Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Overstreet

Best source of music reviews... for parents?

Recommended Posts

Anybody have good ideas for me to share in response to this question?

Would you recommend some good sources for popular music reviews from a Christian world view? It

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Anybody have good ideas for me to share in response to this question?

Would you recommend some good sources for popular music reviews from a Christian world view? It

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think "Plugged In", a publication put out by Focus on the Family is a reliable source if parents want to read about how listening to Radiohead will make their children suicidally depressed. I always find it entertaining.

Edited by Holy Moly!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Plugged In's review of Radiohead's "Amnesiac" is a classic. First they chastise the band for promoting child abuse (!!) in "Morning Bell," and then saying that the use of the f-word is "even more troubling." Seriously? The use of the f-word is "even more troubling" than child abuse?!?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Anybody have good ideas for me to share in response to this question?

Would you recommend some good sources for popular music reviews from a Christian world view? It

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I know of no better source than the Music forum of Arts and Faith. And I mean that in a positive way. We have a bunch of Christians (for the most part) discussing popular music. I'm not sure what else "popular music reviews from a Christian world view" might mean, but it could mean many negative things that I rarely see in the Music forum right here.

Well, among other things it might imply a level of focus that isn't always found on discussion boards, as well as some sort of editorial oversight promoting a level of consistency and predictability. Not everyone wants to sift through 20 or 40 posts looking for the ten that offer sustained evaluation, and then try to read between the lines on those to figure out where everyone is coming from, which posters if any are at all likely to be sensitive to the issues at the forefront of one's own thought, etc. (And, of those that don't want to do this, not all are simply looking for a quasi-authoritative voice to tell them what to think.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I know of no better source than the Music forum of Arts and Faith. And I mean that in a positive way. We have a bunch of Christians (for the most part) discussing popular music. I'm not sure what else "popular music reviews from a Christian world view" might mean, but it could mean many negative things that I rarely see in the Music forum right here.

Well, among other things it might imply a level of focus that isn't always found on discussion boards, as well as some sort of editorial oversight promoting a level of consistency and predictability. Not everyone wants to sift through 20 or 40 posts looking for the ten that offer sustained evaluation, and then try to read between the lines on those to figure out where everyone is coming from, which posters if any are at all likely to be sensitive to the issues at the forefront of one's own thought, etc. (And, of those that don't want to do this, not all are simply looking for a quasi-authoritative voice to tell them what to think.)

On the contrary, I seem to think that for those patient enough to get through all the inside humor and fodder along the way, it's especially helpful to a parent to have the insight of a variety of people. I find that most of the people who post here are fairly thoughtful and insightful, even if there is an abundance of differing opinions and perspectives.

You know Proverbs, "When there is no guidance 1 a nation falls, but there is success 2 in the abundance of counselors". Take that where you will? ;)

Just had a couple thoughts in regard to Plugged In. I hate to say it, but when parents are asking for "popular music reviews from a Christian world view", they're asking a reviewer to count the cuss words. What may be an acceptable album for a mature adult may be problematic for a teen. I don't know where the line is, but I think what a Christian parent wants is to be able to know what material is in an album, so as to be able to draw the line for their own family. And I totally respect that.

In a more general sense, I think the problem is that we're claiming mutual exclusivity lines in the sand between reviews that discuss actual material in a movie/album, and reviews that give general cautions, but mostly focus on the artistic and technical prowess of a movie/album. I tend to think there ought to be both. A mature adult has the right to be able to discern for themselves whether or not a film/movie/book is acceptable, based on general information. I tend to think that conversely, a teen, and especially a young teen, will need more discernment from a parent or mentor who will be able to sift through mature content and sort it out. As much as I dislike reading a review geared towards adults that counts every cuss word and relates every juicy detail in a review (which in of itself can potentially be exploitative), I cannot begrudge a parent the desire to protect their kid, and in doing so, the desire to know exactly what they're getting their kids into when they walk into a theater.

As for me, something like a CT review is more than informative enough for me. As a discerning adult, I don't need every detail and cuss word, as I am able to process such material with general aplomb. But I can't blame a parent who wants to have more than general information on a CD or movie. I don't say this a defense of Plugged In, but I know that there must be some sort of concession to parents in some way.

Edited by Joel C

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I know of no better source than the Music forum of Arts and Faith. And I mean that in a positive way. We have a bunch of Christians (for the most part) discussing popular music. I'm not sure what else "popular music reviews from a Christian world view" might mean, but it could mean many negative things that I rarely see in the Music forum right here.

Well, among other things it might imply a level of focus that isn't always found on discussion boards, as well as some sort of editorial oversight promoting a level of consistency and predictability. Not everyone wants to sift through 20 or 40 posts looking for the ten that offer sustained evaluation, and then try to read between the lines on those to figure out where everyone is coming from, which posters if any are at all likely to be sensitive to the issues at the forefront of one's own thought, etc. (And, of those that don't want to do this, not all are simply looking for a quasi-authoritative voice to tell them what to think.)

And that's fine. But to ask a reviewer to define what is "age appropriate" for the listening audience, and to provide guidelines to help parents with this decision, is a hopeless task when it comes to contemporary popular music. It can't be done. My advice to parents looking for that kind of guidance is that they should assume that most pop music deals with themes that are either sinful, or can be twisted in sinful ways very easily, and to avoid it entirely if they are concerned that their kids will pick up on ideas that could be potentially harmful to them. They certainly will.

The much tougher task, of course, is for parents to guide their children through the complexity of life. Music, of course, can be a part of that. But given what I suspect is the motivation behind such a request, I honestly think the best response is to tell parents to avoid popular music. Virtually none of it will pass muster in terms of addressing the kinds of wholesome, God-affirming themes that those parents are looking for. There is no "G-rated" equivalent in popular music. It's best to assume that your kids' eyes will be opened, sometimes in less-than-desirable ways.

