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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Christian Music Struggles With Creativity

This should be the headlines in all the recording studios in Nashville. Have you noticed how many bands are simply rehashing old "hits" or worship songs that came out ten years ago? I think they should place a limit on how many times a song can be reproduced. Say 15 maybe? They're getting close. Music is to be an art, an expression of one's life in response to the reality he or she faces. Yet in Christian music, what is recorded is what they know will sell, not what is new or creative. The irony behind all this is that the Christian contemporary music push came when people were saying, "Sing to the Lord a new song" in an attempt to move past the hymns of old. Now these people are working on the 26th remix of Shout to the Lord and 14th remix of The Heart of Worship. I guess they realize that their music is a trend and not grounded in doctrinal truth that will outlast popular appeal, and the only way to keep business up is to replay the song in another tempo or another key. Christian radio is so predictable, and I hope that the music is not indicative of those who hear it. Although I use to make fun of the Christian bands who imitated secular bands in their style, at least they are riding the heels of some musicians who thrive on excellence in creativity and vitality in their song. I would rather have a musician copy someone who is creative than to repeat the repetitious cheese on the airwaves today. I don't want my non-Christian friends to listen to the Christian station, lest the credibility of the message be weakened by the shabbiness of the medium. Am I only one saying "Ring my bell, ring my bell" as the diva of disco use to sing it. I love music, and I love to worship my Savior with song, yet I am having a terrible time nowadays it seems. I am not a musician nor pretend to be one. Yet I know that there are those out there who are fresh, creative, and authentic in their writing and style of music that need to be heard. I am tuning into their frequency whatever the airwaves or channel that may be. If one would go the Christian archives of top 40 hits over the past ten years, one would be surprised to see the monotony of Christian music. Come on Michael W. Smith and others. You have been around for so long. You sang in the 80's that you were searching to find "my place in this world." Today, I am now searching to find "my place in Christian music." Will you help me?


Anonymous drew said...

I can agree with you on the renditions of old hits, but the creativity of christian music has been a big thing lately for some youth at clements and for myself. I love punk music, alternative, and upbeat songs that have a mix beat to them and a God-filled message. But what do we do if we don't have these styles of music in the Christian genre? We just give in to the world's music and let the world slowly drag us out of our convictions and beliefs on living for The One True God. Just because "we like the beat" we let our lives be slowly taken and molded into what the world wants us to be. I'll be honest, the music i listen to does affect my life, I have found in the past that it is harder for me to sing praises to the Lord, something i try to do all the time, when I am blasting the world's music on my car radio. So i try my best to find some yes positive and yes upbeat and yes encouraging music to listen to when I am either driving down the road or sitting at my computer at home.
In the case of the youth at clements, some of these youth were introduced to bands like Skillet, Hawk Nelson, Supertones, Toby Mac, and many more and they find these types of music as "cool" and "awesome." When these particular youth had no idea of these bands until someone told them about them. In my opinion I would rather have youth listening to these bands who sing about the praises of God and the daily lifestyles of living for Him, than bands like Green Day, whom do have a catchy beat but no songs for the praises of our King. So in this case BT I would have to disagree because I have found Toby Mac for myself to be a great help in finding creativity in the Christian world. If you haven't heard it check it out. It's called "Toby Mac: Welcome to Diverse City" I personally think it's some pretty "awesome" music myself. I'm pretty sure you've heard his song "Gone" on the radio. And i personally love the new band Hawk Nelson and their punk style.
But I do agree on the renditions and remixes of old praise songs, even though they are dear to my heart. Many are jumping on the bandwagon just to take up space on their brand new CD because it's a "christian hit."
Now to comment on the making fun of the WAYfm slogan, "positive, upbeat, and encouraging." I can understand to some point that yeah it doesn't say "Christ centered hits for the christian soul" or something like that, but what about this slogan bothers you? Yes it's postive compared to others things in the world that sing about sex, drugs, and other sinful acts I won't mention. Yes it is upbeat, not the hymnal praises of a long opera chord and a slow hum fade out, it's for those who like upbeat music. Another thing I would prefer over the upbeat songs of the world. And it's encouraging, nothing is better than having a hard day and the only thing you can think in your head is the song by Chris Tomlin, You Do All Things Well. Every time I am having a tough time i always sing that song because I know God is in control and He does all things well! So what is wrong with this slogan? What do you think it should say? I love this radio station i think it's a blessing from God to have access to christian music anytime of the day. So who are we to make fun of the blessings God has so lovingly and graciously allowed us to have? I for one don't think it should be ridiculed or made fun of no matter how we feel about the slogan, just that it's encouraging christians all around the U.S. to keep on with God no matter what happens to them. And yes it’s upbeat because the majority of Christians today love upbeat music. No telling how many christians would have abandoned ship if it wasn't for the postive and encouraging message of WAYfm. In which I tune into everyday.


