Religious Elements In Western Popular Music Cultural Studies Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Popular music has been greatly improving the spread of young culture globally. It is part of the cultural industry which has gained importance in these years. Thanks to the technology improvement in the music industry and revolution in aesthetics in the late twenty years in the 20th century, popular music gained great development. New music styles and forms have been emerging and influencing the whole world. English being a global language, western music has spread to the widest range. Among all English-speaking countries, the US and the UK are two main culture exporters. Globalization brings about cultural homogenization, which means that we are gradually living under similar cultural circumstances. Most of the people in our country have more or less listened to English songs. When we are enjoying the music, we should have a basic understanding of its cultural background from which it is produced. China is a non-religious country. For most Chinese people, Christianity and other religions are just some indefinite concepts or figures presented in films. As a result, it is hard for them to comprehensively understand the deep meanings behind the lyrics and pictures. Different from eastern culture, religion has a more profound influence on the daily life of western people. The analysis of the role of religion in western society will be helpful for .

By analysing the religious elements in selected songs from some famous pop singers, the paper finds that there are three reasons for which the music producers apply religious elements in popular music. There are four parts in this paper. This paper first reviews previous researches on the cultural and religious studies on popular music. Then, the paper focuses on the definitions and modern development of popular music and religions (mainly Christianity) respectively. After that, some selected songs are used to interpret the religious elements in popular music.

I. Literature Review

Although science has replaced religion as a dominant philosophy in our life, religion still has profound impacts on the humanities and aesthetics. Music is certainly one of them. From the day music was created, it was more or less influenced by the development of religion, and so it is nowadays.

Popular music is a more general term referring to any of a number of musical genres "having wide appeal" and is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. It is also a term referring to music that is widely accepted by the public who have not ever received professional music training. Pop music is a genre of popular music which originated in its modern form in the 1950s, deriving from rock and roll.

The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, the musicologist's ultimate reference resource, identifies popular music as the music since industrialization in the 1800s that is most in line with the tastes and interests of the urban middle class. This would include an extremely wide range of music from vaudeville and minstrel shows to heavy metal. Pop music, on the other hand, has primarily come into usage to describe music that evolved out of the rock 'n roll revolution of the mid-1950s and continues in a definable path to today.

Wang Siqi (80) summarized the definition of pop music as follows: Popular music refers to a kind of music that is easy to understand and spread. It is different from serious music, classic music and traditional folk music. From different perspectives, there are other definitions of pop music. Based on the point of consumption, Wang Siqi (83) gave another definition of pop music: "Pop music is a commercial music that is based on mass production and regulated by the mechanism of the market economy, and produced and broadcasted by modern technological channels. It has a cultural participation and it is closely linked to commercially cultural entertainment circle. In a word, it is a mass culture and entertainment."

The direct analysis on the religious characteristics in pop music is rare. Most researches are focused on one or several specific perspectives of the relationship between religion and music, mostly religious music, gospel music and/or Rock'n'Roll. On the sociological functions of pop music, Johannes Eurich thinks that "by structuring experiences in ways of time, music takes up the religious experiences of being held and embraced" (58) which means that "music takes over a function which in former times was held by religion" (68). Music plays such a role for that it contains direct or indirect reflections of religious in its manifestations such as lyrics, rhythm, and music video. In "An analysis of the Religious Elements in Western Pop Music of the 20th Century", Yang Hua thinks that the content in the New Age meets the needs of aesthetics and responds to the religious complex. Pop music as well as Gospel Music, New Age and Gothic Music are expressions of the psychological dependency on religion. People feel satisfied when listening to these kinds of music (35).

Along with the development of television and the Internet, people enjoy music via different channels. Music is no longer merely a song, but a combination of song and image. Except for the music and lyrics, the music video, as a visual art, also contains a lot of religious symbols. In "Symbols of Religious and Sexuality on MTV", Carol J. Pardun and Kathy B. McKee (445) analyzed 160 videos and found that "religious symbols are juxtaposed with sexual images in what could be described as a secular framing of these traditionally sacred symbols" and "religious imagery is present in videos in a significant, non-random fashion".

Why should music contain religious characteristics? On the religious values of music, Luo Xiaoping (19) says that "the transcendentalism, abstractness and fuzziness of the musical materials are embodiments of the mystique of religion. On the artistic values of music, all kinds of art have a tendency towards music; the intrinsic driving force in all kinds of art is the pursuit of musical regularization."