Edited by Andy Whitman

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The much tougher task, of course, is for parents to guide their children through the complexity of life. Music, of course, can be a part of that. But given what I suspect is the motivation behind such a request, I honestly think the best response is to tell parents to avoid popular music. Virtually none of it will pass muster in terms of addressing the kinds of wholesome, God-affirming themes that those parents are looking for. There is no "G-rated" equivalent in popular music. It's best to assume that your kids' eyes will be opened, sometimes in less-than-desirable ways.

I hardly think that's fair. You're basically blowing off any parent who feels that it is their responsibility to help their kids discern good music and film. No one asks you as a reviewer of music for mature adults to do content or thematic evaluation, but I think it's perfectly fair for parents to expect some sort of thematic and content summation in a family-oriented review. Like I said above, you as a discerning adult can listen to music and watch movies with a mature eye; a teen - and especially a young teen - doesn't necessarily have that kind of discernment. For you to wide-sweepingly say that any parent who would like to help their kids choose age and maturity-appropriate material should up and desert popular music seems like a cynical response to what ought to be a nuanced discussion.

Edited by Joel C

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The much tougher task, of course, is for parents to guide their children through the complexity of life. Music, of course, can be a part of that. But given what I suspect is the motivation behind such a request, I honestly think the best response is to tell parents to avoid popular music. Virtually none of it will pass muster in terms of addressing the kinds of wholesome, God-affirming themes that those parents are looking for. There is no "G-rated" equivalent in popular music. It's best to assume that your kids' eyes will be opened, sometimes in less-than-desirable ways.

I hardly think that's fair. You're basically blowing off any parent who feels that it is their responsibility to help their kids discern good music and film. No one asks you as a reviewer of music for mature adults to do content or thematic evaluation, but I think it's perfectly fair for parents to expect some sort of thematic and content summation in a family-oriented review. Like I said above, you as a discerning adult can listen to music and watch movies with a mature eye; a teen - and especially a young teen - doesn't necessarily have that kind of discernment. For you to wide-sweepingly say that any parent who would like to help their kids choose age and maturity-appropriate material should up and desert popular music seems like a cynical response to what ought to be a nuanced discussion.

Correct, it is a nuanced discussion. But if a parent's primary goal is to ensure that his or her kid(s) will not be exposed to potentially harmful material in the world of popular music, then that parent should probably not allow his or her kids to be exposed to popular music. The potentially harmful to safe ratio is simply too overwhelmingly high to quibble about it. It's best not to go there at all. "Age appropriate" art is something that parents should certainly be concerned about as they raise they kids; music reviewers absolutely cannot and should not answer these questions, and to presume to make those kinds of comments a reviewer would have to create some kind of "safety" scale that simply doesn't exist. With popular music it's really pretty simple. It's not safe; or so very little of it is safe that it's easier to assume that the vast majority of it can be potentially harmful. Just assume that most of it can do damage. Because it can. The big themes are romantic love, loss of romantic love, and sex, all of which can be easily misconstrued by a thirteen-year-old, or, for that matter, a fifty-year-old.

The most nuanced songwriter I know, Bob Dylan, has written a song called "Everybody Must Get Stoned," tales of murder and drunkenness, near-suicidal laments after a divorce, and revenge fantasies of epic proportions. Do I think Bob Dylan is worthing paying attention to? Of course I do. Do I think that Christian parents might want to introduce their kids to the music of Bob Dylan, and that the age at which they might want to do that might vary from parent to parent and kid to kid? Of course I do. But the answer isn't to construct some sort of rating system that purports to tell parents what might be good for their kids. Bob Dylan's music is great and thoroughly unsafe. 99% of the rest of popular music varies in quality, but virtually none of it is safe. The question that started this thread simply cannot be answered, unless that answer is "skip it altogether." The focus is wrong, and it's asking reviewers to do what only parents can do.

Edited by Andy Whitman

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Correct, it is a nuanced discussion. But if a parent's primary goal is to ensure that his or her kid(s) will not be exposed to potentially harmful material in the world of popular music, then that parent should probably not allow his or her kids to be exposed to popular music.

But I don't think this is the issue. It's not that parents want to make sure that their kids are not exposed to "potentially harmful material in the world of popular music", it's that they want enough thematic and substance information with which to make the decision themselves. For example, some parents may draw the line for their 14-year-old kid with mentions of the F-word; some might not. The point is, what may be no problem for an adult to discern may be an issue that a parent does not want their kids to deal with. I don't see why there shouldn't be some sort of explanation in a review of the severity of material involved; not that such an inclusion should necessarily automatically negate the value of a movie or album, but rather give the parent information that will allow them to make a discerning choice for their child.

For example: When my kids are in their teens, depending on their level of maturity, I'll be excited to walk them through albums like "Achtung Baby"; however, I have no doubt in my mind that Korn and other such explicit material will not make an appearance in my household. That would be my personal call as a parent. For parents who don't know the content of either album, they deserve to have a discerning reviewer who can discuss in a review both the thematic and content material in both albums, thus allowing the parent to make an informed decision. There doesn't need to be an ultimatum made in the review, but there ought to be an indication of what kind of severity of content parents will be allowing their kids to listen to.

The potentially harmful to safe ratio is simply too overwhelmingly high to quibble about it. It's best not to go there at all. "Age appropriate" art is something that parents should certainly be concerned about as they raise they kids; music reviewers absolutely cannot and should not answer these questions, and to presume to make those kinds of comments a reviewer would have to create some kind of "safety" scale that simply doesn't exist.

It doesn't need to be a scale, and the reviewer doesn't need to "answer those questions"; but I think it's perfectly acceptable for a family film or music reviewer to give general indications as to what kind of content an album or film contains. To say something along the lines of "this album contains strong language", or "this album deals with extra-marital relationships" is simply saying a fact about an album; but it may help a parent decide whether or not to allow their kids to listen to it.

With popular music it's really pretty simple. It's not safe; or so very little of it is safe that it's easier to assume that the vast majority of it can be potentially harmful. Just assume that most of it can do damage. Because it can.

