Young People Ask . . .
Is Love as It Is in Love Songs?
LOVE songs—songs that extol true love, songs that lament love lost—are the staple of the radio airwaves. And whatever their guise, be it rhythm and blues, soul, pop, or rock, they are enormously popular among teenagers. What accounts for this?
Many of the songs simply have strong musical appeal—tuneful melodies, heartrending lyrics, danceable rhythms. They touch emotions and can create an almost hypnotic romantic mood. “If I’m talking on the phone with my girl about some difficult situation and the words just don’t flow,” says a youth named Rusty, “a nice love song heard in the background puts me in a mellow mood, and the words come easier.”
However, the popularity of love songs is not solely due to any musical merit the tunes may have. When you are a teenager, you are learning how to deal with your sexual feelings. Curious about the mysteries of love and romance, you may easily identify with songs that tell of the pleasures and pains of dating and breaking up. As one writer puts it, through love songs, teens “can taste a little of what it feels like to be in love, and so experience certain of love’s pleasures and disappointments.”
Inexperienced in the ways of romance and perhaps unsure of their ability to express their feelings, some even look to love songs to find the right words to say to that special someone. Some youths admit to trying to charm members of the opposite sex with phrases lifted right out of popular songs. But to what extent do love songs really teach youths about love?
The Lessons in Love Songs
Consider, first, one of the most beautiful love songs ever written. Called The Song of Solomon, it is the Bible’s account of a beautiful Shulammite girl and her love for a shepherd boy. Their love is threatened by King Solomon, who, with his dazzling glory, wisdom, and wealth, tries to steal the young woman’s heart—but to no avail. Her love proved to be not the fickle sort. Declared the young girl: “Insistence on exclusive devotion is as unyielding as Sheol is. Its blazings are the blazings of a fire, the flame of Jah.”—Song of Solomon 8:6.
Do today’s love songs similarly promote a lofty, yet realistic, view of romantic love? Quite the contrary. Writer Sally Helgesen observes that love songs “celebrate a world of melodrama and tortured passion, in which love” often finds the “perfect resolution.” Unfortunately, ‘perfect resolutions’ are few and far between in real life, and one who seeks them invites frustration. Why, even King Solomon’s sublimely poetic expressions failed to win him the love of the Shulammite girl! Adds Helgesen: “The songs evoke an amorphous [shapeless] dream of adult life in which romantic passion consumes every other emotion and responsibility does not weigh anyone down.” Again, a far cry from real life.
Sheila Davis, a professor of lyric writing at New York University, says that love songs further foist on people the idea that commitment is “out of style.” Yet another popular motif in love songs is that love is instantaneous. One popular song declared that love came “suddenly” after “the first hello” and “the first smile.” Love songs thus teach that love is blind, recognizing strengths but refusing to see even glaring weaknesses.
How valid are such lessons? Well, consider: Can a first impression really be the basis for a lasting relationship? Hardly. Notice how the Bible describes true love: “Love is patient and kind . . . Love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable . . . Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail. Love is eternal.”—1 Corinthians 13:4-8, Today’s English Version.
Real love is thus not an instantaneous occurrence, nor does it simply involve feelings and passions. Mature love has eyes; it sees strengths but does not ignore weaknesses. Real love is developed over a period of time as knowledge is acquired of another’s personality and qualities—“the secret person of the heart.” (1 Peter 3:4) True love does not recoil at commitment; it stays with a relationship and works to improve it even when things are not rosy. How different is real love from the love often described in songs!
Love songs also tend to equate love with sex—a lesson being taught nowadays with shocking brazenness. True, the love songs your parents or even grandparents once danced to may occasionally have had a subtly suggestive line or two. But many of today’s songs are far from subtle. Sheila Davis, quoted earlier, says: “Not only has explicitness displaced subtlety, and the erotic territory expanded to include masturbation and [perverted] sex, but lyrics have even invaded the once taboo terrain of incest.” A number of U.S. record companies have now agreed to put warning labels on records containing explicit lyrics dealing with sex or violence.
Sixteen-year-old Leslie argues: “Lyrics aren’t all that important if you can dance to it. I don’t think it’s going to corrupt anybody. It’s just music.” Experts disagree. “To have the same popular music repeated many times daily enables easy memorization of sexual messages,” observes one researcher. Have you, as some have, found yourself mouthing offensive or immoral lyrics simply by virtue of having heard them over and over again? (Ephesians 4:29) Dr. Joseph Stuessy, a professor of music at the University of Texas at San Antonio, warns: “Any kind of music affects our mood, emotions, attitudes and our resultant behavior.”—Italics ours.
Could it possibly be healthy to listen to or sing words that graphically describe or promote sexual immorality? Might not doing so corrupt your view of the proper role of sex in marriage?—1 Corinthians 7:3-5.
“A Time to Love”
Another dangerous misconception taught in popular music is that teenagers are ready for intimacy with the opposite sex. True, there is “a time to love”—but the Bible is not referring here to erotic love. As for marital love, is that time for you really now? Is it not more likely several years from now, when you will be old enough? (Ecclesiastes 3:8) If the latter is true, does it make sense to arouse strong desires for something you cannot yet have?
Having no outlet for their turned-on romantic feelings, some youths become caught up in a romantic dreamworld. Some fall “in love” with their favorite singers, fantasizing that every tender word sung is being whispered into their own ears. They collect every album, photo, and poster of the artist they can get their hands on and dream about marrying that one. But the only outcome likely for such a fantasy relationship is disappointment and pain.
The Song of Solomon thus teaches yet another important lesson. Desirous of staying loyal to her shepherd boy, the Shulammite girl urged her girl companions ‘not to awaken or arouse love in her’ for King Solomon, who sought her affections. (Song of Solomon 2:7) Knowing its potential power, she simply refused to listen to talk that might adversely affect her emotions. A similar course would prove wise for you in your choice of music. Why not simply avoid music that arouses strong romantic feelings in you or that makes you feel sad and lonely?
Remember: Music is a gift from God. And you can be sure that he is not pleased by music that degrades and demoralizes, that distorts Christian values or encourages loose morals. Christian youths must therefore be selective in their choice of music. Nineteen-year-old Scott says: “Before I buy a record or cassette, I examine the cover and get an idea of the lyrics. If they are suggestive, I don’t buy it.”
Love just isn’t as it is in love songs. You will learn this fact through the sometimes painful experiences of life. Remember, too, that beautiful songs are not a substitute for real friends. Instead of isolating yourself in a musical dream world, spend time with people—your parents, God-fearing youths, and mature Christians. (Proverbs 18:1) Such association will result in your feeling loved in a godly way—a feeling that far surpasses the fantasies of love songs.
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“Any kind of music affects our mood, emotions, attitudes and our resultant behavior”
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Do all love songs portray real life?
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Be selective about what you listen to!