I’ll preface this by noting that it is axiomatic that I am nowhere near as cool as Greg Call. I’m not as cool as William Morris, either, and I’m not really as cool as Kristine, even if she does like Abba. I like to think that I’m as cool as D. Fletcher, but I’m probably wrong there too. The fact is, I’m probably not cooler than anyone — Nate Oman and Steve Evans aside, of course. But enough is enough.
Mormon pop music is not the Antichrist. Repeat it after me: Mormon pop music is not the Antichrist.
In fact, it’s often not all that bad. Yes, it’s not exactly free jazz in its musical complexity. You can pretty much count on a nice, pop-py rhythm and a string of uncomplicated I-IV-V’s, with perhaps a minor chord here or there if the writer was really feeling daring.
The words also often leave a bit to be desired. You can all but rely on at least one ryhming of “end-friend” or perhaps “love-dove.” And the words are often heartfelt, but that’s not always a good thing. At worst, they can seem to be manufactured-heartfelt, which is possibly the worst thing a lyric could ever aspire to be.
And yes, Mormon Pop can be overused, over-sung, over-played, over-listened, and so forth.
That said, it’s a nice component for use where appropriate.
I play primary piano — I pretty much have done so for the past eight years. There are a lot of awful primary songs in the book, but I don’t complain about some of the simple, catchy Janice Kapp Perry tunes like I Love to See the Temple, or A Child’s Prayer, or I Pray in Faith. (Yes, Sister Perry may be a little bit too enthusiastic about the Child’s Prayer formula of two tunes that fit together. But in at least some instances, it works.)
I’ve also attended a number of baptisms, firesides, missionary farewells, etc., where Mormon Pop was performed. And yes, I’ve heard some painfully bad renditions of some songs. (“Have You Received His Image” just doesn’t work unless the singer can actually hit the notes, it turns out.) That said, I’ve heard some renditions of Mormon pop that were perfectly nice. Not a night at the opera, true. But appropriate, and uplifting, and well performed. And I liked them.
There’s another reason not to hate Mormon pop, and that is that it can actually help people in life. I watched a close friend go through a time when he went completely inactive — except that he still liked Michael McClean. He’s active again now. Reactiviation is a tricky thing, and there were lots of components on both sides of the equation — but I was very happy that this person never forgot his liking for McClean.
In my experience and observation, Mormon pop can be particularly useful for teens. The teenage years are a time of life when kids are figuring themselves out, and lots of Mormon pop is designed to help with that process. That means that it is often earnest and hopeful in a way that may make it look like overprocessed pap to thirtysomething adults, just as we might think that an adolescent’s journal entries are full of overthought angst. But we the thirtysomethings aren’t the ones who need the overearnest pop, and it’s awfully rude of us to pretend otherwise.
Yes, this isn’t a great defense. I’m not a huge fan of a lot of Mormon pop myself, and I get tired of its shortcomings sometimes. Perhaps others can give this maligned music the defense it deserves. But for the moment, I’ll just go on the record to repeat my own opinion: Mormon pop is not the Antichrist, and it can be pretty good.