Music at Mars Hill: In Defense of Pop Music

Music at Mars Hill is a weekly column by Luke Larsen that seeks to find God amidst the newest trends in both mainstream music and independent music.

This weekend I got the privilege of MCing, DJing, and running sound at my good friends’ wedding. I have a long history of participating in weddings, starting when I played the piano for my first wedding at the age of 11. (I still can’t believe they did that to me.)

But ever since then, I’ve enjoyed being able to play piano at weddings—especially for family and friends. I don’t stress out as much as I used to though because the music tends to be pretty straightforward. Light acoustic music as people get seated? Check. Canon in D for bridal entrance? Check. Worship song during candlelight or communion? Check. At some point the cues and pulse of a wedding service just sort of became second nature. Finding music “appropriate for the occasion” is also pretty easy.

But last weekend was the first time I ever had to watch my friends get married from behind a laptop instead of a piano. As I sat nervously in the back of the ceremony hall, I started to wonder about the inevitable dance party that was going to happen later on in the evening. What songs should I play? Would people dance? Would I totally blow it? After all, not only am I not a big dancer, but I also confess that I am not the most up to date on pop music.

So here is just a small selection of gems I chose from the dance playlist that I was given for the reception:

“I Gotta Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas.

“Rock Party Anthem” by LMFAO.

“Dynamite” by Taio Cruz.

If you’re like me, you may not have known the names of the above artists right away, even though you recognized the songs. But before you judge me for playing “bad” music at a wedding just to get people to dance, let’s think about this for a bit, shall we?

At the end of a wedding, dancing and loud upbeat music feels like the only proper response. It’s a celebration. I did have a feeling that night was gonna be a good, good night. And as people gathered on the dance floor to celebrate the love of their friends, one question kept running through my head: Since when did lightheartedness, playfulness, and joy become such a sin?

I think generic pop music can be a little underrated sometimes. I’ve noticed that worship music and pop music receive a lot of the same criticism. “Too generic,” “too shallow,” and “dumbed down” are ones that I hear a lot. After all, when you go to worship on Sunday mornings, do you always feel like waving your hands and singing at the top of your lungs? What if you had a hard week? What if you struggled with God that week and you feel the emotions of doubt, rejection, and loneliness more than anything else? There were probably people like this at the wedding who didn’t feel like celebrating love at the moment.

Genres like worship music and pop music are made for specific emotions and settings. But that should never disqualify them as legitimate forms of music. In the same way that I often want to engage with music a little deeper than Katy Perry, I also wouldn’t want to hear Radiohead played at a wedding. It’s easy to get stuck in your own genres of music that you are used to listening to. I think sometimes we get so stuck that we can’t even hear other music for what it is. Maybe every once in awhile we need to take a step back and just learn to shake our hips to something new and unfamiliar. If for no other reason, to celebrate with your friends when there are things to celebrate—even when you’re not feeling it.

About Luke Larsen

Luke Larsen is a freelance writer, music lover, and indie game enthusiast hailing from the Great Northwest. His writing has been featured in publications such as Paste, RELEVANT, GameChurch, and Prefix. You can find him tweeting at @lalarsen11.

  • Daniel

    Thanks, Luke. It has been a pet peeve of mine how some Christians tend to be snobs, looking down on “Pop” music as being unworthy of our respect. I grow tired of these criticisms which seem to have a rather mythic understanding of how theologically great some old hymns are compared to how “shallow” today’s praise music is. (I can find both good and bad theology in both old hymns and new worship songs.)

    Likewise, some snobbishness comes from respecting only obscure Indy music and being immediately suspect if it’s popular–especially if if’s popular in the Evangelical Church.

  • http://lifefamilyandreligion.blogspot.com/ Wade Howell

    We are too critical of secular music. it is a shame.

  • Adam E

    It’s easy to confuse shallow songs processed for the consumer with fun songs celebrating life.


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