This is me the first time I heard Katy Perry's new song Roar on the radio:
I sat up straight, turned it up, and hmm, what do we have here? If you haven't heard it yet, (hey...even if you have!) here's the lyric video. You're welcome.
Yeah, I see you boppin your head over there. It's tough not to!
Generally I like Pop music. No shame in thinking something that was designed to keep you from changing the station is, indeed, crazy catchy.
The bummer is that sometimes Pop lets me down. Actually, more than just sometimes. I'll hear a song that sounds awesome and is fun to sing along with, the kind of song you really don't mind getting stuck in your head, only to listen to what I'm repeating and think, wow, I really shouldn't be listening to this.
Sex, drugs, alcohol (sometimes cliche is accurate!) --the Pop world is built on the idea that living with no limit is as glamorous as it gets. Don't think I think Katy Perry is above it (she may not remember "Last Friday Night" but I didn't forget about it!)
It's no secret: Pop just loves to take it too far. If Pop were a person, they'd be that friend who is always making vulgar jokes even when your English teacher or your parents are within earshot...and all the sudden you're guilty by association.
But this is where it gets dicey... because pop is more than just catchy tunes: Music is Powerful and really good at leaving an impression on us, whether perceived or subconscious! It can change our moods, our taste, it can change political opinions or even our morals...and often it's meant to. Have you heard Macklemore's song "Same Love"? Catchy music and poetic lyrics can be so captivating, you can get all turned around and forget why you believe what you believe. [For a Catholic perspective on Macklemore's "Same Love", check this out: Same Love or Some Lies? ]
When your heart has been broken by Pop so many times, you start to guard yourself. So it was with a cautious ear that I listened to "Roar" that first time...carefully, waiting for the other shoe to drop. But it never did.
I have kind of a rating system for Pop songs. How well does a song pass the following test?
One Star: It's catchy.
Most Pop songs are catchy, and actually a lot of them don't get past this level because catchy is really all they are other than vulgar or suggestive.
Pretty much every Pop Song = PASS
(it's POPular because it's catchy!)
Two Stars: I can listen to it with my parents in the same room (unedited) without reservation.
When you listen to the song, does your mom cringe and ask you what the heck you are listening to? Do you turn it down strategically at certain points? Do you hope they aren't actually listening to the lyrics (sometimes you aren't even really listening to them anyway...so who cares, right?)
Thrift Shop - Macklemore = FAIL
Roar - Katy Perry = PASS
Three Stars: I can sing the lyrics to the song with my parents within earshot without reservation.
Ever start singing a song and realize it sounds a lot worse coming from your mouth than when you were just listening to the artist sing it? You may feel comfortable belting it out in the car but do you want mom and dad to hear you singing about fill in the blank ? Or grandma? That might be an even better test...
Some parents are a little more relaxed about music. They listen to the same stuff you do or they just take whatever is in the lyrics with a grain of salt. If that's the case, imagine if what you were singing was an actual truth about your life you were expressing. Example: they might not let it bother them if you are singing "back that thang up", but would they be cool with you telling them all about an actual situation of you backing that thang up? Probably not.
Obviously, a large, large majority of Pop songs do not make it past level three.
Domino - Jessie J = FAIL
Roar - Katy Perry = PASS
BONUS LEVEL: (just for fun) It passes the
Kidz Bop test
I discovered this test in the kindergarten classroom last year and it is hilarious. Have you ever been watching a Kidz Bop commercial and you hear a song that's on the CD and think, KIDS are listening to THAT? Kidz Bop has to rewrite the lyrics to these songs, sometimes extensively, to allow kids to sing them. For example, in Tik Tok by Ke$ha, instead of "brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack" (...oh, Ke$ha...) the kids sing "before I leave, brush my teeth, and then I go pack", and all the sudden an alcohol reference becomes a reminder to practice good dental hygiene when you start your day.
To pass level four, the lyrics to the song must need NO REWRITING to be featured on a KidzBop CD. A very rare feat indeed.
It Will Rain - Bruno Mars = FAIL
Roar - Katy Perry = PASS
(Kidz Bop edit of It Will Rain: “If you ever leave me, baby/ Leave our memories at my door/ Cause it would take a whole lot of remembering/ To realize what we used to have/ We don’t have it anymore...")
FINAL TEST: It has a positive message that you can actually apply to your life
This test makes the difference between a catchy/fun song, and a song that makes a real difference-- and what really got me excited about Roar. You may have heard me talk about this before: I love to take secular songs and find a way to apply them to my spiritual life and my relationship with Christ.
Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys becomes a song about being untouchable when you are on fire for Christ, the best version of you and able to face anything.
Next to Me by Emeli Sande becomes a fun anthem to remind you of Jesus being by your side no matter what you are going through.
David Guetta's Without You becomes an expression of our need for Christ, and how empty life would be without His love.
...I love finding those songs! It has become sort of a game I play, and I get really excited when I find a new song that passes the final level.
Roar is about knowing what you believe in and owning it. Being willing to live out loud what you are passionate about, and for me, that's the beauty of my Catholic faith. This song describes perfectly how I want you all to feel about your faith: do not be afraid to live boldly the Catholic lifestyle, and do not be ashamed to be different from the rest of the world. If we don't stand for something, we will fall for anything, and too many teens (and adults!) are too nervous about dedicating themselves to their faith to be able to resist the constant cultural opposition to it.
So pump yourself up. Be a fighter, dance through the fire. Fight through all the obstacles and disapproval of those who don't understand your faith. Show them the confidence of a Christian who trusts completely in the Lord and his love-- enough to bet it all. And don't make it a secret, if you really believe in the healing power of Christ's love and the beauty that awaits us in heaven, you want everyone to know, you wanna live a life that shouts it out!! We wanna hear you ROAR!
So, needless to say, after my initial hesitation, as I finished listening to Roar that first time, I wanted to stand up and applaud! I am pretty sure I looked exactly like this:
Yes, Pop doesn't always get it right, but this just goes to show that we can find Christ in anything! Pop is powerful, God is infinitely more powerful, and when you combine the two... what an amazing way to see God working in our everyday lives. Listen closely to see if you can find more "five star" songs, and let us know when you do!
Bravo, Katy Perry, bravo. Until next time....
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