Don't get me wrong, I love good ol' fashioned rock music. And for the most part I tend to let it just "be"; it cycles through fads, singers and groups come and go. Sometimes songs suck, and other times they freakin' rock. And now in my 40s, we can look back at different decades and bestow appreciation or condemnation as we see fit now--or as we saw fit then.
After all, think of how we regard Rupert Holmes' "Escape" (better known as "The Pina Colada Song")???
All of this to say I basically ignore most "rock criticism." However, there are some sources that have unearthed pure gold. E. g., Perry Pettrich SJ's column on Taylor Swift's "Never Ever Getting Back Together." The Jesuit Post is a great blog on so many levels; young Jesuits, thoughtful & reflective writing, theologically well-grounded, etc. Pettrich's column, though, reminded me of my own time within Jesuit education and thus my admiration for the order's intellectual sophistication. This is part of the new Catholic Intellectual Tradition. Pettrich dissects Swift's song ably with ample cultural and musical references. If a young Jesuit can't or shouldn't write about contemporary pop music, then are we wasting our breath with this "New Evangelization" stuff?
Well, obviously they can and, no, we aren't wasting our time and breath. In fact, this sort of writing--while perhaps not as "weighty" as Trinitarian reflection or ethical formulation--points towards a refreshing view of spiritual discernment. Ig
Another group I discovered through, of all places, First Things is the Alabama Shakes. By now they've of course become well-known. Mentioning the power of "Hold On" thus takes on another age-worn trope of rock music: "They were really good before they became popular...." Quite frankly THAT is actually a form of spiritual diabetes--thinking that you're "better" because you "got into" something--music, movie, theater, art, political career--at the ground level and thus can claim 'experience' when your chosen thing becomes more popularly known.
Just listen to "Hold On" a few times -- and you'll appreciate a great rock sound.
Two sources for these musings: 1) Critics just LOVE to go on about Bruce Springsteen's Catholicism -- and some do a great job-- but Jim Fisher made the point over 25 years ago. 2) In 2006 National Review released a list of great conservative rock songs. Besides introducing new or overlooked songs (e.g., The Rainmakers' "Government Cheese"), the article illuminates anew familiar songs like the #1 conservative song The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again." Somewhere there's critic thinking "yeah, but that's not what Pete Townsend meant when he wrote...." So what? the song wonderfully illustrates (meet the new boss, same as the old boss) the sobering realization that youthful rebellion often changes little, if anything.