That's again rather wide-sweeping. There are definite levels of severity, and the difference, for instance, between an album containing "mild language", and an album containing "strong language of a sexual nature" is pretty vast. I'm pretty sure that a good deal of parents would be ok with the former, but pretty cautious about the latter.

The big themes are romantic love, loss of romantic love, and sex, all of which can be easily misconstrued by a thirteen-year-old, or, for that matter, a fifty-year-old.

:lol:

A fifty-year-old is an adult who ought to have a vastly higher level of maturity and discernment than a thirteen-year-old. I don't think I need to go into why I find this silly.

The most nuanced songwriter I know, Bob Dylan, has written a song called "Everybody Must Get Stoned," tales of murder and drunkenness, near-suicidal laments after a divorce, and revenge fantasies of epic proportions. Do I think Bob Dylan is worthing paying attention to? Of course I do. Do I think that Christian parents might want to introduce their kids to the music of Bob Dylan, and that the age at which they might want to do that might vary from parent to parent and kid to kid? Of course I do. But the answer isn't to construct some sort of rating system that purports to tell parents what might be good for their kids. Bob Dylan's music is great and thoroughly unsafe. 99% of the rest of popular music varies in quality, but virtually none of it is safe. The question that started this thread simply cannot be answered, unless that answer is "skip it altogether." The focus is wrong, and it's asking reviewers to do what only parents can do.

::ermm::

What's your thing with rating systems? Like I said, it doesn't need to be a rating system. A simple discussion of the thematic and content material will suffice.

I also agree that Dylan albums are thoughtful and nuanced, and at the same time include mature themes with which some kids and teens may not be able to grapple. Which is why I find it acceptable for a reviewer to discuss thematic material in Dylan albums, that allows a parent who has not listened to Dylan to make a better-informed decision in when to allow the CD to be introduced into a kid's life.

Edited by Joel C

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But I don't think this is the issue. It's not that parents want to make sure that their kids are not exposed to "potentially harmful material in the world of popular music", it's that they want enough thematic and substance information with which to make the decision themselves. For example, some parents may draw the line for their 14-year-old kid with mentions of the F-word; some might not. The point is, what may be no problem for an adult to discern may be an issue that a parent does not want their kids to deal with. I don't see why there shouldn't be some sort of explanation in a review of the severity of material involved; not that such an inclusion should necessarily automatically negate the value of a movie or album, but rather give the parent information that will allow them to make a discerning choice for their child.

For example: When my kids are in their teens, depending on their level of maturity, I'll be excited to walk them through albums like "Achtung Baby"; however, I have no doubt in my mind that Korn and other such explicit material will not make an appearance in my household. That would be my personal call as a parent. For parents who don't know the content of either album, they deserve to have a discerning reviewer who can discuss in a review both the thematic and content material in both albums, thus allowing the parent to make an informed decision. There doesn't need to be an ultimatum made in the review, but there ought to be an indication of what kind of severity of content parents will be allowing their kids to listen to.

I guess my answer to this, and I think it's the same thing Andy is getting at, is to just listen to it yourself and be engaged in the culture. I'm sure that you can get a good feel yourself for what is appropriate and in-appropriate to your own worldview from doing so. And I'm sure there is enough info out there in articles and reviews for you to get a feel if you'd rather just avoid somethings all-together (as I'm sure you didn't have to listen to Korn albums to shape your opinion of it, nor did an explicitly "Christian" reviewing resource clue you in to the objectionable nature of it).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I guess my answer to this, and I think it's the same thing Andy is getting at, is to just listen to it yourself and be engaged in the culture. I'm sure that you can get a good feel yourself for what is appropriate and in-appropriate to your own worldview from doing so.

It seems a short step from here to "Why have any reviews at all?" As I see it, while it's certainly possible to just plunge into "culture" without guides or informed perspective of any kind, just as it's possible to plunge into "wine" or "Europe" or "world literature" without any guidance, you're unlikely to get the most of out it. You might make some lovely discoveries, but you're just as liable if not more so to waste time with what is less worthy and miss out on stuff you shouldn't have.

And I'm sure there is enough info out there in articles and reviews for you to get a feel if you'd rather just avoid somethings all-together (as I'm sure you didn't have to listen to Korn albums to shape your opinion of it, nor did an explicitly "Christian" reviewing resource clue you in to the objectionable nature of it).

But if we are to have reviews at all, what's wrong with being interested in reviews from a point of view more or less convergent with our own? If I'm a kung-fu aficionado looking for good kung-fu cinema, which am I more likely to find the most helpful, reviews by kung-fu aficionados or reviews by Joe Six-pack mainstream reviewer who's seen a total of eight martial-arts movies in his life?

OTOH, Joe Six-pack's review might be more helpful to someone culturally more like himself. By the same token, as a parent and a reader of reviews (not as a critic), I find reviews of family films by critics with kids generally a lot more helpful than reviews by single critics or critics without kids. Etc.

Why shouldn't a Christian parent trying to raise Christian kids prefer critics who are Christians to those that aren't?

Edited by SDG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I guess my answer to this, and I think it's the same thing Andy is getting at, is to just listen to it yourself and be engaged in the culture. I'm sure that you can get a good feel yourself for what is appropriate and in-appropriate to your own worldview from doing so. And I'm sure there is enough info out there in articles and reviews for you to get a feel if you'd rather just avoid somethings all-together (as I'm sure you didn't have to listen to Korn albums to shape your opinion of it, nor did an explicitly "Christian" reviewing resource clue you in to the objectionable nature of it).

I'm not sure what you mean. Are you talking about me personally as an adult, or the subject at hand, parents trying to find music and films for their kids to watch and listen to, which are acceptable by each family's value system? Of course I personally get whatever I want to get; I'm perfectly capable of discerning for myself what I'll find personally acceptable and what I won't; but we're discussing the problem of parents trying to sift through the hundreds of albums and movies, and figure out what is a good fit for their kids.