4/12/2005 07:46:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...

Response to Drew:

I am not advocating going secular with your music if you are Christian. I am simply saying that Christian music that is popular is weak in many areas, not the least of which is creativity. There are great Christian bands I enjoy listening to, many whom will never make it on the radio because they simply are not "in". As far as the "positive, upbeat, and encouraging" statement, I am just poking around. Not everything I say is serious. I intentionally use slogans and phrases in such a way as a literary device not a literal meaning. And in a more macroscopic sense, my posts also have different literary genres: didactic, inquisitive, informative, speculative, and so on. If you read each on the same way, it is easy to catch it the wrong way. You don't read history the same way you read poetry. I am attempting to use various means of writing to provide an enlightening and thoughtful commentary of things as I see it. There is no reason to think that I am "bashing" a radio station.
On the other hand, I also think that music can be approached in a very legalistic way as in other issues as clothing, movies, and the like. I personally don't listen to much music period. I find it hard to sing songs with meaning and purpose when I can easily have a casual approach to worship. For instance, if I sing "When I think about the Lord" and I am not thinking but merely singing, I feel like that I am not worshipping nor doing justice to the song. I would rather refrain from such songs to sing on in the matter of reverent response to God, not just simply another Chritian song.
Music is a hot topic and the subject of much debate. I am not saying that I have a clear understanding or a good balance. I like many are trying to navigate these waters to have a truer sense of worship, especially through song.

4/12/2005 09:46:00 PM

Anonymous Jimmy said...

I don't understand this statement:

"But what do we do if we don't have these styles of music in the Christian genre? We just give in to the world's music and let the world slowly drag us out of our convictions and beliefs on living for The One True God."

Are you saying we have to have a Christian entry into every secular music category? In other words, "what do we do if we have no Christian punk or alternative bands?" I don't see how we're giving in to the world's music if we don't copy it.

But anyway. I agree with a lot of what you're saying, Drew. Agreed: We cannot listen to secular music that contradicts our convictions or morality, any more than we should watch television that does so. (But yet!--we do watch television. We just try to be discerning about it.) Agreed: The music we listen to impacts our attitudes and thought patterns. Agreed: Our music should encourage. (It should also teach and admonish. Col. 3:16) Agreed: Christian "hits" rerecorded for profit is no good.

But: I don't listen to WAYFM, usually. I just don't like it. I'm not generally encouraged. Is this WAYFM's fault? Not totally--they're just playing what the artists are putting out. You say: Do you listen to Christian music? I love true Christian music. You say: Do you listen to secular music? Yes, I do, because I love good musical art. (I always make sure that the song's message is true.) I think it's tragic that Christian music style is dictated by whatever unbelievers are coming up with in their studios. Christians should be leaders in the creative arts! We claim to know the Creator, the Lord God Who made the heavens and the earth and the seas and all that is in them... and the best we can do is make sure we have a "same sound, different lyrics" for every godless band in the land? Many secular bands are just making great art. Why aren't we?

I will say that there has been, of late, a bit of a surge in Christian creativity, musically. (Mute Math is a good example.) But overall, I just can't find anything on Christian hit radio that's any better than its evil secular twin. And it should be [better]. Our music should capture their attention; they should be trying to catch up with us. Truly creative musical art stirs my soul and captures my attention and inspires my own creativity.

(Let's not pretend that uplifting is enough; we are to teach and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs of many kinds. Where is the teaching and admonishing?)

Check out: I See Things Upside Down, by Derek Webb; She Must and Shall Go Free, by Derek Webb; In Between Dreams, by Jack Johnson; Redemption Songs, by Jars of Clay; There Will Be a Light, by Ben Harper and the Blind Boys of Alabama; Mmhmm, by Relient K; Clean, by Shane and Shane; The Everglow, by Mae; In Motion, by Copeland; Atom Bomb, by the Blind Boys of Alabama; How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, by U2; A Rush of Blood to the Head, by Coldplay; Room Noises, by Eisley (as well as their first two EPs); any Switchfoot album. Good music, good art. As far as I know, only two of the groups/artists on that list aren't Christians. You may not get your required JPM's (Jesus Per Minute) in some of their songs or albums. But my question: Is God more pleased by His children making subpar, low-quality copies, or His children crafting their best art with what He put in them?

4/13/2005 02:02:00 AM

Anonymous Jimmy said...