Religious elements in the pop music are a reflection of the religious dominance in the western philosophy. It is also a result of the pursuit of economic interests. Different singers have their own marks of music. They try hard to establish a solid "first impression" on the consumers when they hear their music. "The visual products" --- music videos are nowadays an important way to present the songs. So the pop music singers pay special attention to their hit songs. The phenomenon is analyzed by Hao Wei in his paper "Visual Reading of Popular Music": The "image" of public figures have been changing especially that of the pop music singers. The images of the singers have transformed from "single-mode" producing to "public" producing, and the producing of the image is inclined to visual violence. In this paper, the author also discussed the appreciation of the music: the "meaning" of the pop music is not only the meaning of the song itself, but a complex social identity, and sometimes the latter matters. The visual images are what make the "identity". The influence of Elvis Presley owed much to his performance in TV programs. More white youths accepted rhythm and blues.

The study on the religious elements in western pop music should be further expanded. Along with the declination of influence of religion in western society, the religious elements in pop music have different meanings compared to they were before. The connotations of these elements should be analyzed through both the visual form and the audio form. The plot, the layouts, the colors and the looks of the music videos are all important manifestations of a singer's music style. The genres and lyrics of the music show their attitudes towards music.

By analyzing these religious elements, we can have a comprehensive understanding of the contemporary pop music.

As the English-speaking culture, especially American culture has become a global mainstream and the ideology of the western society which is carried by the cultural products becomes more widely acknowledged, the popular culture is inevitably a major point in the cultural globalization.

II. Popular Music

A. The Development of Popular Music

Popular music firstly appeared in the 19th century and did not gain great development until the early years of the 20th century. United States of America is the birthplace of popular music. It is USA that enjoys the most advanced popular music industry. Blues, Jazz, Country Music are the main forms of popular music which lay great influence on the latter forms. Rock and roll in the 1950s completely changed popular music.

The late-1960s highlighted three major strands of musical development. The "quality pop" of producers and writers like Phil Spector (see earlier notes). The British R&B groups, communicating reinterpretations of black American blues and gospel-R&B, representing a discriminating anti-commercialism. The "urban folk" movement in New York's Greenwich Village and on the university campuses, with its political awareness and literary approach: this movement was particularly promoted through the music of Bob Dylan.

The 1967-70 period is also viewed as the age of the hippy. Many art students doubled up as rock musicians and much collaboration between art and music was exploited. Rock increasing distinguished itself from the global term 'pop'. The in¬‚uence of modern jazz was diminishing and more distinct genres began to be de¬ned. Drugs were also part of the popular music humdrum. Marijuana and LSD (drugs with 'mind-expanding' and psychedelic properties) had become fashionable amongst the youth culture. Musicians used drugs as forms of inspiration and saw it their place to make statements/actions on political issues.

The development of music in the 1980s is particularly marked by the advancement of technology and the application of technology in music. The most signi¬cant contribution of technology to music has been in the form of MIDI. MIDI ('Musical Instrument Digital Interface') (1983) is a method of linking (communicating between) or synchronizing electronic musical devices that are capable of recording and manipulating data, ultimately musical sounds. As electronic companies competed for commercial domination in the MIDI market, there arose a need for some form of industry standard i.e. electronic devices being able to communicate with each other in a recognized format. 1991, this industry union was expressed in the creation of GM ('General MIDI'). GM implies that instrumental timbres and data controllers are indexed in a common pattern. For example, instruments supporting GM will have the grand piano as instrumental timbre no.1 (there being a potential 128 sounds for each bank), while the MIDI channel 10 (the maximum being 16) is allocated to untuned percussion sounds. The 80s saw the creation and development of highly complex MIDI sequencing packages (still in advancement today)

New genres evolved in the 90s with female artists bringing more mellow, non-aggressive "daisy age" rapping. Examples include Missy Elliott and the ageing "Salt & Pepa". Rap was also combined with R&B idioms.