As to Korn, I don't object to many things just on principle, so somewhere along the way I know I've read specific things about an album of theirs, probably in a review, which caused me to decide against such music.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But if a parent's primary goal is to ensure that his or her kid(s) will not be exposed to potentially harmful material in the world of popular music, then that parent should probably not allow his or her kids to be exposed to popular music. The potentially harmful to safe ratio is simply too overwhelmingly high to quibble about it. It's best not to go there at all. "Age appropriate" art is something that parents should certainly be concerned about as they raise they kids; music reviewers absolutely cannot and should not answer these questions, and to presume to make those kinds of comments a reviewer would have to create some kind of "safety" scale that simply doesn't exist. With popular music it's really pretty simple. It's not safe; or so very little of it is safe that it's easier to assume that the vast majority of it can be potentially harmful. Just assume that most of it can do damage. Because it can. The big themes are romantic love, loss of romantic love, and sex, all of which can be easily misconstrued by a thirteen-year-old, or, for that matter, a fifty-year-old.

The most nuanced songwriter I know, Bob Dylan, has written a song called "Everybody Must Get Stoned," tales of murder and drunkenness, near-suicidal laments after a divorce, and revenge fantasies of epic proportions. Do I think Bob Dylan is worthing paying attention to? Of course I do. Do I think that Christian parents might want to introduce their kids to the music of Bob Dylan, and that the age at which they might want to do that might vary from parent to parent and kid to kid? Of course I do. But the answer isn't to construct some sort of rating system that purports to tell parents what might be good for their kids. Bob Dylan's music is great and thoroughly unsafe. 99% of the rest of popular music varies in quality, but virtually none of it is safe. The question that started this thread simply cannot be answered, unless that answer is "skip it altogether." The focus is wrong, and it's asking reviewers to do what only parents can do.

Obviously, if "safety" is the be-all and end-all, swath your kid in bubble-wrap and call it a day. But the scale has a positive side too: Art can influence positively as well as negatively, or why would we bother with it? "This is safe" is obviously insufficient as a reason to do anything; the obvious question is "Why should I care?" I value the kind of criticism that helps me find what is valuable. But I also value the kind that alerts me to what is potentially problematic. For parents trying to guide their children, these questions become all the more pressing.

Whether or not a ratings system is part of a critical solution is a matter of method and opinion. Whether critics can offer help to parents trying to decide what is more or less appropriate for their kids seems like it should be a no-brainer. Whether Christian parents have any reason to prefer critics who are Christians seems to me similarly self-evident.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It doesn't need to be a scale, and the reviewer doesn't need to "answer those questions"; but I think it's perfectly acceptable for a family film or music reviewer to give general indications as to what kind of content an album or film contains. To say something along the lines of "this album contains strong language", or "this album deals with extra-marital relationships" is simply saying a fact about an album; but it may help a parent decide whether or not to allow their kids to listen to it.

Sorry, I can't stand the approach. Because it ends up counting cuss words and looking for sex references, and I don't know of a single reputable critic who wants the job. The music critics I know want to be critics, not accountants.

To truly write an album review from the standpoint of a Christian worldview would be such an all-encompassing task that it would be difficult to know where to begin. Let's take the case of Nivana's album Nevermind, and its most famous song "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Here we have a chorus of:

With the lights out it's less dangerous

Here we are now entertain us

I feel stupid and contagious

Here we are now entertain us

A mullato an albino

A mosquito my libido

yeah

It was written by a guy who smoked cigarettes, was addicted to heroin, and eventually ended up putting a bullet through his head. The chorus is impossible to parse, from a Christian or any other standoint, and the artist who made the song was most definitely not a Christian in word, thought, or deed. Would I want my kids listening to that song? Oh, yeah. It's one of the greatest rock 'n roll songs ever written. I hope my kids would learn to love it.

Face it: most people making music outside the CCM world are not Christians, do not hold to Christian values, and are very likely to espouse views about significant areas of life that Christians would disagree with. So teach your kids to learn how to disagree with them, and why. But it seems silly to me to approach 98% of contemporary music from the standpoint of critiquing it from a Christian worldview. It's not made by Christians. You're going to find objectionable things in the music and in the people who made the music. Short of such superficial criteria as counting swear words, I'm not sure what else needs to be said. Just for starters you're going to encounter love songs in which the beloved is enshrined as the key to life itself, a viewpoint that most Christians would rightly find objectionable. And that probably covers about half the popular music written in the past fifty years. Do we want to include false/unhealthy views of love in our Christian criteria? Materialism? Depression and despair? Where we do we draw the lines? Sadly, the places where the lines seem to be drawn in these kinds of approaches have to do with language and sex. And that doesn't even begin to address the issues. I know of no substitute for parents being parents, spending time with their kids, and talking to them about the beliefs and underlying assumptions that our culture -- not simply music -- foists upon them as truth.

Edited by Andy Whitman

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sorry, I can't stand the approach. Because it ends up counting cuss words and looking for sex references, and I don't know of a single reputable critic who wants the job. The music critics I know want to be critics, not accountants.

:blink:

So only critics who adhere to your standard of reviewing are "reputable"?

It was written by a guy who smoked cigarettes, was addicted to heroin, and eventually ended up putting a bullet through his head. The chorus is impossible to parse, from a Christian or any other standoint, and the artist who made the song was most definitely not a Christian in word, thought, or deed. Would I want my kids listening to that song? Oh, yeah. It's one of the greatest rock 'n roll songs ever written. I hope my kids would learn to love it.

So you feel that your take on a controversial song/band is the all-encompassing, correct view for all families? I know a lot of parents who would find plenty to object to in allowing their kids to listen to that song, and I wouldn't fault them for it one bit. That's not saying that your perspective isn't acceptable, but you certainly you wouldn't want to superimpose your opinions as applicable truth for all families?

So teach your kids to learn how to disagree with them, and why. But it seems silly to me to approach 98% of contemporary music from the standpoint of critiquing it from a Christian worldview.

