This year’s Grammy Awards (the 56th) has caused quite a stir. On some level, the Grammys are always a big deal. It’s got to be one of the most viewed, most diverse, most star-studded concerts every year. The event inherently celebrates God’s gift of music, and that aspect of the event glorifies God. Then there’s the quantity of famous people attending, performing, and award-receiving, so the event is bound to be big every year.

But this year was more stirring than most. Here are a few of the crazier highlights.

Katy Perry performed her song “Dark Horse” in a particularly satanic manner. She emerged from a crystal ball to dance on stage wearing a red cross in front of demons and other black-clad dancers imitating a human sacrifice. It was dark. The thing is, the song itself isn’t this crazy. It references magic in the chorus, but it’s referenced metaphorically. So in her choice to make her performance focus on witchcraft, I think Katy Perry was simply playing with that metaphor:

“So you wanna play with magic
Boy you should know what you’re fallin’ for
Baby do you dare to do this
‘Cause I’m comin’ at you like a dark horse”

She’s using the concept of “magic” as a metaphor to say, “don’t get in over your head by getting involved with me.” I really think it’s that simple. Unfortunately, she illustrated that metaphor so vividly that even the non-conservative media outlet E! Online tweeted: “Um, did we just witness actual witchcraft during Katy Perry’s #Grammys performance?” That definitely made for some dark viewing.

Then there was Beyonce, joined by Jay-Z, performing “Drunk In Love”—a pretty filthy song—in the most trashily scandalous way imaginable (in my opinion). It was crazy, and played its part in turning a potentially classy event into something awkward at best and sleazy at worst.

But probably the most talked about aspect was Macklemore’s song “Same Love.” The song bashes the church for being hateful and intolerant, bashes hip-hop for the same reason, and proclaims that:

“Whatever god you believe in
We come from the same one
Strip away the fear
Underneath it’s all the same love”

Then Queen Latifah walked out, pointed out the 33 couples lining the aisles—many of them homosexual couples—and performed a 40 second marriage ceremony in which no vows were exchanged, no names were mentioned, and rings were hastily shoved onto fingers.

Now, here’s the thing. I love music. I love “Christian” music. I love “secular” music. I love the celebration of music that the Grammy Awards represents. But does all of this make me love the music world less?

No. I think there are reasons for the craziness of the Grammys. One primary factor is that while the Grammys intend to honor genuine musical excellence, the actual award ceremony is about entertainment. All of that stuff is great for ratings for the Grammys and the TV network, and the media buzz is great for record sales for the artists involved. Even after such a controversial performance at the VMAs, Miley Cyrus explained at New Year’s that it’s been a great year for her. She got a lot of heat, but celebrity is celebrity, record sales are record sales.

So even if the show itself got out of hand, I don’t think that devalues the music that ties all of these diverse people together.

And while some music and musicians are inherently dark or sexual or propagandistic, the Grammys still represent many thoughtful, earnest, and creative musicians. I’m not surprised by the sexual content in some of the songs, like Beyonce’s “Drunk in Love.” One reason I’m not a huge fan of rap/R&B is the persistent focus on licentious sex, fame, and wealth (though I’ll be quick to point out that not all of it is that way). But Taylor Swift was also there as a more wholesome alternative, and Lorde won Song of the Year for a song denouncing licentious sex, fame, and wealth.

I don’t endorse gay marriage (for a balanced and helpful discussion of this issue, click here), but I do think people like Macklemore should be free to explore that concept and sing about it. What I disliked about that song and the surrounding performance is the propagandistic nature of it. There’s no subtlety. It’s not pushing the listener to reflect. The message is just there in your face, which I think devalues it as art. And by the way, this is a problem that I have with most Christian music. So many Christian songs are not contemplating life, they’re not encouraging reflection. They’re just stating their message sermonically. This makes these songs great as sermons and weak as art (in my opinion).