All-girl and all-boy bands enjoyed great popularity in the 90s. These manufactured groups moved between up-tempo songs with choreographed routines and the sweet ballad songs, particularly targeting pre-adolescent girls as well older girls and gay men. Image was an important ingredient to support the presentation of the formulaic songs (melodic and hookladen). Other artists worked in retro styles, reworking older hits or remoulded their image like Kylie Minogue, who adopted a more sensual approach. Some promoters tried to give individual images to band members (e.g. Spice Girls) to counteract the formulaic methodology, advocating instead of fun loving, slightly anarchic mentality. Such out¬ts often broke up with the individual members pursuing solo careers, sometimes milking the sexual imagery or targeting a MOR audience.

B. The Manifestation of Pop Music

Music video, invented in the 1980s and first played on Music Television in August, 1981, is an extensive form of pop music. MV greatly extended the spreading of pop music. The world's first ever music video show is the Buggles' Video Killed the Radio Star. However, the most influential music video is Michael Jackson's Thriller. The 15-minute long music video led a brand-new trend in the music industry and permanently changed the way people enjoy music.

In music video, singers can express the ideas which is not fully expressed in the lyrics. For a mainstream pop singer, half of the whole album will be transferred into music videos. The broadcasting of music videos is helpful for the dissemination of the new album. The MTV began to profit and make records in late 1983. Music videos became a necessity to propagate the new albums. Undoubtedly, the sale of records is still the mainstay of the music industry.

In the increasingly competitive commercial society, the music industry has been facing towards a shuffle brought by the digital technology. Traditional mediums of music, such as the cassette, Compact Disc, and vinyl records are discarded by consumers. People download music from iTunes store and video websites including YouTube and It is difficult to sell records in real stores and inevitable to follow the trend to sell music online. Digital formats of music are convenient and easily reachable for anyone who is access to the Internet. Some famous digital products completely changed the way people enjoy music, for instance, iPod. So the music industry has to make some changes to adapt to the new trend. After the millennium, the music publishing has been transferring to online music stores.

III. Religion

Religion is an abiding phenomenon in human society. A historical research has stated that religion does not come to existence until about 30,000 to 100,000 years ago.

If one wants to study something about European culture, two elements are the beginning of his or her study: Judeo-Christian element and Greek-Roman element. During two thousand years' development, the western society has become one based on religion, mainly Christianity.

Christianity is undoubtedly the religion which to the greatest extent influences the historical course of western society. Christianity was created in about 3000 years ago. It is impossible to clearly distinguish in what way our daily life is influenced by Christianity.

A. Definitions of Religion

Religion, as a cultural phenomenon, appeared along the development of human society. It is part of the ideology.

The word "religion" derives from the Latin word "religio" of which the original meaning is "honesty and awe" for the gods. In Chinese, the word "Zongjiao" came from Indian Buddhism which means "the dogmata of Buddhism". It is hard to give a precise definition of "religion". Different perspectives and research methods bring about different definitions of "religion", just like the diversified definitions of "culture". Some scholars define "religion" from the point of view that it is a system of which the center is the gods. Friedrich Max Muller defines religion as "the worship to something infinite". Anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor defines religion as "the worship to spiritual entity".

Some other scholars define "religion" from the perspective of individual experience. American psychologist and philosopher William James defines religion as "the mode, actions and experience one keeps between himself or herself and something he or she thinks holy".

Some scholars define religion from the point of view of its social functions. Milton J. Yinger defines religion as "the faith one keeps when fighting against the ultimate difficulties in daily life".

At last, some scholars define religion through the relationship between religion and culture. For example, Paul Tillich holds the point that the unity of human society lies in religion. Religion and culture developed spontaneously in the historical course of human civilization. The primitive form is called "religious culture". Many other cultural forms appeared during its development. The separation of "religion" and "culture" led to the appearance of two fields: "religion" and "secularity".

B. Current Situation of Religion in the United States of America and United Kingdom

The Enlightenment Movement in the 17th century to a great extent shocked the basis of Christianity as well as other religions. People began to realize the importance of science and power of knowledge. Copernicus and his heliocentric theory remarked the beginning of modern science. Isaac Newton laid the foundation of classical physics. John Locke introduced the thought of democracy which was applied in the political system in the US. They were the forerunners in science and mind. Human entered a delighting age since then.

According to Global Christianity, a Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Christian Population, published by the Pew Research Center (December, 2011), there is a Christian population of 2,184,060,000 living in the Americas (including North and South America). That 246,780,000 Christians live in United States accounts 79.5% of the whole population in the US and 11.3% of world Christian population. Among the Christians, in 2010, there are 159,850,000 Protestants, 1,870,000 Orthodox and 10,590,000 other Christians.