I would like to add. I've been thinking about this issue, and WAYFM in particular, today... I have even listened to it during some of my drive time today. (I just happened to not have any CD's in my car. Hmm.) I want to be fair. And in WAYFM's favor, I was impressed with some of the things they did at Christmas time, with their wish-granting and all of that. Giving away cars and orthodontic work and things of that nature is good, and I'm glad they're putting their financial resources to use.

I've also been thinking about how Timmy got blasted for "ridiculing" God's "blessing" of the radio station. I can only speak personally, but I know that the reason it's easy for me to often criticize is that I don't consider it a blessing; I consider it annoying. That may or may not make things that I say about it more or less valid, but it makes it easier to point out flaws. So what am I saying? I have to be sensitive at times... remember that the truth is to be spoken in love... and realize that often, things I criticize--even if they need it--are things other people hold dear. Like a particular church, or a radio station, or a book, etc.

I stand by what I said, but--I have been giving thought to the words and thoughts posted here.

4/14/2005 01:18:00 AM

Blogger Michelle said...

I think the problem with the music you're talking about, Timmy, is that CCM (Contemporary Christian Music...as a genre, not a general description) is the equivalent of secular music's "Pop" genre. It's the music that makes you feel good, makes you tap your foot, maybe makes you want to dance, but doesn't go too deep. There aren't very many people who would say the pop artists are out there on the cutting edge of music, artistically speaking...Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, Avril Lavigne, Justin Timberlake...all of these artists (and many more) are just popular because they have the look, they have varying degrees of talent, and the radio has told us we should listen to them. The same type of artists exist in CCM (and, no, I won't name any names).

It's not that the CCM artists' hearts aren't in the right place. Many of them truly do want to honor God with their talent and share His truths with an audience. But, and I know this for a fact, many of them just want to be a popular recording artist and found they could make it bigger in the Christian market rather than the secular one.

So, where does that leave all of us? We want good, quality, creative music that also points to a higher power, and maybe, just maybe, even ministers to our soul. I personally do not believe that one has to listen to only Christian music in order to be a Christian. As previously posted, there are many artists out there in the secular world whose songs have great messages and are really creative. There are also those in the CCM world whose songs are so shallow and sticky sweet I almost gag listening to them and their music totally sucks.

I think the answer is to just keep searching. Look for God and His truths where you can find them. There are Christian bands out there for every genre...punk, hardcore, modern rock, rock'n'roll, pop, country, praise and worship, easy listening, R & B, rap. There are bands doing things that are SO creative (see The David Crowder Band's Sunshine and Sushi CD...it's praise and worship like you've never heard...really...never). There are also bands out there who aren't "Christian" but whose music has decidedly spiritual overtones...U2 being the primary example.

Keep searching and let me know if you want any band suggestions (not that my suggestions would be better than anyone else's, I just know a lot of bands).

4/15/2005 07:20:00 AM

Blogger Timmy said...

Thanks for the very helpful comment, Michelle. I agree that there are very different genres even within Christian music. The music I specifically address is what I call "entry level" music, most of which is one the radio when some hits the "seek" button. No doubt the Christians musicians who in my estimation have less than desirable music are great people and devout believers, and I separate the music from the musician's character, though some may think this is hard to do.
The same marketing ploy in music is seen also in other places in the Christian sub-culture, like the book industry. You will find on the best-seller front shelf books on the apolocalyptic craze, jabez formulas, and other trendy topics. You will never find a classic like "The Death of Death in the Death of Christ" by John Owen or "Confessions" by Saint Augustine.
The point is that those who are putting this out whatever the platform may be is appealing to superficiality and fluff, catering to the minimalistic nature of Christianity. These people I have the biggest problem with.
I have been searching and do enjoy some good Christian music, say Shane and Shane, Derek Webb, and Caedman's Call. Crowder has a very unique and progressive style which I enjoy as well. I look forward to seeing more bands that would stimulate my thoughts towards the magnificence of Christ and enrapture my heart to the beauty of Jesus. Thanks again.

4/15/2005 07:36:00 AM

Blogger Michelle said...

Thanks, Timmy, for the response. I have an interesting conversation happening on my blog specifically regarding praise and worship that you may want to check out. It's at michellewheeler.blogspot.com.

As far as other bands, I agree with Drew who suggested Toby Mac (formerly of dc Talk). He's very straightforward in talking about Jesus, but his music is modern. Also, Copeland's "In Motion" cd is really powerful, though the name of Jesus is rarely mentioned, if at all. The title song in particular is great.

For more acoustic stuff, Jennifer Knapp's first cd, called Kansas, is amazing. Margaret Becker is sort of an older artist, but also really good. If you're looking for the kind of stuff you'd hear on the radio, Jeremy Camp and Chris Tomlin are some of my favorites. For harder modern rock, Blindside's "Silence" album will blow you away.


4/21/2005 01:56:00 PM


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