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Billboard Hot 666: Satan and the evil in popular music

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He may be a troll, but a Twitter account attributed to a man named “Gregory McDowell” has recently targeted Blink-182 concertgoers for their unholy ways. “You need Jesus in your life,” he wrote on Sept. 11. “Blink 182 is a satanic band and you should rejoice and join the side of Jesus.”

It is likely just a joke, but this Twitter account did reinvigorate an interesting question for me: How is it that Satan has become so intrinsically tied to popular music? Why is the Dark Lord blamed for nearly all forms of music that certain people find objectionable? And why are non-Satanic bands seemingly targeted more frequently than bands that actually espouse their love for Lucifer?

Consider the website “jesus-is-savior.com,” which features a subpage entitled “Satan’s Music.” The page features two Bible quotes. The first and largest is from Psalms 50:22: “Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.”

The second is from Ecclesiastes 7:5: “It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.”

On the page is information linking nearly every popular singer under the sun to Satan or devil worship. The list includes straightforward choices, like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and Ozzy Osbourne, while less obvious stars also turn up, such as Taylor Swift, Michael Jackson and Bono.

The site proclaims that “rock music desensitizes people toward sin” and claims that “if every demon were to be cast out of rock n’ roll singers, the industry would fall apart overnight.” It could be easy to dismiss these writings as the ravings of someone severely out of touch, but while popular music has undergone a dramatic shift in the past 60 years, there are still a significant number of people who believe it to be the tool of the devil.

The fears about popular music extend back about as far as the medium has been around, but the most prominent example in recent memory is likely around the birth of rock n’ roll. The genre, which was significantly more tame during its formative years than most understand it today, introduced fears of delinquency and deviancy amongst youth.

It did not long for people to attribute the supposedly dangerous tones and modalities of rock to the devil. Over time, it would seem that any singer who sings of values found objectionable to evangelical sects has been accused by someone of being in cahoots with Satan. Taylor Swift has sung about premarital relations. She’s down with Satan. Aerosmith made ‘Dude Looks Like A Lady.’ They are “sickos” promoting the homosexual agenda on behalf of Beelzebub. According to “jesus-is-savior.com,” even the Jonas Brothers were not free of the hellish reins because, as the site claims, if you play ‘Kids Of The Future’ backwards, certain lyrics resemble, “I speak for Satan.”

It does beg the question why, no where on this site condemning Satan’s presence in music, why is there no reference to black metal groups or any of the other endless stream of bands that fully embraced Satan and the concept of evil? AC/DC and Ozzy Osbourne are close, but they never quite took it so far.

Take Mayhem, for instance. This Norwegian group were infamous for popularizing corpse paint (black-and-white face paint), named their most famous album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (About The Mystery of the Lord Satan in Latin) and wrote songs about violence, suicide, hopelessness and, yes, Satan. The band was even closely involved with a circle of people who burned down numerous historic churches and committed murders throughout Norway in the early 1990s.

Yet, you’d be hard pressed to find someone accusing Mayhem or any other act of a similar stripe of being in league with the devil. Maybe it is just so obvious, but is the Jonas Brothers’ backward vocal so much more egregious?

The haphazard attachment of Satan to musical groups has even been appropriated as a joke. Swedish metal group Ghost has made their entire career off of dressing up in corpse paint and having their lead singer portray a Satanic Pope as they host a Black Mass live in concert. It is a hilarious concept. However, even they have been targeted as they grow more popular. When Ghost recorded their second album, Infestissumam, in Nashville, Tenn., in 2012, they struggled to find a choir willing to sing their lyrics due to Satanic inclinations.

The person portraying this “Gregory McDowell” fellow on Twitter may be an outright troll, but that would not make him much different from any of the people who genuinely attempt to link their religious beliefs to popular music. If this weren’t true, why is someone relatively innocuous like Taylor Swift being targeted over Mayhem, Dark Funeral or any other band that genuinely espouses messages of Satanic belief or anti-Christianity?

Regardless of the answer, one thing does seem clear: Satan has pretty damn good taste in music.

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