POD’s appropriate use of profanity

POD recently dropped a bomb on the rock world in the form of Murdered Love, their eighth studio album and first in four years.

This Howard Benson-produced project features the massive melodies, reggae-inspired rhythms, churning metal guitars and hardcore rap cadences that propelled this San Diego band from the Christian underground to the top of the mainstream rock charts over a decade ago. It also features some of the band’s most spiritually provocative lyrics yet. Sounding like an even more brutal and catchy version of their Fundamental Elements of Southtown and Satellite selves, POD has produced an album that is inspirational, apocalyptic, evangelistic, profound and - to some people’s ears - profane.

Yes, profane. The album’s closing track, “I Am,” portrays the desperate inner turmoil of a soul trapped in pain, sin and confusion who is experiencing the dawning of the light of salvation and wondering if they are worth the effort. This pilgrim’s flesh recoils from the holiness of God. Lead vocalist Sonny Sandoval artfully captures the internal tension of spiritual rebirth in a way that is street-smart, culturally relevant and shocking. The lyric drops the F-bomb into the question, “Who are you?” (The word itself is conspicuously edited by a turntable scratch.) The choice makes perfect sense in this context and will likely turn the head of many of POD’s non-Christian fans as the band takes their proverbial gloves off in order to truthfully portray this dramatic moment. The song ends as the rhythmic churn slows, the defiance changes and the lyric quotes Revelation 21:5: “Behold I make all things new.” The tension resolves as the character surrenders and seemingly accepts the divine love on offer.

It’s an incredible rock-and-roll moment and a shining example of POD’s lingering power to speak truth to the often-nihilistic modern metal world. Still, many Christians won’t be able to get past the implied use of “profanity” and will miss everything this song has to offer. Case in point: copies sold in Christian bookstores omit this closing track entirely.

The whole of Murdered Love is not this intense. The band makes time for many different purposes under heaven. They get more melodic than ever on “Higher” and “Lost in Forever.” They get all silly with local pride on the funky “West Coast Rock Steady.” They do the atmospheric ballad thing perfectly on “Beautiful” and let their reggae-rap freak flags fly on “Babylon the Murderer” and “Panic and Run.” They even get romantic in an oddly self-deprecating way on “Bad Boy” and downright creepy on the title track. Everything that any fan ever loved about POD can be found here in fine form. All told Murdered Love is the most balanced and consistently excellent project by POD yet, and that’s saying something.

In Ecclesiastes, God tells us that there is a time and a place for every purpose under heaven. In Philippians 3:8, Paul refers to everything in his life as “skubalon” compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ. Polite Bible translators may have chosen manners over accuracy when they used the word “rubbish” instead of the slang term for human excrement that Paul seems to have intended. On Murdered Love, POD joins a long list of important Christian artists (Bono, Bruce Cockburn, Michael Been) who have not been afraid to use strong language when it is called for. Fortunately their status as a mainstream rock act means they can at least call it like they see it. Murdered Love may not be “safe for the whole family,” as some define safety, but it is good and true.

What Do You Think?

  • Have you heard Murdered Love? How does it compare to POD's other albums?
  • Do you find the lyrics in "I Am" offensive or instructive?
  • When should Christian artists be able to use profanity as a tool?

 

Comments (13)

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Let's not forget the 77s ~ a band that used "appropriate" profanity years ago and were censored repeatedly by the CCM gatekeepers.
Why not show some love and review some of their recent releases? I'm counting something like 5 in the past 5 months. Some are re-releases, but totally expanded, and some are live from all the years they played Cornerstone. Show some support!
I knew you'd cover this and as always, I agree with your take. Anyone who is agonizing and withdrawing support from P.O.D. over this should spend a week on the road with the band and witness who they're speaking to. I hung out with them after a bar show in May, and fans did not censor themselves when conveying how much P.O.D.'s music brought them closer to an understanding of God - "you guys are F-in awesome! Your F-in music makes me cry. I F-in love you guys." Stoners, alcoholics and hardcore metal-heads. Breathe deep, indeed.

Even if it wasn't intentional, I see "I Am" as a calling out of believers to respond. People are crying out "I Am" each one of the things listed and we (myself included) often can't get past their language or their smell to find the image of Jesus in them and love them anyway. Keep writing, JJT.
In fact, outside of a Lust Control, Derek Webb, MATW or Tonio K. recording, I counted at least 10 words in "I Am" that you'll never see on a CCM record.

Of course, that's because "Murdered Love" is not a CCM record.
Rocket failure: FYI, JJT is most likely the biggest 77s fan outside of their moms. ;) So it would be up to thinkchristian.net to review or not review their recent releases.
To be sure, I don't believe that this is music that is appropriate for my 8 year old son - and I'd be annoyed if they were playing in in Kid's Church this Sunday. But that doesn't mean that there is never a time to get intense. I also think it's fine for the label to put a version sans "I Am" at Christian retail so as to avoid further controversy - but I think that fans that buy it there will be irritated to find out they didn't get the whole album. I just don't understand why Christian Bookstores can't offer products with "mature" subject matter that is consistent with a Biblical worldview... Oh wait, they do sell Bibles still - so we have that going for us.
JJT the "biggest 77s fan outside of their moms" ~ that made me chuckle. Anyway, if it truly is up to "thinkchristian.net" I doubt 77s reviews will happen. CCM still equals safe.
Hi rocketfailure,

Just trying to interpret your comments here. Do you mean you're doubtful we'd review the 77s at Think Christian because they're not CCM enough, or because they're too CCM?

Josh Larsen, TC editor
Not CCM enough. And before you respond, you gotta understand something ~ as a longtime fan of the 77s and Michael Roe, The Choir, DA, The Lost Dogs, etc, you basically get used to the fact that no matter how good the music is, because it's not being hyped at a youth group, played on CCM radio, or part of the whole "praise and worship" thing, it's just not going to get reviewed or promoted unless it's done by the fans. In the end it's disheartening as a fan, and you just wish for more.
Ah, I see. Well, we actually hardly ever review CCM music (as you'll see from our Music landing page - http://thinkchristian.net/category/music - our last couple of reviews have included The Beach Boys, Cold Specks, Amadou & Mariam and Jack White). We tend to lend theological reflection to mainstream music more than anything else.

As for the 77s, they're almost too Christian for TC for lack of a better phrase, but that doesn't mean we won't get to them some time down the road. Next up for JJT, though, is the Zac Brown Band. (See, we like to mix it up.)

Thanks for reading and commenting,
Josh
Wow ~ the 77s "almost too Christian" ~ that needs to be a t-shirt or something. Anyway, thanks for responding, and for the laugh, intended or not.

 

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