I Hate That Music
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? Someone plays a new song or band for us and we have an immediate response:
Nope. Don’t like it.
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 exaggerated or biting words to put down certain songs, styles, or artists can be a symptom of selfishness, laziness, or arrogance. Music is a vast topic, and no one knows everything there is to know about it. I know at times I haven’t taken time to consider whether or not my assessment was accurate because I was busy sharing my 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? Often it’s because they feel like they’re insulting “our” music, which means they’re insulting us. The problem might be that we’re viewing music as an idol, the thing that satisfies us and gives meaning to our life. 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 the best music always instantly accessible or appealing? If we’ve learned anything from hundreds of years of music making, the answer would have to be no.
4. 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. I sure like coming across a great band I’ve never heard of. But finding an unknown artist isn’t 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.
5. 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.
6. Learning to appreciate unfamiliar music is one way to prefer others. I can find this hard to believe at times, but not everyone likes the music I do. And patiently seeking to understand why my friends like the music they do will not only cultivate humility. (Phil. 2:4) It might broaden my musical world!
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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, and that shouldn’t surprise us. What would happen if the first time we heard a song we were grateful rather than critical? James 1:17 tells us that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” Those good gifts might include that new song that sounds so strange to our ears.
10. Being opinionated about music can affect our ability to worship God corporately.
How many times have you heard the first few bars of a worship song on Sunday and thought, “Oh no…I can’t stand this song.” Or maybe you’re talking with a group of friends at lunch on Sunday, and you’re letting them know which songs you really didn’t like. In either case, we’re giving more value to our musical preferences than God’s command to sing his praise and to love him with all our hearts. Do we really want to let our musical opinions keep us from worshiping the God who gave us music in the first place?
Let me be clear. No song is above evaluation and some songs are better than others in a particular genre. But we just might serve others and ourselves more effectively if we expressed our musical opinions with a little more grace.