But that's the point; I can't teach my kid to disagree with an album with problematic material, without helping them view it through a Christian perspective. How can they disagree with something if they have no internal worldview which negates it? I certainly wouldn't want them to be condemnatory of the artist simply because of a different perspective, but I'd want my kid to know why he'd disagree with an extra-marital affair in a song, or the usage of swear words, and he wouldn't be able to do that without having something internally that is in contrast to such things. You can call it whatever you want; I call it a Christian worldview.

Do we want to include false/unhealthy views of love in our Christian criteria? Materialism? Depression and despair? Where we do we draw the lines? Sadly, the places where the lines seem to be drawn in these kinds of approaches have to do with language and sex. And that doesn't even begin to address the issues. I know of no substitute for parents being parents, spending time with their kids, and talking to them about the beliefs and underlying assumptions that our culture -- not simply music -- foists upon them as truth.

You don't do me justice, Andy. I'm going to repeat what I've already said, which is that there is a time and place for everything. A kid at 13 simply will not be as able to process 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' as they will when 17. When a parent has a general idea of what content an album has, they are more prepared to make a good judgment on whether or not such an album is appropriate for their family. Your perspective effectively seems to say that a parent either has to set their children loose to whatever is out there in the music world, and make the best effort to help them along the way, or to shelter them in some sort of weird convent where the kids don't listen to popular music at all. I'm pretty sure there's a large majority of people who would like to have the opportunity to to be somewhere between those two extremes; to introduce art with mature themes, at the appropriate time. A family music reviewer ought to be someone who is willing to outline mature themes and content, so that a family can make an informed decision. I wouldn't expect this of a review geared towards adults, like Allmusic or Paste; but I strongly feel that some concession for reviews geared towards families must be made.

EDIT: I just got what you were saying about materialism and despair, etc. And I agree such things can be just as complicated to swallow as strong language. Which is why I'm not opposed to a reviewer discussing that a bit. It can be done in a thoughtful way.

On the subject of your objection to a reviewer "drawing a line": A reviewer who mentions that an album has a swear word or mature adult theme isn't drawing a line; they're simply stating a fact. If it's there, then why pretend like it's not? If a swear word draws a line for a family, then the album condemns itself; it would have been just as offensive to the family had the reviewer omitted the mention of the content, and the family had found it out themselves. Why not mention it in the review, and save some families the time and money spent on an album which would have been offensive to them in the first place? If an album contains adult themes, then simply not mentioning it in a review will not change the fact that a family who objects to adult themes in an album will find it offensive.

Edited by Joel C

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sorry, I can't stand the approach. Because it ends up counting cuss words and looking for sex references, and I don't know of a single reputable critic who wants the job. The music critics I know want to be critics, not accountants.

My first thought is: Even if the critics you know don't want to be accountants, that doesn't mean that accounting isn't still a valued and useful function. I don't want ScreenIt's job, but I'm glad there is a ScreenIt, and I recommend parents use it.

For myself, I don't count cuss words or sex references, but I try to form a general assessment and provide a basic overview to parents in my content advisory.

Rather than asking what critics want to do, it might be helpful to consider the question the other way around. Can parents reasonably be concerned about cuss words or sex references, among other types of problematic content? Or would any such concern necessarily speak to the negative, safety-concerned attitude that you find such a turn-off?

Is there some principled reason why every parent ought to listen to all the music their kids are interested in and familiarize themselves with any problematic content? Or is it reasonable for there to be resources for parents to research such questions and get some guidance ahead of time?

To truly write an album review from the standpoint of a Christian worldview would be such an all-encompassing task that it would be difficult to know where to begin.

I find this sentence so stunning that I have to assume you can't possibly mean what it seems to me to say. Taking the sentence at what looks to me like face value, my response would have to be, "In that case, it should be the rarest thing in the world for any Christian ever to write an album review." Whatever can't be done from the standpoint of a Christian worldview shouldn't be done by Christians, and what is prohibitively difficult to do from such a standpoint should be exceedingly rare.

I know, that's not what you meant, right? Can you help me out?

Would I want my kids listening to that song? Oh, yeah. It's one of the greatest rock 'n roll songs ever written. I hope my kids would learn to love it.

Does the question of the kid's age come into it at all?

Is there any song you would think twice about your kid loving if he were nine, or twelve?

Are such questions inherently meaningless? You say not, since you acknowledge the validity of age-appropriateness as a point of parental concern. Is it that you think they should do this without any critical assistance? Granted that kids and parents differ vastly, can the critic offer no meaningful guidance or support to the parent at all? I'm sorry, I just don't understand your position, Andy.

Face it: most people making music outside the CCM world are not Christians, do not hold to Christian values, and are very likely to espouse views about significant areas of life that Christians would disagree with. So teach your kids to learn how to disagree with them, and why. But it seems silly to me to approach 98% of contemporary music from the standpoint of critiquing it from a Christian worldview.

How does the last sentence above not simply flatly contradict the sentence before it? How do you teach anyone to "learn how and why to disagree" with contemporary music without "critiquing it from a Christian worldview"?

Is agreement or disagreement a precritical (or noncritical) operation? Should we not agree or disagree critically rather than noncritically? Or do with learn to agree or disagree without bringing our Christian worldview into it? Again, I'm just baffled what you're trying to say.

It's not made by Christians. You're going to find objectionable things in the music and in the people who made the music. Short of such superficial criteria as counting swear words, I'm not sure what else needs to be said.

Not sure what else needs to be said? So, having said that, your kids are now adequately prepared to know how and why to agree or disagree? I can think of a few things I'd like to add.

Just for starters you're going to encounter love songs in which the beloved is enshrined as the key to life itself, a viewpoint that most Christians would rightly find objectionable. And that probably covers about half the popular music written in the past fifty years. Do we want to include false/unhealthy views of love in our Christian criteria? Materialism? Depression and despair?

Hey! Look at that. You do have other things to say. :) You're describing criticism from a Christian worldview (at least on an elementary level). Why on earth does that strike you as such a monumentally difficult task?

