For those of you who celebrate, Happy Easter and Happy Jasper Jams Sunday! For those of you who don’t celebrate Easter, Happy Jasper Jams Sunday!
If you’ve never read the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, the most important thing to know about it in relation to this column is that the series, although an incredible work of fiction and imagination, can also be interpreted as a Christian allegory.
C.S. Lewis was an openly religious man who wrote works influenced by his religion; while Lewis claims he did not write the series as an allegory, it is undeniable, to himself and to the reader, that his work can be understood to contain significant amounts of Christian subtext and imagery. For our sake, Aslan is Jesus, the end of the series revealed the second coming of Christ, the list goes on.
Many people who have enjoyed the Chronicles of Narnia may not have picked up on the subtext, but many others have. This begs the question, what other works commonly loved or appreciated by mainstream culture have some type of religious subtext?
Christian music is a decently popular and large genre; there’s a growing body of music for those Christians who want to listen to music about God but these songs hardly ever crossover into mainstream music.
However, there are some songs in mainstream music that people listen to and like but are religious in some way. Some songs can be interpreted as religious, other songs openly delve into themes of religion and yet other songs just utilize religious imagery.
As an avid music listener, I spend a lot of time on genius.com reading songwriters’ annotations, watching the artist videos and even reading the passionately, intricately formulated additions of fans. This gives me greater insight into every interpretation of a song and the different meaning of imagery found in lyrics I sing often.
I personally feel any religious interpretations or aspects of songs do not take away from songs but rather enhance the understanding of what was already there.
Some of the songs on today’s playlists are by artists who have discussed religion publicly and other songs come from artists who haven’t said anything about religion. Some of these songs openly reference religion or faith and others are songs that just sound like they could be about faith.
Regardless of what the backgrounds of these songs are, what matters is what you, the listener, takes out of it; I’m just here to select the playlist.
Searchlight – Phillip Phillips
American Idol winner Phillip Phillips released an album, “Behind The Light” in 2014, and actually a few songs from the work can be listened to with a religious understanding. This song, in particular, can be interpreted as someone lost in the dark of life, searching for God and wanting God back in their life. The songs lyrics include “You cure my disease/ Like a remedy,” “Can you bring me back to life?” and “I wanna feel what it’s like/To be surrounded by you.”
Jesus Walks – Kanye West
This song is about the state of pop culture, American society and how religion plays into all of it. This video for the song is particularly interesting because it includes images of police violence/mistreatment of people of color and includes images of the KKK burning crosses. The interesting thing about this song is that though religious, it made its way into the mainstream at the time if its release but is now far from people’s minds when they think Kanye West.
Muhammad Walks – Lupe Fiasco (not on Spotify)
Like the song above, this song is ladened with social commentary and religion. It comments on radical Islamic leaders (“Don’t think Osama and Saddam our leaders”), compares Islam to other religions (“We all tryin’ to get to where the sufferin’ ends) and sheds light to the truth of Islam (During Hajj, we walk, through Ramadaan, we starve/ Though you not eatin’, there’s a feedin’ of the mind/A defeatin’ of the demons, a seein’ of the signs). It was also recorded over the same beat as Jesus Walks which gives the two songs an interesting relationship.
Use Somebody – Kings of Leon
Listening, closely, to the lyrics, you might disagree with me, but on this one, it’s mostly the chorus and the sound of the song that gives it a religious connotation. The singer sounds desperate for somebody to help him; the desperation combined with the isolation that the lyrics in the verses hint at, allow for the song to be interpreted in many ways, which includes the interpretation of “somebody like you” to mean God.
Something In The Water – Carrie Underwood
Country music is full of Christian references and Underwood’s music is no exception. Many of her songs reference God in some capacity and she has sung and recorded different Christmas and Christian songs. This song specifically is about the sacrament of baptism and the changes that occur in someone’s life after baptism.
Hanging By A Moment – Lifehouse
Lifehouse has actually publicly denied that the band is a Christian band but acknowledges the spiritual influence in their lyrics and says that listeners are allowed to interpret as they wish, so many often interpret their songs as religious. This song is about the singer lacking previous roots so instead the singer is appreciating the moment and creating roots in it; if you think about it, that sounds like it could be religious.
I Will Wait – Mumford and Sons
Picking out one Mumford and Sons song was actually hard. Frontman and songwriter Marcus Mumford, is the son of two leaders of the Vineyard Church; his religious background shows heavily in his songwriting, with constant religious imagery and references (a song titled “Babel” after a bible story, references of the Lord, etc). Mumford has not disclosed or confirmed anything about his personal experience with religion, but has talked about faith as a universal thing and it shows in his music.
Viva La Vida – Coldplay
I have to admit some bias here since I absolutely adore this song, however, this song is in fact filled with religious imagery. Most of the bands other songs aren’t brimming with religious references or could be interpreted as religious but this one speaks for itself.
Seven Devils – Florence + The Machine
A lot of Florence + The Machine songs feature religious imagery, language and themes that it was hard to pick just one song. Most of the songs that feature such are about coming to terms with one’s faults and about overcoming sins and hardships. Florence Welch never ceases to amaze with her songwriting and everything about her music feels like it could be a spiritual experience, regardless of what you believe in.
You Found Me – The Fray
Let’s be real, we all had those The Fray songs we listened to in middle school while looking out the window as the rain fell that made us feel so deep and emotional and this song is one of those. This song starts out with the singer meeting God on the corner and questioning God for His abandonment and spirals into a song about loneliness and losing faith.
The Call – Regina Spektor
Like Viva La Vida, I have some personal bias because I do, in fact, love this song; also, this song is actually from the Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian movie soundtrack. Though this song was written for the soundtrack, to me it sounds like it could be a song about developing faith, then losing it, and rebuilding but always being welcomed and called back home to that faith, which considering the religious subtext of the series, makes some sense.