Saturday, October 30, 2010

Virgin Ears

When I was a child, the music that was popular was fairly mild by today's standards.  I listened to Paula Abdul, Boyz II Men, and Garth Brooks (I was a country fan for about three and a half weeks when I was 11 years old).  Everyone sang a lot about love, but even in the 80s and early 90s, most music wasn't too racy.  Innuendos were subtly intertwined with catchy new wave melodies, and I didn't have a clue that I was singing about sex along with Duran Duran and Cyndi Lauper.

When I was a teenager, N*Sync and Christina Aguilera were becoming popular.  I saw myself becoming more and more enthralled by the emotions that were encouraged by music - lust, loneliness, and love - as my adolescent hormones raged wildly out of control.  The fact that no boy I liked was interested in me probably helped pop music make its indelible stamp on my young psyche.  Come on...I wanted someone to want me the way guys wanted Brittany Spears when she sang "Baby One More Time".  Guys fell at her feet and she wasn't even trying!  I wanted a guy to feel about me the way the Backstreet Boys crooned about their dream girl.  I craved something I never quite understood, and I ached to know the captivation of real love as it was sung about in pop music - all-consuming, passionate, wild.

What I didn't understand at 19 was that much of what is sung about in pop music is no, in fact, love.  Though I admit my iPod is crammed with as many different kinds of music as you can imagine (yes, Enya is on there.  As are Sir Paul McCartney, Meat Loaf, and Green Day), I have found myself listening to the radio less and less these days.  I can't connect with singers like Ke$ha, who publicly stated that there is more to her personality than her glittery, drunken party image would imply.  With lyrics like those in "Take It Off" and "Booty Call", how am I supposed to think this woman wants anything more in life than to have sex and trash people's property?  I think Katy Perry has a great voice, a fun retro sense of style, and a creative mind.  However, songs like "Teenage Dream" just promote overt sensuality and premarital sex.  And, recently, Miley Cyrus has been under fire from all angles because of her sudden transition from perky tween pop-queen to ultra-dramatic sex kitten.

Forget the twelve year-olds in my church's youth group being influenced by this stuff; it's not something I want to influence me!  It's easy to believe the lie that being sexy is the way to win a man's affections.  We are fed that idea everywhere!  But the Bible advises women to be modest in dress (1 Timothy 2:9, which also talks about vanity being dangerous), and not to awaken love (or sensuality) until the proper time, which is after marriage (Song of Songs 2:7).  In fact, the Bible even warns men to avoid women who wish to gain attention and  manipulate them with sensuality (Proverbs 5).

And it's not just the pop princesses.  Male singers, too, bragging about how many women they have slept with, threatening to kill rivals, police officers, or anyone who opposes them, and boasting about the size of their bank accounts, are a discouraging image of masculinity as a whole. The Bible tells us that men are supposed to be respectful of women, treating older ones as mothers and younger ones as sisters (1 Timothy 5:2).  Lust got a lot of good men in trouble, including David, Solomon and Samson!  Scriptures also tell us to avoid giving in to wrath (Psalm 37:8), and to be wise with money, rather than storing it up uselessly (Proverbs 17:16, Ecclesiastes 5:10).  

Yet, lust, anger and greed are a large factor in much of popular music.  It's not just hip-hop and rap, which often get a bad rap (really, pun intended) for lyrics about violence and the objectification of women.  Big, bombastic orchestral numbers like Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" and 80's throwbacks like Neon Trees' "Animal" talk about sex as though it were as essential as food or water.  

Guess what?  It's not.

God did create sex to be thoroughly enjoyed.  He wanted us to want it!  It is a gift from his to gratify us physically, to intensify the bond between husband and wife, and to allow us to be blessed with children.

It was never intended to be a sloppy, drunken mess in a motel room between total strangers.

We made it that way.  Worse, we made that way desirable and acceptable.  We have been teaching our children, via television shows, movies and music, that married sex is boring and a chore, and that illicit affairs are thrilling, victimless crimes.  Children are having sex younger and younger, not realizing what kind of a commitment it is, and how dangerous it can be outside of a marital relationship.  

It doesn't have to be that way.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"The Rest Is Silence."

After I met and started dating Ross last year, something very strange happened. 

I stopped liking music.

Not all music. But a huge percentage of the music I used to love suddenly became dead to me. It wasn't a huge spiritual cleansing, a deep conviction, or anything along those lines, really. It was just that so much of the music on the radio - and so much in my own personal collection - no longer "applied" to me. I could no longer access the emotional strains of being lonely, hating an ex, being driven by lust, or unable to think straight because of romance.

My inability to connect with this kind of music was a gradual change. Even now, I still listen to it sometimes, but I am not moved by it anymore. Time was when that stuff would drive me to write, to draw, to connect to another part of myself, a deeper part that was aching for something more than what I had.

This isn't a case, exactly, of trying to fill the "God-shaped hole" we are all born with, but more a matter of trying to express feelings of frustration and loneliness by relating them to music. When those feelings - in relation to a romantic relationship - went away, so did my ability ro relate to that same music.

The irony of all this is how deeply I have always been connected to music. When he was younger, my father was the guitarist in a band (Yazoo Fraud, 1795; look it up). He sang me Beatles songs as lullabies (until I was 14, I believed that my dad was the one who wrote "Yellow Submarine"). My maternal grandfather was an phenomenal drummer who actually died of a heart attack while playing a concert. His ex-wife, my grandmother, played the accordian. My sister Gina and I grew up singing along with musical soundtracks: "Les Miserables", "Phantom of the Opera" and "Hello, Dolly!"   We must have sounded ridiculous to our parents; during the ensemble numbers, we would evenly divide all the parts and make sure we sang them all.  In character.  Loudly.  Sometimes with costumes.

Music has always helped with my writing and drawing. Even now, when I sit down to work on a play or skit, I find I need a soundtrack for it.  There are mixes I have for each kind of literary mood I'm in.  All of my characters have a theme song (the latest, a reluctant superhero named Five, has "Don't Call Me Baby" as hers.  You remember 1999, right?).  I envision scenes played out in front of me when I hear certain songs.  Maybe I am too connected to it.  I don't know.

I can tell you something, though...since I started listening primarily to K-Love (a national Christian music station), I have really lost interest in a lot of pop music.  It's not that I don't like the sound, or that I think the artists lack talent (well...some do).  I mean, I listen to classic rock, oldies, some pop.  But, overall, it's just that hearing Christian-raised Katy Perry singing about "going all the way" in a motel room with her "teenage dream" and listening to barely-old-enough-to-legally-drink Ke$ha talk about "brushing her teeth with a bottle of Jack" don't really inspire much of anything in me.  

Except disappointment.  

There is so much more to life than what pop icons sing about.  Maybe that's why I can't relate much anymore.  Because I have found Life, and His name is Jesus.