In Europe, there are 2,184,060,000 Christians. 45,030,000 Christians live in the UK, occupying 72.6% of UK's total population and 2.1% of world Christian population. Among them, 33,820,000 are Protestants, 560,000 are Orthodox and 620,000 are other Christians.

IV. Religious Elements in Pop Music

Some typical popular music songs are selected as examples to show the religious elements in popular music.

Example 1

Lady Gaga is an American singer, songwriter, dancer, activist, fashion designer. She came to prominence as a recording artist following the release of her debut album, The Fame, which was a critical and commercial success. Her most recent album, Born This Way, topped the charts of most major markets and generated more international char-topping singles. "Judas" is one of them. There are many religious elements in both the lyric and music video of this song.


Lady Gaga

When he comes to me, I am ready

I'll wash his feet with my hair if he needs

Forgive him when his tongue lies through his brain

Even after three times, he betrays me

I'll bring him down, bring him down, down

A king with no crown, king with no crown

I'm just a Holy Fool, oh baby he's so cruel

But I'm still in love with Judas, baby

In the most Biblical sense,

I am beyond repentance

Fame hooker, prostitute wench, vomits her mind

But in the cultural sense

I just speak in future tense

Judas kiss me if offenced,

Or wear an ear condom next time

To analyze the religious elements in the song, we should combine the lyric and the music video. The theme of the song is betrayal and punishment. The story is based on the New Testament.

The opening scene is twelve guys riding motors. On the back of each guy is respectively the name of Jesus's disciples. According to the plot, Lady Gaga were the protegee of Jesus, Mary Magdalene.

At 4'24" of the music video, "Judas" kissed "Jesus". This plot was honesty to the Bible. Judas betrayed Jesus. Before the last supper, Judas told the officers and soldiers that the man he kissed was Jesus. During the last supper, Judas brought them and picked Jesus out by kissing him.

The original words in the New Testament describing the scenes presented in the video are as follows:

"Then one of the Twelve - the one called Judas Iscariot - went to the chief priests and asked, 'What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?' So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver" (Matthew 26: 14-15)

"Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: 'The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.' Going at one to Jesus, Judas said, 'Rabbi!' and kissed him." (Mark 14: 43-46)

Some other religious elements involved in the video are as follows:

Horus' eyes. Horus, depicted as a falcon-headed man, is a deity in ancient Egyptian religion and symbol of kingship over the entire kingdom of Egypt.

Sigil of Baphomet. Baphomet is a supposed pagan deity representing the duality of male and female, as well as Heaven and Hell or night and day. It is associated with a "Sabbatic Goat" image.

Morning Star. A weapon. It is also the name of Lucifer, of which the meaning is the planet Venus and "light-bearing".

Whore of Babylon. A Christian allegorical figure of evil mentioned in the Book of Revelation in the Bible.

Example 2

Viva la Vida


I used to rule the world

Seas would rise when I gave the word

Now in the morning I sleep alone

Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice

Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes

Listen as the crowd would sing:

"Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!"

One minute I held the key

Next the walls were closed on me

And I discovered that my castles stand

Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing

Roman Cavalry choirs are singing

Be my mirror my sword and shield

My missionaries in a foreign field

For some reason I can't explain

Once you go there was never,

never an honest word

That was when I ruled the world

It was the wicked and wild wind

Blew down the doors to let me in

Shattered windows and the sound of drums

People couldn't believe what I'd become

Revolutionaries wait

For my head on a silver plate

Just a puppet on a lonely string

Oh who would ever want to be king?

I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing

Roman Cavalry choirs are singing

Be my mirror my sword and shield

My missionaries in a foreign field

For some reason I can't explain

I know Saint Peter won't call my name

Never an honest word

But that was when I ruled the world

The cover of this album is Liberty Leading the People by Eugéne Delacroix commemorating the July Revolution of 1830. There are many different interpretations of this song. Literally analyzing, it is a song about the inner thought of King Louis XVI before he was to be beheaded. The bass guitarist Guy Berryman said that the song was a king who's lost his kingdom. Besides, the song has many implications about current society. Coldplay applies many literary quotations from Christianity into this song.