Where we do we draw the lines? Sadly, the places where the lines seem to be drawn in these kinds of approaches have to do with language and sex. And that doesn't even begin to address the issues. I know of no substitute for parents being parents, spending time with their kids, and talking to them about the beliefs and underlying assumptions that our culture -- not simply music -- foists upon them as truth.

From my perspective as a Christian critic, I see this as a false dichotomy. No one is a bigger advocate of parental involvement and responsibility than I am, but that doesn't mean the parent must be left to their own devices with no resources or guidance.

As for where to draw the line, ultimately the parents will decide that themselves; some may focus on language and sex, but others may go deeper than that.

And this is precisely where Christian critics may be helpful: not just by telling parents what they want to know, but also by pointing out to them the questions they ought to be asking, the things they ought to be looking for.

A good review doesn't just convey information about the work reviewed, it can also be a lesson in how to evaluate. I hope that my readers don't just come away with deeper understanding of the movies I reviewed, but a deeper grasp of how to approach a film.

If all parents get is content advisory sites counting cuss words and sex references, that's as deep as they'll look. If they find intriguing and worthwhile commentary that engages moral and spiritual issues, including positive and problematic content, at deeper levels, it may encourage them to ask deeper questions themselves.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To truly write an album review from the standpoint of a Christian worldview would be such an all-encompassing task that it would be difficult to know where to begin.

I find this sentence so stunning that I have to assume you can't possibly mean what it seems to me to say. Taking the sentence at what looks to me like face value, my response would have to be, "In that case, it should be the rarest thing in the world for any Christian ever to write an album review." Whatever can't be done from the standpoint of a Christian worldview shouldn't be done by Christians, and what is prohibitively difficult to do from such a standpoint should be exceedingly rare.

I know, that's not what you meant, right? Can you help me out?

Sure. I'm perhaps not expressing myself well, so I'll try again. When I say all-encompassing I mean all-encompassing. A truly comprehensive review of popular music from a Christian standpoint would reveal that 99% of that music presents ideas that are antithetical to the Christian message. So, as a Christian reviewer, one could point out that only about 1% of all popular music truly conforms to truths that Christians would affirm, and one could pick apart the other 99%. Or one could give it all up as hopeless and simply admit that one doesn't really listen to popular music to draw closer to God, at least from the standpoint of doctrine and teaching, and if parents are truly concerned about not exposing their kids to ideas that are problematic from a Christian standpoint, it would be best if their kids not listen to popular music at all.

As an example, let's look at the hit song "Close to You" by the sweet, wholesome pop singing group The Carpenters. Here are the lyrics:

Why do birds suddenly appear

Every time you are near?

Just like me, they long to be

Close to you.

Why do stars fall down from the sky

Every time you walk by?

Just like me, they long to be

Close to you.

On the day that you were born

The angels got together

And decided to create a dream come true

So they sprinkled moon dust in your hair of gold

And starlight in your eyes of blue.

That is why all the girls in town

Follow you all around.

Just like me, they long to be

Close to you.

On the day that you were born

The angels got together

And decided to create a dream come true

So they sprinkled moon dust in your hair of gold

And starlight in your eyes of blue.

That is why all the girls in town

Follow you all around.

Just like me, they long to be

Close to you.

Just like me (Just like me)

They long to be

Close to you.

Wahhhhhhhhhhh, close to you.

Wahhhhhhhhhhh, close to you.

Hahhhhhhhhhhh, close to you.

Lahhhhhhhhhhh, close to you.

And this would be my review of that song if I was focused on communicating a Christian worldview:

"The Carpenters' "Close to You" espouses a romantic conception of love that is antithetical to the Christian message. It places the beloved on a plane that should be reserved for God alone, and encourages idolatry of the beloved. It proposes avian and lunar phenomena that, in real life, do not accompany earthly love, and it also suggests a type of angelic involvement that cannot be corroborated by Holy Scripture. Furthermore, in spite of their wholesome image, The Carpenters were screwup sinners who didn't really live as God intends His children to live. Karen Carpenter suffered from the same kinds of self-image problems that plague many young women in our culture, and died at a young age of complications resulting from anorexia and bulimia. Richard Carpenter used to do lines of cocaine off his grand piano. Vigilant Christian parents should be aware of the sins in the lives of these artists, and the hypocrisy that lies in the conflict between their wholesome image and the way they lived their lives, and may want to shield their children from these unpleasant facts."

It probably goes without saying that "Close to You" is one of the more innocuous examples of contemporary popular music. It gets a lot more problematic from there. But that's what you end up with if you really want a somewhat comprehensive review of popular music from a Christian standpoint. My experience is that most Christian reviewers of "secular" music focus on cuss words and sex. But that is a truncated understanding of a Christian worldview, and it ignores issues that may be far more significant in terms of shaping how one's children come to understand the world around them. So the best bet for Christian parents who are concerned about exposing their children to potentially negative non-Christian influences is to ensure as best they can that their children not listen to popular music. Of course, the same ideas also apply to the rest of popular culture -- to books, to television, to movies, to video games. Christian parents should also be warned that their children will encounter non-Christian children whose parents do not share their values, and that their children may very well pick up on cuss words, sexual terminology, and other unrighteous habits in spite of their best efforts. And I wish them luck. Parenting is difficult. Parents, and parents alone, can determine what is age appropriate for their kids. This is not the role of the music critic, nor any other type of critic. And parents should know that their best efforts to shield their kids from the fallen world will be unsuccessful, and that sooner or later, and most probably much sooner than they want, they will need to talk with their kids about how to process an imperfect, sinful world from a Christian standpoint.

Edited by Andy Whitman

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
"The Carpenters' "Close to You" espouses a romantic conception of love that is antithetical to the Christian message. It places the beloved on a plane that should be reserved for God alone, and encourages idolatry of the beloved. It proposes avian and lunar phenomena that, in real life, do not accompany earthly love, and it also suggests a type of angelic involvement that cannot be corroborated by Holy Scripture. Furthermore, in spite of their wholesome image, The Carpenters were screwup sinners who didn't really live as God intends His children to live. Karen Carpenter suffered from the same kinds of self-image problems that plague many young women in our culture, and died at a young age of complications resulting from anorexia and bulimia. Richard Carpenter used to do lines of cocaine off his grand piano. Vigilant Christian parents should be aware of the sins in the lives of these artists, and the hypocrisy that lies in the conflict between their wholesome image and the way they lived their lives, and may want to shield their children from these unpleasant facts."

