open my eyes to God’s creativity. In his book, Music Through the Eyes of Faith, Harold Best addresses musical elitists. “Among all this stuff that needs aesthetic redeeming, there is also goodness, a whole lot of integrity and honesty, from which they themselves can learn.” (p. 89) That means I can actually enjoy music that is less sophisticated than what I’d ordinarily listen to.
9. We may have to eat our words. It’s happened more than a few times. I mouth off about how bad a song is, and later on start to think it’s actually pretty good. Or I tear up a song on my blog and later find myself talking to a person who loves it or the person who wrote it. Oops.
10. We might be missing an opportunity to be grateful for God’s gifts. Our tendency is to assume that God’s gifts all look and sound the same. They don’t. What would happen if the first time we heard a song we sought to be grateful rather than critical?
Let me be clear. No song is above evaluation and there are truly bad songs. We just might serve others and ourselves more effectively if we expressed our musical opinions with a little more grace.
[originally posted Dec. 7, 2008]
Great post! I’m definitely going to pass this around. Great reminders!
Thanks for reposting this. Maybe you could repost again a few times? I definitely need a lot of reminding!
There are some styles of music that I just don’t enjoy listening to, and would rather not sift through them to find songs worth using in our church.
If I am looking for new music, or someone recommends me a song, I try and get hold of the sheet music first and play it through on the piano. It gives me a good idea of whether it is ‘singable’ for our congregation, I focus more on the words than the performance, and I’m less distracted by whether stylistically I like the song or not! Once I’ve decided I want to use a song, then I will go and listen to a recording of it.
Great post! To piggyback on point #8 You could also add that one could also listen as spend time with music that is more sophisticated than you’re used to as well.
For myself, I listen to a LOT of music, so I’ve actually developed a reputation for being a kind of Pandora’s box where recommendations are concerned. I can have conversations with people who have radically different musical tastes. I’ve also learned a lot as I’ve gotten older. There are things I listened to that I fiercely dismissed at one point, but now I realize I just wasn’t ready to appreciate their sophistication.
However, like someone else said, there are certain styles where I just don’t go there. Heavy metal isn’t music. Rap isn’t music. Soul screaming isn’t impressive (and it’s terrible for your voice!) I think I won’t be giving up these opinions any time soon. :)
As for sharing our opinion with others, I think a lot depends on the personality of the person you’re talking to. If a vulnerable teen who’s maybe just become a Christian says she’s deeply into a really cheesy band, of course I’m not going to put them down in front of her! I would probably say something polite, then maybe gently recommend another band in addition which I think is actually good. But when I’m talking with my uncle, who’s a professor of music, composer, arranger, etc., I can say anything because we’re constantly throwing opinions out there in our conversations.
#6: Lecrae and Toby Mac aren’t producing music?
I’ve come to appreciate the skill involved in music styles I don’t especially like. And sometimes the lyrics of a song have far more power in one style of music than another.
thought provoking article and helpful in reminding us all to think more widely. It is also good when you talk about ‘song’ to also think hymn. There are lots a great old hymns being rediscovered and set to new tunes. we miss out on good theology when we discarded them in our preference for new stuff.
Great thoughts! Sometimes, the same critical thinking that drives us to become better musicians can be a hindrance when we are trying to worship.
Way to shoot from the hip!
some little say about point 6, it’s not a big deal listening to a song that’s unpopular as long as it’s good to the ears.
Sometimes you can learn the most from music you don’t like. I’ve been very critical in the past and it only hurt my musical creativity.
Very good post. I have definitely heard some stuff that I do not consider ‘real music’, and I have always had a tendency to be very strongly opinionated about them. I will be honest… a lot of country music is just borderline annoying to me, but I live in a small town where EVERYONE listens to it… I don’t think that it is right for me to cut everyone down for listening to it. It doesn’t mean that I need to like it, but I can at least be respectful and try not to hurt anyones feelings. Besides, if it were MY music being talked about, the last thing I would want is for someone to tear it down just because it is not their style… I would want them to at least give it a try and be respectful, so I try to show the same respect (as hard as that is sometimes, lol) to other people’s music, regardless of what it is or who they are.