Generally, I’m fairly easy-going with regards to davening. I’ve been to quite a few different types of services (Reform, Reconstructionist, Orthodox, traditional egalitarian, Conservative) and enjoyed them to varying degrees and in different ways, and nothing, nothing, bugs me more than setting a prayer to the tune of a pop song. It takes me right out of the experience and makes me irrationally pissed off. Part of this is due to a certain ritual conservativeness that I’ve come to ascribe to: it’s distracting to me when I associate a certain tune not with Shabbat or prayer but with light rock radio and cheesy movie soundtracks. Another part of it is the fact that the chosen melody really doesn’t go well with the text: the scansion is all off, and that’s distracting, too.
The minyan I daven most frequently with on Friday nights usually has kabbalat shabbat led by a woman, and ma’ariv led by a man. (This kind of bugs me, too, but that’s rational, and the subject of another post.) A friend of mine, who is studying for smicha (and an amazing singer and all-around awesome person) is a frequent leader of kabbalat shabbat, as she knows the liturgy well and has a strong voice. Unfortunately, she often sets L’cha Dodi to the tune of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. This is a great song (everyone and their mother and their second cousin’s dog loves it), but it doesn’t work for me on any level as part of the service. When I’m singing L’cha Dodi, I want to be singing L’cha Dodi, not feeling like I’m singing “she broke your throat and she cut your hair…”
The short version of all of this? It bugs me. Irrationally. In fact, one of the main reasons I’ve been invested in learning the kabbalat shabbat liturgy is so that I can lead services at some point, and use tunes I actually like, that actually work with the service, both in terms of feeling and scansion.
Does anyone else find the use of secular/pop tunes in davening annoying? Am I alone here? I don’t know. Thoughts?