This is not a review from a normal Christian worldview. this is a review that a cynical, close-minded, fundamentalist Ted Baehr-type would write. I hardly think you can say that this is representative of a Christian Worldview. I have a Christian worldview, and I would never write a response like this to that Carpenters song.

The point is, Andy, that as a Christian, you will write from a Christian perspective, whether you think you do or not. It may not be traditionally Christian; but whatever you believe internally comes through your writing. I know this to be a fact; I've benefited spiritually from essays and posts that you've written.

Edited by Joel C

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This is not a review from a normal Christian worldview. this is a review that a cynical, close-minded, fundamentalist Ted Baehr-type would write. I hardly think you can say that this is representative of a Christian Worldview. I have a Christian worldview, and I would never write a response like this to that Carpenters song.

The point is, Andy, that as a Christian, you will write from a Christian perspective, whether you think you do or not. It may not be traditionally Christian; but whatever you believe internally comes through your writing. I know this to be a fact; I've benefited spiritually from essays and posts that you've written.

Good. I'm glad to hear it. I would like to think that everything I write I write as a Christian, and I hope that comes through. But that's a different issue than trying to advise Christian parents on what may or may not be appropriate for their children. My point is that when it comes to contemporary popular music, there will be something objectionable from a Christian standpoint in almost every song. Almost all of them. And parents have a responsibility to determine what their children can and cannot handle. A Christian watchdog music review site could sum it all up by saying "Watch out for all of it; it's all dangerous." Reviewers can perhaps point out obvious red flags, such as swearing and explicit sexual content. But again I would emphasize that that's just the tip of the iceberg. I assume that non-Christians -- who create most popular music -- will write as non-Christians. Some of what they create will be absolutely wonderful and praiseworthy, albeit with the usual caveat that certain viewpoints may be communicated that are, to a greater or lesser degree, not in line with Christian thinking. And, as in every other area of life, Christian kids need help from their parents in sorting that all out. But this is not the movies, where Christian parents can at least breathe somewhat easily when they take their kids to the latest Disney or Pixar flick. In popular music, it's all potentially problematic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Andy,

Somewhere, it seems clear to me, this line of reasoning has gone off the rails.

To begin with, your review reads to me like a parody of ham-fisted, imaginatively bankrupt rigorist moralism, not an expression of a Christian worldview. Anyway, I don't think anyone has proposed "focusing on communicating a Christian worldview" (as you now put it), only writing "from the standpoint of a Christian worldview" (your earlier words).

The impression I'm getting from your posts is causing me some cognitive dissonance, based on the little I think I know of you, in particular the positive impressions I have of you. I seem to see, on the one hand, a strangely stunted and limited idea of what a "Christian worldview" is, and, on the other hand, a strangely bleak, morally alarming vision of what popular music is all about. If this picture were remotely true, either of the world or of your perspective, it would seem to follow, at least for you, that you could either be a Christian or a popular music enthusiast, but not both. There has to be a better answer, a better integration than "I'm going to keep my Christianity over here and my music over here."

My one stab at a plausible construal of all this is that the "Christian worldview" you are here espousing may reflect, not your own ideas about Christianity, but what you think of as the outlook of the parents who are concerned with cuss words and sex references, and in this case idolatry. I find supporting evidence for this in the following sentence:

My experience is that most Christian reviewers of "secular" music focus on cuss words and sex. But that is a truncated understanding of a Christian worldview, and it ignores issues that may be far more significant in terms of shaping how one's children come to understand the world around them.

So far, so good. But then you shoot the whole thing to hell by going on to say:

So the best bet for Christian parents who are concerned about exposing their children to potentially negative non-Christian influences is to ensure as best they can that their children not listen to popular music. Of course, the same ideas also apply to the rest of popular culture -- to books, to television, to movies, to video games. Christian parents should also be warned that their children will encounter non-Christian children whose parents do not share their values, and that their children may very well pick up on cuss words, sexual terminology, and other unrighteous habits in spite of their best efforts.

I don't get this. Why is the alternative between what you yourself admit is a truncated Christian evaluation and no Christian evaluation at all? Why do you seem bent on putting all parents who have concerns about problematic content in a box as only "concerned about exposing their children to potentially negative non-Christian influences"?

Do you really think that "Close to You" is antithetical to the Christian message and promotes idolatry? If so, and if that's pretty much the benign end of the spectrum, why shouldn't Christians forthrightly reject it? Because we're mature enough to listen to songs about idolatry without being affected? Why would any Christian who loved God enjoy, or want to enjoy, listening to a beautiful lie dethroning our true Beloved from His rightful place in our hearts?

Just to be clear, I don't for a moment think that Close to You encourages idolatry or is idolatrous. I have every confidence that I could give an account from a Christian worldview of what is happening in that song, one that would celebrate its wholesomeness. You seem to me to have some need to head off all such efforts at the pass and say "Forget it, it's all vanity of vanities, stop bringing Christianity into it and just enjoy the coolness." I'm as baffled as ever.

P.S. Added: Obviously this was written before the last pass with Joel C.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I would like to think that everything I write I write as a Christian, and I hope that comes through.

There we have it! I don't know why we had to go through the valley of the shadow of Baehr to get there.

But that's a different issue than trying to advise Christian parents on what may or may not be appropriate for their children.

Yes indeed, a different question, though still one where I think the critic, especially the Christian critic, can play a helpful role.

My point is that when it comes to contemporary popular music, there will be something objectionable from a Christian standpoint in almost every song. Almost all of them. And parents have a responsibility to determine what their children can and cannot handle.

Outright objectionable? Really? Or potentially problematic, depending on interpretation and age-appropriateness? There is a difference.