Seas would rise when I gave the word

The sentence refers to power. In Exodus 15, the Old Testament, Moses led the Israelites to escape from the persecution of Pharaoh. "When Pharaoh's horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground." (Exodus 15: 19)

And I discovered that my castles stand / Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand.

The "castle" symbolizes the king's power. This sentence means that his power had a weak foundation. "Pillars of salt" refers to those in Sodom, a city of sin. Lot's wife disobeyed the God's will ("Don't look back, and don't stop anywhere in the plain." Genesis 19: 17) and was turned into a pillar of salt when escaping from the city. The proverb "curious as Lot's wife" derives from Genesis 19: 26, the Old Testament which means "much too curious about something". Here in the song it refers to "the waver of beliefs".

For some reason I can't explain / I know Saint Peter won't call my name / Never an honest word / But that was when I ruled the world

Saint Peter was an early Christian leader and one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. Jesus once said to Saint Peter that: "Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!" (John 13)

Chris Martin (lead singer of Coldplay) has once explained the meaning of "I know Saint Peter won't call my name" in the song: "You're not on the list. I was a naughty boy." "Never an … … I ruled the world" is to reiterate that he (the king) has lost his power.

I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing / Roman cavalry choirs are singing / Be my mirror my sword and shield / Missionaries in a foreign field

Jerusalem is a holy city in Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The sentence seems to describe that the king used religion as an excuse to conquest. "Roman cavalry choirs are singing" symbolizes his success and the extoling of his efforts. Mirror, sword and shield symbolize his power.

Example 3

Recently a famous performance containing religious elements was that in Grammy Awards 2012, Nicki Minaj presented her song, Roman Holiday. The stage was turned into a church: the screen was displaying stained glass windows and the dancers dressed in red as cardinals in Catholics and played as "clergyman". At the same time, church chorus was used in the harmony. The plot includes confession, preach (by the clergyman played by the dancers), invocation (by Nicki Minaj) and exorcism (as Nichi Minaj rose from the stage).

Example 4

Gregorian is a German band headed by Frank Peterson that performs Gregorian chant - inspired versions of modern pop and rock songs. The band features both vocal harmony and instrumental accompaniment. The ten members of the Gregorian choir group are famous singers from Britain. The band name "Gregorian" comes from Gregorian chant, which is the central tradition of Western plainchant, a form of monophonic, unaccompanied sacred song of the western Roman Catholic Church. Though in all the songs they sing in chorus, the songs belong to the genre of pop. But Gregorian's music differs from other pop music for they apply the technic of church music to their works.

Their music videos are simple in style, plot and dressing. There are not many actions. The singers just dress in robes, stand in line or walk slowly and sing. The scenes are usually set in a church (of Gothic style). Cross is the most frequently used element. Their uniqueness can be clearly seen in the music videos of The Moment of Peace and The Gift (both by Gregorian featuring Sarah Brightman). The two music videos are so simple in plot that we can even regard them as video clips with no plot. Only three kinds of scenes are in the videos: the singers dress in robes and stand on the stairs outside a church, they walk around a pool and sing, and some panoramic descriptions of the church and its surroundings.

Example 5

East Jesus Nowhere

Green Day

Raise your hands now to testify

Your confession will be crucified

You're a sacrificial suicide

Like a dog that's been sodomized

Stand up! - All the white boys

Sit down! - All the black girls

You're the soldiers of the new world

Put your faith in miracle

And it's non-denominational

Join the choir we will be singing

In the church of wishful thinking

A fire burns today

Of blasphemy and genocide

The sirens of decay

Will infiltrate the faith fanatics

Oh bless me lord for I have sinned

It's been a lifetime since I last confessed

I therw my crutches in "The river

Of a shadow of doubt"

And I'll be dressed in my Sunday best

Say a prayer for the family

Drop a coin for humanity

Ain't this uniform so flattering?

I never asked you a god damned thing

A fire burns today

Of blasphemy and genocide

The sirens of decay

Will infiltrate the faith fanatics

Don't test me

Second Guess me

Protest Me

You will disappear

I want to know who's allowed to breed

All the dogs who never learned to read

Missionary politicians

And the cops of a new religion

A fire burns today

Of blasphemy and genocide

The sirens of decay

Will infiltrate the inside

Green Day is an American punk rock band formed in 1987. The song East Jesus Nowhere comes from their album 21st Century Breakdown (2009), of which the theme is anti-war.

