The Master List is one of the most popular features of Pop Culture Christ. It’s a list of a whole bunch of popular songs that mention God, Jesus, or Biblical themes. One of my aims for 2016 is to fix up the list, add new songs, as well as write about more of the songs on the list.
This week, The AV Club published a list of 22 Songs That Are Great Despite Being Pro-Jesus. It’s a good list, with a couple of those songs already being on the Master List. You can be sure that these songs from the AV Club will be among the first added to the Master List in 2016.
When this song was released back in 1992, I vaguely remember that I thought this song was pro-Christianity. What a naive little Catholic school boy I was. Jesus He Knows Me is full of biting criticism of the state of Western Christianity in the late 20th century. Unfortunately, a bit over 20 years later and it still cuts a little too close to home.
Back in the late 90s, one of my favourite past times was second hand CD shopping. Remember, this was a time before iTunes. Before YouTube. Even before JB HiFi and its large library of obscure and cheap CDs. For me, back then, the best way to discover music that was a bit out of left field was the second hand CD shops. My main tactic was to track down any one hit wonders I’d heard on Triple J and see if there was any gold on the rest of their album. And there was. Some of my favourite CDs were discovered on these expeditions. And chief among these was a band called Eve 6.
Eve 6’s self titled album became one of my all time favourites. I couldn’t understand why these guys were relatively big in America but virtually unheard of here in Australia. They became my favourite band. And then they broke up. And I was sad. However, after 8 years apart, Eve 6 have reunited and released a new album, Speak in Code. I was apprehensive. Would they be just as good? Or would this be an ill advised return?
Speak in Code has now arrived. And it is indeed worthy of my anticipation.
Over the last year or so, Greyson Chance has been positioning himself as the younger, cuter, and newer version of Justin Bieber. At 14, he’s a Youtube sensation and has his own album out. Unfriend You is his latest single. It’s your stock standard song about teenage heartbreak clothed in enough modern day lingo that it appears fresh and speaks to a new generation. And while there is nothing remarkable in the lyrics or the film clip, it’s the marketing of Chance and the part he plays in current trends that has me concerned.
But I’m still in love with Judas, baby
Lady Gaga has a new song out called Judas. On first listen, it appears that there’s more than a passing connection between this song and Judas from the Bible, the guy who betrayed Jesus to the authorities. The film clip furthers these connections with images of Jesus and his crew riding around on motorcycles.
But is this song really about Judas from the Bible? Is Lady Gaga giving us her understanding of the message of the Gospels? Or is something else going on here?
Lady Gaga rocked up to the 2011 Grammy awards inside a giant egg. She then proceeded to perform her latest song, Born This Way, while dressed as an egg yolk. This should come as no surprise. Lady Gaga has crafted her entire celebrity around being provocative and attention grabbing. She needs your attention and she’s going to get it by telling you exactly what you want to hear.
Born This Way is a celebration of the uniqueness of self. But it is also a glorification of sin. Because this song is a lie. It presents a world where sin does not exist and there’s not a single thing about you that needs to change. Every thought you have, every thing you do is not only acceptable, but applaudable. Do not conform but be yourself. You are perfect in every single way. That’s the gospel of Lady Gaga.
But it’s not the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So, Justin Bieber has a song called Pray. How about that? The Bieb has gone on record to discuss his Christian faith and there’s a bit of controversy going on at the moment about some of his convictions that have come across in a recent issue of Rolling Stone. So it was bound to happen that Bieber’s faith would be reflected in his music. Pray is Justin Bieber putting it out there and sharing his prayer life with the world.
And now I have some questions.
There have been some truly great cartoon musical acts over the years. Josie and the Pussycats. The Groovy Ghoulies. Jem and the Holograms. MC Skat Kat. Dethklok. Animated musicians are nothing new. But my all time favourite cartoon act would have to be The Gorillaz.