I admit, I'm almost completely ignorant of contemporary pop music. To test your theory, I Googled "Top 40," picked a few top-ranking songs pretty much totally at random, and looked up the lyrics.

Let's see, "Lollipop" by Lil Wayne.... aaand check. Right then. Okay, next song...

"The Time of My Life" by David Cook. Hm. Don't see anything objectionable here. Seems pretty harmless and (judging by the lyrics) upbeat, maybe even positive.

"No Air" by Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown. Like "Close to You," we've got the human beloved as the key to life, the universe and everything. It's a motif with a long tradition in Christian writing (e.g., Dante's Beatrice). I'd tend to consider it potentially problematic rather than objectionable per se. Anyway, it's not clear to me that the song necessarily celebrates this sort of devotion, as distinct from expressing how it feels.

"Pocketful of Sunshine" by Natasha Bedingfield. Like "Time of My Life," looks pretty wholesome and upbeat. Not seeing the objectionable or even problematic content here.

"Viva La Vida" by Coldplay. Hmmmmmmm. The first really intriguing lyrics I encountered. Startling classical/Christian imagery even. Looks like a politically themed song? I could see where some might consider it problematic. Can't see where I would consider it objectionable.

"Say" by John Mayer. Intriguing. Not objectionable that I can see.

So, out of six songs, one objectionable, one or two potentially problematic, and three or four not particularly problematic. Not remotely a meaningful statistic, of course, and admittedly I skimmed the lyrics pretty casually. Still, I really doubt if the suggestion that "almost every song -- almost all of them" contain objectionable content is even close to true.

A Christian watchdog music review site could sum it all up by saying "Watch out for all of it; it's all dangerous." Reviewers can perhaps point out obvious red flags, such as swearing and explicit sexual content.

Surely we can do better than that.

I assume that non-Christians -- who create most popular music -- will write as non-Christians. Some of what they create will be absolutely wonderful and praiseworthy, albeit with the usual caveat that certain viewpoints may be communicated that are, to a greater or lesser degree, not in line with Christian thinking.

Yes. Exactly! Now start to apply these general observations to specific cases, and hey presto! You're doing criticism from a Christian worldview.

And, as in every other area of life, Christian kids need help from their parents in sorting that all out.

And as in many areas of life, parents (and others) can benefit from knowledgeable guidance by others. Right?

But this is not the movies, where Christian parents can at least breathe somewhat easily when they take their kids to the latest Disney or Pixar flick. In popular music, it's all potentially problematic.

All the more reason why the critic's guidance here is that much more indispensable! My review of Ratatouille might be fun to read and maybe even insightful, but nobody needs it to be reasonably confident that they can take their kids to see it. With music, precisely because it's harder to get your bearings, the spiritually attuned critic could provide invaluable guidance and support.

Edited by SDG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As a postscript, if I'm cynical it's because I don't think the notion of protecting our kids from worldly/unwholesome influences really works. I'm a parent. Obviously I understand the desire to protect kids from harmful influences in their lives. I want to do that with my own kids. All I know is it didn't work for me, and it had nothing to do with what my parents did or did not allow me to see or hear.

When I was fourteen years old I saw the movie Woodstock. I watched a bunch of great bands play music, but more importantly I watched a bunch of nude hippie chicks on acid dancing around. And I thought, "Hey, that's cool, I think I'd like to join that scene for a couple decades." Nude hippie chicks on acid can be a powerful stimulus, and I went off the deep end. But my point here is that my parents could have shielded me from those images, and I would have found them anyway. Because at a certain point in my life I was looking for them, parents be damned. So if my parents had perhaps been more diligent, and had read a review of the movie from a Christian worldview, they could have sheltered me from such images until I was on my own. At which point I would have watched the movie when I was eighteen, not fourteen, and life would have proceeded much as it did.

I assume that people -- Christians included -- are going to sin. And people either learn from their mistakes or they don't. But the problem in my life wasn't the movie Woodstock. That movie simply brought to the surface issues that were latent and ready to emerge, full-blown, at the first opportunity. The problem was what was in me, not what was out there. Age appropriateness had nothing to do with it, and I would have pursued the same sinful, hedonistic behaviors at eighteen or twenty-eight or thirty-eight -- whenever I first had an opportunity to pursue them on my own. The problem was sin. As YHWH expressed it to Cain, "sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." My primary issue with any review site that purports to help Christian parents determine what is or isn't appropriate for their kids is that such an approach simply doesn't work. Because those kids will grow up, and their parents will be able to exert less and less control in their lives, and all too quickly it will be up to those kids to make wise choices. And I'm not convinced that withholding potentially harmful material from a kid at 8 or 12 will translate into making wise choices at 18 or 21. It didn't work that way for me. It hasn't worked that way for many of the people in my church, many of whom grew up in Christian homes and who were certainly sheltered from the more obviously sinful/problematic elements of our culture when they were kids. They still found ways to screw up, and many of them screwed up in big, harmful ways.

If I could start all over again and expose my kids only to cultural elements that would be most beneficial to them in their adult lives, ideally in their Christian adult lives, I would go out of my way to look for books, films, and music that emphasized grace. And that's what I would choose to write about as a Christian reviewer. That's what I needed, and what I still need; the gospel as good news for screwups. This is perhaps a knee-jerk reaction, but when I think about Christian review sites, I think about reviewers who point out sin in the film, book, or album under scrutiny. And that is precisely what cannot be avoided, and not watching certain movies or listening to certain albums won't help solve the problem at all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Andy Whitman wrote:

: But this is not the movies, where Christian parents can at least breathe somewhat easily when they take their kids to the latest Disney or Pixar flick. In popular music, it's all potentially problematic.

You really think that someone who would obsess over inaccuracies in descriptions of "avian and lunar phenomena" would "breathe somewhat easily" over letting their kids see Disney and Pixar movies? Really!? Even with all the fairies, and the magic, and the cross-dressing, and the illegitimate children, and the... and the...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×