Theoretically speaking, the ultimate goal of all religions is to achieve world peace. However, the regional conflicts are more or less aroused by religiously ideological divergences. For instance, the extremists from Middle East plot terrorist attacks in every continent. They are threatening the global security and stability. This may be one of the reasons that Green Day compose the song with religious elements. They borrow the religious concepts to express their anti-war standpoint. The religious elements (Jesus and blasphemy) in East Jesus Nowhere serve the theme of the whole album. The singer expresses his attitude against the war and the corruption of humanity. He also criticizes the dark side of current human society: violence, hypocrisy, corruption and snobbishness.

Example 6

The Mass


semper crescis aut descrescis

vita detestabilis

nunc obdurat et unc curat ludomentis aciem

nunc obdurat et unc curat ludomentis aciem

agestatem potestatem dissolvit ut glaciem

Divano divano re divano resi

Divano resido divano resia

Divano divano re divano resido

Divano resia

Sors salutis et virtutis michi nun contraria

est affectus et defectus semper in angaria

Hoc in hora sinc mora corde pulsum tangite

Divano divano re divano resi

Divano resido divano resia

Divano divano re divano resido

Divano resia resia resia resia resia

Divano divano re divano resido

Divano resia resia resia resia resia


Hoc in hora sinc mora corde pulsum tangite

quod per sortem sternt fortem mecum omnes plangite!!

Era is a band similar to Gregorian in music style. Their representative song, The Mass has always been falsely regarded as the anthem of LSSAH (The Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, Adolf Hitler's personal bodyguard). However, The Mass and LSSAH's song (which is said to be Panzerlied) are not the same song. They are both adapted from Carmina Burana (Latin for "songs from Beuern"). As a result, people confound the two songs with each other.

Carmina Burana is the name given to a manuscript of 254 poems and dramatic texts mostly from the 11th or 12th century, although some are from the 13th century. The pieces are mostly bawdy, irreverent, and satirical; they were written principally in Medieval Latin; a few in Middle High German, and some with traces of Old French or Provençal. Some are macaronic, a mixture of Latin and German or French vernacular. Between 1935 and 1936, German composer Carl Orff composed music, also called Carmina Burana, for 24 of the poems. The single song "O Fortuna" (the Roman goddess of luck and fate), from the movement "Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi", is often played or excerpted in many settings such as films. Orff's composition has been performed by many ensembles.

The Mass is a combination of Carmina Burana and Divano (from the album of Era II), The lyric of The Mass was written in Latin. All sentences are short words. The song has a strong sense of rhythm. The theme of the song is to encourage the people who are facing great difficulties and challenges to be cheerful and optimistic to surmount them. It is an inspirational song which is frequently used by TV programs, films, and ceremonies.

V. Implications of the Religious Elements in Popular Music

Except for the examples analyzed above, many other songs contain religious elements in their lyrics and/ or music videos. The reasons are complex. For example, some pieces of music are purposely composed to satisfy special needs, including funerals of celebrities and memorial ceremonies. These events contain special significances and meanings. But works of this kind is only a small part. In general, the reasons can be sorted into two main kinds:

1. A stable style that the bands or singers insist in their works since their debut album or single;

Religious content will draw attention from critics and add cultural connotation into the music works. The symbolic meaning brought by religious content is also helpful to express the theme. The theme of love is much too frequently seen in pop songs. So religious themes will bring profound connotation. The use of religious content should be very careful. It sets a higher standard for the producers and reflects the

Generally speaking, bands and singers have their own style which is not easily changeable. The coherence and stability of music style is important. Any change in music style may result in loss of fans and decrease in album sales volume. Coldplay is usually sorted into Britpop. Before a lot of electronic elements are applied in their latest album Mylo Xyloto¼Œtheir music is marked by "combination of sadness and passion". As a result of change in style, Mylo Xyloto gets both praise and blame from the critics and the public.

In the subdivisions of music styles, religious elements are quite common. Some styles are only for the minorities, for example, Black Metal, Christian Rock, Death Metal, Goth Metal, Heavy Metal and so on. These styles are usually marked by mystery, religion, rebellion, violence, anti-society, dark, and desperation. They usually advocate a negative mood and refuse to accept the popular values. For instance, anti-religion is a feature of Death Metal, of which the works is always marked by obscurity and description of the dark side of human society. Black Metal also contains pessimism and nihilism. Representative bands include Emperor, Mayhem, and Darkthrone.

