Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Hot 100 turns disturbingly wholesome

Posted By on 04.15.14 at 02:00 PM

Hillsong_Oceans_EP.jpg
If you believe social conservatives in the media, the Hot 100 is a den of musical iniquity full of songs that are little more than advertisements for easy sex, drug abuse, and general un-American thought. They've been saying that for decades, and most of the time they've been right, but at the moment the pop charts are having some kind of spasm of morality and going all wholesome on us.

The trend starts the top, where Pharrell's "Happy," a song that, don't forget, was originally written for the soundtrack to Despicable Me 2, continues to reign without much serious competition. But all the way down the chart's full of songs that don't seem to promote any kind of immoral behavior at all. The soundtrack to Disney's Frozen has three songs on the Hot 100 right now. The few respectably salacious rap songs that have been performing well are surrounded on all sides by well-intentioned shlock like A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera's apparently unkillable "Say Something." It is, in short, a nightmare for anyone who depends on the pop charts to keep our nation's youth corrupted.

The most distressing sign of the chart's current moral condition is the presence of Hillsong United's "Oceans" down in its lower rungs. The Australian group is one of the leading producers of what is known as "worship music," a dreary offshoot of Christian rock that typically sounds like a paint-by-numbers pop power ballad that's had its pace slowed to a crawl and anything interesting about it excised with ruthless efficiency.

Worship music is an expression of nearly everything awful about contemporary Christianity, from its embrace of platitudes at the expense of actual spiritual introspection to its emphasis on personal salvation over everything else to its deep working relationship with megachurches. (Hillsong United is an offshoot of Hillsong Church, which claims 30,000 weekly worshippers and operates its own highly successful record label and publishing business.) It's also an aesthetic crime whose dependence on cliche and absolute lack of passion makes Amy Grant seem positively radical by comparison.

Christian pop has been making appearances on the secular charts for years, largely because they're actual pop songs. Worship music in general, and "Oceans" in particular, are about as fun as a Methodist hymn, and really don't offer non-Christians much reason to listen to them, unless they're non-Christians who enjoy music that's paradoxically bloated and limp at the same time. Seeing an example of it make it onto the Hot 100, even at the lowest reaches, is disappointing.

In other, better news, Young Thug, the crossdressing, pot-loving weirdo behind "Stoner" continues to amass a cult following that's branching into the mainstream, and Future, who makes unshakably catchy pop songs about selling cocaine, has a new record coming out. If anyone can snap America's pop fans out of this wholesome phase they can.

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