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Timothy Epp

Abstract

Much of the literature on popular culture and spirituality continues to rely on a categorical distinction between the sacred and the secular. Studies which challenge this well-worn dichotomy tend to be artist- or genre-specific, or without a robust sample, leaving the prevalence of spirituality within popular music a question to be researched further. This article draws on the writing of philosopher Charles Taylor (2007), Cultural Studies scholar Emily McAvan (2012), and sociologist Reginald Bibby to explore themes of spirituality as they are woven throughout the music of the past decade (2011-2020). It is argued that much of what has been categorized and dismissed as ‘secular music’ expresses attention to spirituality in myriad ways, including songs which critique and challenge spirituality, those which express a sense of spiritual searching, and those which acknowledge and affirm spirituality, even in terms of prayers and blessings. Quantitative and qualitative analysis reveals that spirituality is a recurrent theme across popular music genres and throughout the past decade. A careful reexamination of lyrics can lead us away from skepticism toward the expression of spirituality in popular music, and toward anticipation of spiritual encounters in the lyrics of popular musicians.

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Keywords

popular music, sacred, secular, spirituality

Section
Articles