2. For the sake of sensationalization;

For the singers or bands who just come into fame, a high exposure rate is badly in need to make the people know about their existence and works. Distinctive make-up and styling and sensitive subjects on religion or other fields in their works will attract public attention and evoke extensive discussion. For example, Lady Gaga's look in her debut album was all the rage soon after the album was released. Her style is quite different from other contemporaneous female singers, and she has been a worldwide idol since then. In her music videos, religious and sensual elements are involved. She changes her dress several times during the every performance, most of which are of advant-garde designs. Besides, as the traditional music industry is declining, it is increasingly difficult for the stars to make money by selling records only. Participating in commercial activities, hosting commercial performance and endorsing products are currently quite common.

Sensationalization cannot be finished merely by the stars. Mass media is also a helper. Tabloids and stars are interdependent. Tabloids are hungry for the gossips of the stars, especially from the big ones. Some famous tabloid press are the Sun, Daily Star in the UK, the National Enquirer in the US and Taiyang, Pingguo in Hongkong. The Sun has the largest circulation in the UK with an average 2.28 million copies every day covering 7 million readers. USA Today is the biggest entertainment press in the US enjoying the second largest circulation with 1.7 million copies every day. With large circulations, the tabloid press can profit a lot from the advertisements. They will generously spend the money on collection of gossips and first-hand news of the stars. It seems like a win-win strategy between the stars and the press.

However, these works often get criticized. Nicki Minaj's performance came under harsh criticism from the Catholic League, which took issue with an extravagant production featuring overt Catholic iconography and a dramatization of an exorcism. Lady Gaga's "controversial" music video Judas was also blasted by the Catholic League.

Nowadays, people are more tolerant to the non-traditional artists. So the strange actions or styling may later be accepted by the public. During the process, the stars have reached a commercial success.


Work Cited

Symbols of Religion and Sexuality on MTV, Carol J. Pardun, Kathy B.McKee.

Music and Religion, Philip Burke, The Musical Times, Vol.86, May 1945.

Sociological Aspects and Ritual Similarities in the Relationship between Pop Music and Religion. Johannes Eurich. International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, Vol.34, June,2003. 57-70

Global Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Christian Population, Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life, December, 2011.

蔡良玉. 西æ-¹éŸ³ä¹æ-‡åŒ-. 1999å¹´12月第1版. åŒ-京: 人民音乐出版社, 1999

ç½-小平. 谈音乐的å®-教价值和艺术价值. 星海音乐学院学报¼Œ1997¼ˆ2¼‰

桑树萍. 浅析哲学与å®-教对音乐发展的影响. 艺术广è’. 2007¼ˆ2¼‰

沈æ-‹, 梁晴, 王丹丹. 西æ-¹éŸ³ä¹å²å¯¼å­¦. 2006å¹´8月第1版. 上海: 上海音乐学院出版社, 2006

田青. 佛教、基督å®-教、少数民æ-å®-教音乐. 2005å¹´9月第1版. åŒ-京: 人民音乐出版社, 2005

王思琦. "流行音乐"的概念及其æ-‡åŒ-特征. 音乐艺术. 2003¼ˆ3¼‰

徐元勇. 中å¤-流行音乐基础知识. 2011å¹´7月第1版. å-京¼šä¸œå-å¤å­¦å‡ºç‰ˆç¤¾, 2011

杨华. 二十ä¸-纪西æ-¹æ-°éŸ³ä¹ä¸­çš„å®-教情结. å-å¼€å¤å­¦. 硕士. 2007

杨华. 20ä¸-纪西æ-¹æµè¡ŒéŸ³ä¹ä¸­çš„å®-教元素探析. 贵州å¤å­¦å­¦æŠ¥â€¢è‰ºæœ¯ç‰ˆ. 2009¼ˆ4¼‰

尤静波. 西æ-¹æµè¡ŒéŸ³ä¹ç®€å²--21ä¸-纪音乐人手册. 2002å¹´9月第1版. åŒ-京¼šä¸­å›½æ-‡è”出版社, 2002