So I’m not turned off to music because of Macklemore’s performance. He’s not the first to give a sermon set to music, nor will he be the last. The world eats this stuff up. We eat it up. It’s great to have something to be angry about. What saddens me is that the focus is taken off of the music, which the Grammys are meant to celebrate. It takes the focus off of the thoughtful musicians who are consciously or unconsciously glorifying God by using the gifts he has given them and reflecting the creativity God implanted within them. Music is still a precious gift from God, even if its award shows get out of hand.

SHARE
Previous articleThank God for J. K. Rowling
Next articleHomosexuality Class: Week 1
Mark Beuving

Mark Beuving currently serves as Associate Pastor at Creekside Church in Rocklin, CA. Prior to going back into pastoral ministry, Mark spent ten years on staff at Eternity Bible College as a Campus Pastor, Dean of Students, and then Associate Professor. Mark now teaches online adjunct for Eternity. He is passionate about building up the body of Christ, training future leaders for the Church, and writing. Though he is interested in many areas of theology and philosophy, Mark is most fascinated with practical theology and exploring the many ways in which the Bible can speak to and transform our world. He is the author of “Resonate: Enjoying God’s Gift of Music” and the co-author with Francis Chan of “Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples.” Mark lives in Rocklin with his wife and two daughters.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks Mark I appreciate your reflections here. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater seems to be a common practice for us in the Christian community.

    Can you explain how Macklemore might have presented his views in a different way where it didn’t feel so “in your face?”

    • Good question, Matt. It’s all a matter of opinion, of course, but I do think there are some concrete elements that make it more propagandistic.

      For one thing, the surprise wedding in the middle made it feel like there was an agenda to the song. Also, much of the song features accusations: right-wingers are playing God, we’re just paraphrasing an ancient book, opposing gay marriage is no different than the crusades, those who preach the biblical view of marriage are preaching hate and their “holy water” is poisoned… Stuff like that.

      Perhaps focusing on the experience of a gay person (some of the song does this), but with less accusations. I actually dug the part of the song where Mary Lambert sings “My love, she keeps me warm.” It’s beautifully sung and it makes me think of the love that homosexual couples must feel for one another, rather than making me think of those hateful Bible-thumpers.

      I really think there’s a place for this kind of thing (Rage Against the Machine did it all the time), but in my opinion the overt agenda rather than careful reflection and perspective-challenging devalues it as art a bit.

  2. Hi Mark.

    I like this post a lot. As a would be musician, I agree with much of what you say. But as someone involved in the public conversation about Christianity and homosexuality, I’m baffled by the general church reaction to Same Love.

    Traditionalist theology says that gay relationships (and the people in them) are inferior and immoral.

    Why is moral disapproval from the church acceptable and not “gay bashing”, but moral disapproval of traditionalist beliefs are considered unacceptable “church bashing”?

    • I don’t know, Ford, and as Preston’s many blog posts on homosexuality show, I think the church has been far from blameless in the way it has treated the gay community. I didn’t mean to contribute to that here, or to “gay bash,” or to imply that the people in gay relationships are inferior or anything like that.

      Nor do I mean to say that Macklemore and others can’t express the value of same sex love, their longing for fair treatment, etc. I only meant to call attention to the way it was done, and as I said, my concern applies equally to the way many Christian musicians express their views. And my opinion on the matter of how one ought to express one’s views is not infallible.

      I haven’t seen really anything on how the church at large is responding to this part of Grammys, but I imagine there’s a lot of diversity of views there.

      • Oh, gosh Mark. I wasn’t trying to cast aspersions and please accept my sincere apology if that’s how I came off.

        What I was trying to say is that expressing a desire for the church to be inclusive and tolerant (or even accepting) of gay couples is not “church bashing” any more or less than expressing the traditionalist view of homosexual relationships (i.e. they are immoral and inferior) is “gay bashing”.

        When we express moral judgments about groups, it is offensive to the group in question.

        Sorry again if my previous response lacked grace.

        I wish you peace.
        David

        • Ah, yes indeed. Your response did not lack grace, I just missed your point. You’re absolutely right, these issues are so difficult to discuss without offense and injury because it’s about people in the end.