Monday, December 30, 2013

Musically Oblivious

So the first time I realized I was musically oblivious was back in elementary school, when a classmate was doing a survey. She asks me, "What is your favorite kind of music? Rock, jazz, pop, hip hop, R&B..." and wow I had never even heard of some of those!

So I just picked one that sounded like it might be fast, exciting music, and she moved on to ask the next person.

Image source.

There are 3 reasons for my complete lack of knowledge about music genres. You can leave a comment and debate which is the most important, if you want:
  1. I have Asperger's so it turns out I'm oblivious to a lot of things that everyone else considers common sense.
  2. My family didn't listen to music much when I was little. No reason why, we just weren't in the habit of doing it. You know, back before ipods were invented.
  3. Christian culture and contemporary Christian music (CCM).
And here's a fun story: So, back in middle school, I used to go see a counselor every couple weeks, and one time she was talking to me about how I need to talk to people and make friends.

She made me role play a scenario in which I made small talk with a classmate by asking what her favorite radio station was. So, you know, I asked "what's your favorite radio station?" all stiff and hesitant, and when the counselor wanted me to ask some follow-up open-ended questions, I couldn't/wouldn't do it.

Because geez, what an awkward topic to talk about! I would hate it so much if someone asked me what my favorite radio station was. I didn't know any radio stations, besides the news station my parents listened to. If someone asked me- oh goodness, how embarrassing!

It didn't feel like a conversation, but an investigation into whether or not I was hopelessly awkward. If that's what's required in order to have friends, I'll pass.

(Later I found out small talk could be about topics that I actually enjoy talking about. How about that.)

Image source.

Anyway. Like I said, we can debate which of those 3 reasons played the largest part in my musical cluelessness. But since this post is for the #PlanetCCM synchroblog, let's talk about the CCM part.

Christian culture loves to warn people about the evils of "secular music." I heard tons of such warnings, and read disapproving reviews of bands and albums. Christian culture had so many bad things to say that I literally thought that every single "secular" song was about incredibly dirty and evil sex.

So "Christian" music was good, and "secular" music was bad. So I only bought CDs by "Christian" singers/bands- it never even occurred to me to pursue any other music. And that's why I didn't know anything about any genres- the genre for "Christian music" is "Christian music," apparently. That's all I got, and I was quite embarrassed to say so if anyone ever asked what kind of music I liked. Instead I gave evasive answers.

But you know, I always hated how there was so much "secular" music that sounded really cool, and most of the mainstream CCM sounds kinda... boring. And Christian culture knew it! I remember reading the music reviews in Christian magazines that recommended Christian alternatives to popular bands- you know, the music sounded similar but the lyrics were good rather than evil. Because "Christian" is good and "secular" is evil.

I wished I could listen to the "secular" stuff. The next best thing was to judge it- that was all I was allowed to do, according to CCM culture.

Image source.

So I guess stuff changed in college, when I was exposed to more music and could listen to whatever I wanted without anyone judging me. Also I would like to thank DDR and Rock Band- oh man, memories of when we all broke into the chorus of "Livin' On A Prayer" ...

Eventually I learned that it's not true that "Christian" music is all automatically good and "secular" music is all automatically bad. Turns out we can just listen to everything and enjoy it and be critical of the stuff with harmful messages. I don't have to be afraid anymore.

With that said, now I like Beyonce and Rihanna (and Jay Chou if we're talking about Chinese music!), and I'm still a little unclear about what genre is what. Anyway, that's all, please enjoy this song now:


This post is part of the #PlanetCCM synchroblog, about how contemporary Christian music affected our lives.


  1. oh wow, this is so interesting!

    I know nothing about Aspergers so I can't comment on how it might have affected your lack of musical knowhow but I was clueless about music as a child for a very long time because of #2 and then when I was a teenager a little bit because of #3 but not as much as anyone living in the US because French Christians weren't 'quite' as intense about it. I did throw my Sting cd away in a holy clear-out once though.

    Another reason why I was musically oblivious: Being French. Honestly, the French are so not naturally musical, it's either all about the lyrics and the music is awful or it's just all round awful. I listened to so. much.crap. growing up. then I moved to the UK.

    I am musical and I sing and play instruments though so eventually I caught up with musical genres. Beyonce and Rihanna are supposed to be R&B although I think they could be said to be pop

  2. This is interesting, how lack of exposure to secular music affected your cultural understanding. I grew up in the church listening to a lot of Point of Grace and had little awareness of the music to which my peers listened.

    Carole King (and her fellow singer-songwriters - maybe Ginny Owens before that - who's sort of halfway between the CCM and secular music scene) was my gateway to music outside of CCM.