I love the Gorillaz. Partly because of the artwork of Jamie Hewlett, who is responsible for Tank Girl, an incredibly insane and vibrant comic. Partly because of Damon Albarn who is pushing the boundaries of musical exploration and collaboration. And partly because The Gorillaz are not just a music group, but a multimedia experience. These characters are made real through not only the albums, but through the film clips, the concerts, the website, the games, the toys. The Gorillaz are like nothing else out there.
Their latest album? Plastic Beach? I believe it’s their best effort yet.
C.S. Lewis was once quoted as saying that in his youth he was “very angry with God for not existing”. It’s a common, though paradoxical, statement. If God did exist, then surely he would see all the suffering and pain in the world and do something about it. The fact that he hasn’t stepped in and got rid of all the bad stuff in the world is surely evidence that there is no God. Isn’t it?
In 1986, the band XTC had a surprise hit with their song Dear God. How much of a surprise? It was released as a B side on another single. (Side note: Do people even remember B sides? Do I need to explain what a B side is? I feel so old.) There was controversy and outrage over this song. How dare they release a song that was so heavily atheistic in nature? “If there’s one thing I don’t believe in, it’s you. Dear God.”
It’s no secret that life in this world can be hard. Sometimes days, weeks, years can go past and you wonder to yourself “is this all worth it?” The world is so full of pain and hurt and suffering. There’s got to be a way out. There’s got to be a survival mechanism. There’s got to be a way to make this life bearable.
To stay on top of things is this world is impossible to do on your own. The pressure is too much. But maybe, just maybe, two people could do it. Maybe if I had someone with me, a boyfriend or girlfriend, whatever. Maybe love is the key to salvation. Maybe love will save the day. As it says in The Gossip’s song Heavy Cross, “It takes two. It’s up to me and you to prove it.” But will love really save the day?
From an adult perspective, sometimes trying to talk to a teenager is like trying to pull teeth – dificult, tedious and painful. I’ve watched many adults try to talk to some teenagers. It’s not uncommon to watch the adult back away with fear and confusion saying that they just don’t know how to communicate with teenagers. And it’s not because there’s nothing going on inside that adolescent brain. More often than not that teenager is more clued in than anyone gives them credit for.
Take a look at the kids on the street. No they never miss a beat.
I’m putting together a list of modern songs that mention Jesus, God or Biblical themes. They have to be by artists who release their work in the secular music world (ie not songs that you can only buy at your local Christian bookshop). The aim is to have one big list that people can go to when looking for secular songs about Jesus etc. It’s also one big list of article ideas for me. The song doesn’t have to revolve around Jesus – a single mention will do.
Here’s what I’ve got so far:
The King James Bible is a great translation of God’s Word… for 1611. While I appreciate the efforts of those who prepared this early English language Bible, sometimes I find it easier to read the original Greek than all those thee’s and thou’s. And that’s saying a lot because my Greek isn’t that great. What I need is a way to experience the rich language of the KJV in a way that brings it alive for me. What I need is the KJV with an electronic soundtrack. And that’s what I got with Book of Romans: The Unofficial Soundtrack.
If you walked down the street and asked a random person if they believed in God, chances are they would say yes. But what God? It seems no two Gods are the same. They all have different characteristics, different qualities, different personalities. If the God I believe in is really just a construct of my mind, do I really even need him in the first place?
Do I need to believe in God?
A few years ago I was at a mate’s wedding. He stood up at the reception to give the groom’s speech. He said that there were two types of people in the world: those who listened to the lyrics of a song and those that just listened to the tune. I think that’s very true. And I think that if you’re one of those people who just listen to the tune, you may be surprised what you’re letting into your head.
I’ve been thinking lately about boys becoming men. No, not Boyz II Men. That’s just wrong. You don’t say things like that in polite conversation. Can we move on now? I’ve been thinking about boys becoming men. At what point do you stop being a boy and start being a man? Are there only two options, or is there some kind of in between stage? Is there the Eighteen stage?