Monday, October 24, 2005

Rant Warning...

Why the heck is popular Christian music so contemptibly boring? Why is it that I find more provocative lyrics and better musicianship on the local hard rock/alternative station? Why is it that people who are supposed to be writing music out of ineffable praise to the Creator of the universe can’t come up with a single interesting or thoughtful lyric?

I am bewildered, befuddled, and utterly frustrated out of my mind! I imagine this kind of scenario taking place between a Producer looking for the latest and greatest thing in Christian music and Young Christian Rock Star (wearing the requisite hipster-retro t-shirt, beaded choker necklace, the “livestrong” bracelet over his old “W.W.J.D.” bracelet, and trucker-style baseball cap barely covering their mop head).

Producer: I’m looking for the next great Christian rock band.
Young Christian Rock Star: Jesus loves me, and so he, like, made me play, like, my guitar.
Producer: I think you might be right for our demographic.
Young Christian Rock Star: Huh?
Producer: What is your sound? We are looking for something cutting edge enough to be liked by twelve to fourteen year old evangelical girls, but mainstream enough to be endorsed by Focus on the Family.
Young Christian Rock Star: I would say we are, like, a mix between Pearl Jam and, like, Third Day.
Producer: Aren’t they the same band?
Young Christian Rock Star: Huh?
Producer: Do you have any songs you have written? Anything you do good?
Young Christian Rock Star: You know that, like, one mediocre worship song that has been remixed, like, a dozen times?
Producer: I think I catch your drift…
Young Christian Rock Star: We do, like, a praisin’ version of it that is, like, a mixture between, like, Pearl Jam and Third Day.
Producer: I think you might be right for our demographic.
Young Christian Rock Star: Huh?

Where is Steve Taylor when you need him?!


Eric "the" Lind said...

You had me rolling with your description of "Young Christian Rock Star". So completely spot on. Fortunately, there still exist a few decent and non-conformist bands out there. David Crowder, with his white-fro and goatee that an ancient Babylonian would envy, and Casting Crowns, which appears to be made up of the most average looking people imaginable, both write songs that challenge the stereotypical Christian notion of "if you're not happy, something's wrong with you". Crowder, in fact, uses a veritable plethora of good words to describe our relationship with God (when was the last time you heard the word "antonym" in a song?).

Joshua_Duncan said...

Once again we're on the same wavelength, Phil. Most Christian music is tripe designed to look exactly like the world. Creativity is not a concern.

I agree that David Crowder is an exception to the rule, but even MercyMe's music is boring to me. My favorite Christian musician, though not all of his CDs are "Christian CDs" by some standards, is Sufjan Stevens. If your into hard rock then Sufjan isn't your guy, but he's highly creative and writes excellent lyrics.

Brian B said...

Speaking of non-tripe, unconventional, anti-cookie-cooker Christian music, I just ordered a couple of the most recent CDs from, of all folks, The Choir! An iconoclastic, musically-gifted, and hence commercially less successful, Christian band. "Why do the wicked prosper?" lol. "Circle Slide" is still one of my favorite albums of all time...

Bob Robinson said...

I no longer even try to keep up with the dribble which is CCM. Give me good, old fashioned, progressive rock! Music with substance and musicianship and depth in both its lyrics and its complexity.

I listen to the artists like Neal Morse, a Christian who is a leading artist in the underground Prog Rock movement and is distributed by the secular label "Metal Blade Records." Guest artists on his albums are people like Kerry Livgren of Kansas, Phil Keaggy, Mike Portnoy (the greatest drummer of our day--the leader of the band Dream Theater), and Steve Hackett of Genesis.

Morse is sophisticated music, not for the masses. It is classically derived symphonic progressive rock, for fans of bands like Yes, early Genesis (Peter Gabriel era), Pink Floyd, The Beatles' later stuff, and contemporary stuff like Trans-Siberian Orchestra (with a touch of Rich Mullins as well).

Kenny said...

I strongly reccomend Caedmon's Call. They are the only popular Christian band I have found that consistently has really thoughtful, provocative, intelligent lyrics. Other Christian bands occasionally have such lyrics, but not in every single song the way Caedmon's Call does. Christian hard rock bands also often have provocative lyrics, as do many less well known Christian bands and artists (if you like caedmon's call, check out Buck Storm). Among hard rock bands, Disciple is definitely number one. Their lyrics are not quite so intelligent as Caedmon's Call, but I like their music a lot and they are definitely very expressive and real and up front with the struggles of their faith. On the softer side, I would say the same thing about Nichole Nordeman.

I think that the problem is just about "Christian pop culture" (a contradiction in terms) and how this culture demands that everything be watered down into the Prayer of Jabez and the Purpose Driven Life and can't deal with any real content. It doesn't encourage artists to show their struggles. It also allows artists to become popular without really being any good musically.

Phil Steiger said...

I love the fact that so many have had something to say about this. Apparently I am not alone in my quandry.

Kenny-I think you are on to something pinning part of the problem on pop-Christian culture in general. We demand marketability and simplicity in a worldview that should be producing profundity, creativity and uniqueness.

Rich Tatum said...

Good post, Phil.

Not only are the lyrics of pop Christian music lame, but I cringe when I go to a concert and hear these twenty-something kids attempt to preach between songs. Artistic ability with vocals and instruments do not make one a theologian or a preacher, and those who presume to teach have an onerous burden to study. Of course, when these artists put pen to paper and attempt to write thoughtful lyrics, they're making the same blunders, but most listeners never catch on because few people reflect on the lyrics of a song these days, it seems.

That's why I've stopped listening to pop Christian music for the most part (unless I'm in the car with my kids). Like you, I long for the days of Steve Taylor, John Michael Talbott, Terry Talbott, and Michael Card. These folks thought deeply, studied their Scripture, and wrote out of a deep well of insight.

:: sigh ::