Repository logo

A Seventh-day Adventist perspective on secular pop music: an exploratory study of engagement and compatibility.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



It is a common practice for people to have pop music playing in the background while they go about daily living. Many Seventh-day Adventists seem to engage with pop music in this manner. The aim of this study was to understand the type of principles, attitudes and behaviours that were being promoted by commonly heard pop songs, and how these fare against the Seventh-day Adventist belief system. A further aim was to understand how Seventh-day Adventists listen to pop music, and why they appear to embrace songs that promote behaviours and attitudes that run contrary to their beliefs. This is a mixed methods study. It entailed perusing the lyrics of pop songs in two ways. Firstly, 24 songs were selected that were addressed in 6 themes (4 songs per theme), the themes that have a bearing on some important aspects of the Seventh-day Adventist philosophy and lifestyle (Concept of Self; Hope; the State of the Dead; Time; Substance Use; and Love, Relationships and Sexuality). Twelve Seventh-day Adventist interviewees who serve as leaders in their local congregations, and representing various groups (i.e., unmarried youth, married young people, parents, seniors, people who listen to pop music on the radio, and those who are music leaders in their churches), stated how they engaged with pop music in general, and offered their perspectives on the 24 songs. Further, 4 pastors provided comments, in their official capacity, on the compatibility of these songs with Seventh-day Adventism. Secondly, 160 pop songs (i.e., the top 40 songs from the Billboard decade-end Hot 100 song charts, from decades 1980, 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s) were reviewed to gather a general sense of the types of content, themes and extent to which messages were being promoted. It was found that a large percentage of pop songs’ messages run contrary to the Seventh-day Adventist philosophy and approach to life, and that lyrics are becoming more explicit with each succeeding decade, in terms of behaviours and practices that are rejected by the Church. It was also found that many Seventh-day Adventists may be engaging with such music because they are attracted by the music and do not pay attention to the lyrics. Furthermore, it was ascertained that music can influence a change in beliefs and behaviours and that if Seventh-day Adventists want to practice their faith seriously, they need to pay attention to the type of music they listen to, especially the lyrics.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.