A couple of years ago, an Irish singer-songwriter who calls himself Hozier released a song called “Take Me to Church.” The tune had a musical hook that was difficult to resist, and it made it’s way to #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 charts. There was one glaring problem with the song: its lyrics used the act of worship as a metaphor for (gay) sex.
We may think we’ve reached a point in our culture where we can expect outright sacrilege like this in pop and rock music, but the use of religious imagery to describe the things of this world has begun to creep into country music. That’s right — the last bastion of safe music for Christians outside of actual Christian music is embracing sacrilege.
Two of the biggest country hits of the summer rely on religious images and phrases. In one of them, newcomer Maren Morris sings about how country music is “My Church.” Here’s a taste of the lyrics:
I’ve fallen down from grace
A few too many times
But I find holy redemption
When I put this car in drive
Roll the windows down and turn up the dial
Can I get a “hallelujah”?
Can I get an “amen”?
Feels like the Holy Ghost running through ya
When I play The Highway FM
I find my soul revival
Singing every single verse
Yeah I guess that’s my church
Morris refers to Hank Williams as a preacher and Johnny Cash as a choir leader (yeah, I’m not sure how the true believer Cash would feel about these lyrics, either). The video begins with Morris putting out a cigarette on the steps of a church as church bells ring and a choir “claps” the programmed beat behind her.
It’s just too bad that a genuine redemption didn’t inspire Morris to write a song. Instead, she chose to use religion as a metaphor for the cathartic nature of old-school country music. In a way, the analogy works, but at the same time, it comes across as disrespectful.
But wait — there’s more.
Next page: Find out what Florida-Georgia Line is adding to the mix.
The reigning kings of douchebag country, Florida-Georgia Line, have dominated the charts this summer with their current hit, “H.O.L.Y.” I’ve written about these guys’ lack of talent and inability to pen a decent song before, but this one takes the cake.
For the record, “H.O.L.Y.” has nothing to do with righteousness — it stands for “High On Loving You.” And as lame as that phrase is, the rest of the lyrics are even worse:
You made the brightest days from the darkest nights
You’re the river bank where I was baptized
Cleansed from the demons
That were killing my freedom
Let me lay you down, give me to ya
Get you singing babe, “hallelujah”
We’ll be touching
We’ll be touching heaven
You’re an angel, tell me you’re never leaving
Cause you’re the first thing I know I can believe in
You’re holy, holy, holy, holy
I’m high on loving you, high on loving you
You read that right: baptism, faith, and even exorcism are just meant to represent love and lust. Oh, and in one of the last lines, lead singer — and I use that word loosely — Tyler Hubbard refers to his girl as “my kind of church” (sense a theme here?).
Listen to the song, if you dare, but be warned: it’s three minute and 49 seconds of your life you’ll never get back.
It used to be that we could count on country music to hold up the value of religion. Even among the cheatin’ and the drinkin’ and the laments of the poor and working class, fans of country music knew that there was an undercurrent of hope and faith.
I could say that this year’s crop of hits is just a blip on the radar screen, but I have a feeling that artists like Maren Morris and Florida-Georgia Line — and others to follow — may continue to assault one of the bedrocks of country lyrics in a way that’s almost as bad as their assault on the music itself.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com / s_bukley