Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Christian Music Report

I’d like to point out another blog posting from Relevant Magazine that exemplifies one of the reasons (of many like a new baby and full time job) that I’m no longer volunteering with Christian music radio. I love radio and the much of the music that goes with it. Being on the radio was one of the goals I had as a kid… literally practicing on tape recorders and even partly choosing a college by the quality of its student run radio station (Liberty University’s station is pretty impressive). But… over the years I’ve grown frustrated by the number of weak albums being released by the artists who dominate the CCM marketplace. I’m so frustrated that I don’t even know what’s the latest album to come out by Third Day or the Newsboys (bands I used to follow closely). They both have come out with so many weak efforts including multiple cover albums with material written by other “Worship” artists that I no longer had any sense of anticipation for the next song. The songs were filled with the same melodies and musical hooks as they had used before and the lyrics were another smash up of Christian terms that have been used over and over again.

There have been exceptions to this trend. Bands like Switchfoot, who’s themes, while similar in every album, have a way of pointing out how to make the most of life without resorting to cliché “Christian-eeze”. They’ve been rewarded with mainstream appeal and a connection with the audience that I believe Jesus would be interested in. There are bands like Mute Math and The Fray who have refused to be boxed into the Christian Music cage by avoiding contracts with record labels that are historically Christian. If you haven’t sat down with The Fray’s album and read the lyrics while listening… make it a priority. It was my favorite album of ’06 and still plays regularly in the car. Click Here to read the story of Isaac Slade, lead singer of the Fray.

The point is this: Christian music is no longer relevant. It’s hard to admit because I’ve spent so much of my life promoting it… but its true. The most successful bands in Christian music would get out of the category if they could, but many of them are just not good enough as musicians and song writers. Its certainly not for a lack of connections; you can ask just about every CCM artist and they can name drop plenty of mainstream artist and producers who have shown them interest.

There are plenty of artists who are focused on “Worship Music” and would claim to have no interest in a mainstream music career. I’m surprised that despite Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life selling (or being given away at his conferences) more than any other book in history, that more people haven’t altered their language patters with the term “Worship Music”. Worship is supposed to be an attitude of gratefulness to our Creator in everything that we do… and shouldn’t be limited to music. But the term “Worship Music” has boxed in the expression of worship… and we continue to do so despite the warnings. Rick make some of his best points in the section where he points out that calling music “Christian music” is actually kind of odd. Is the music itself saved from sin by the grace of Christ? Is the album going to heaven?

So I’ve hung up my cleats, thrown in the towel, and made peace with the fact that Christian Music Radio and I are no longer together. Like any break up, its not easy, and sometimes I want to call up CMR and beg for forgiveness… but in the end I think this is best for my own maturing process. I hope for the best for the people involved, but unfortunately I believe that the money tables of that industry are being turned over.

What do you think?


Mud Puppy said...

I've been there!

But just this week I was listening to Mercy Me, and thinking about Third Day, and it reminded me how much they influenced where I am now.

I think they still serve a great purpose. They may not be something that is every critically acclaimed, but it really is good music for worship and reflection. (Something I need to do more often.)

It is true that Switchfoot and Mute Math dominate my headphones, but there is a time when I need a little of what Chris Tomlin has to offer. It cuts too deep.

Appreciate the post!

Becky said...

Glad to see you've seen the light, Jason! I stopped listening to Christian music a long time ago for much the same reasons that you've laid out here. As a little bit of a musician/songwriter myself, it has made me sick to listen to many "artists" who just plain old suck. They can't sing well or play well or write well. I've always thought how dare we as Christians do anything mediocre, especially something as holy as music. It's sad to me how the Christian world has accepted so much mediocrity in so many areas, music being a big one.

I don't know much, but I do know that as God-lovers we are not called to be mediocre...we are to be either hot or cold...and I believe that refers not only to our faith and passion for Christ, but to our work. "Do everything as unto the Lord", right? It better be excellent!

I will check out The Fray, I've not heard them yet.

Also, this is a lot of the reason why I have stuck with listening to Jason Harrod. Excellemt music, lyrics and sound from a good heart who loves the Lord and just wants to play for Him. That's hard to find!

Kelly said...

We went indie a while ago for all the reasons you list...I think my distaste started with the emergence of the OC Supertones so soon after the Mighty Mighty Bosstones' popularity skyrocketed. It was like someone just decided to broadcast the notion that Christian music was copying the world's innovation. The church should be the inventive, creative ones...we have so much more reason to be so!

Supa Sparks said...

ummm, I really can't compete with the passion that fueled this post. i'm sorry you had to break up but I know it's for the best : ) i feel your pain - i will however never give up my Worship Circle Cd's - I will forever be a hippie. may our radio host days rest in peace.

Joe C said...

I am with you Jason was driving cross country this week and as I heard all kinds of stations I couldn't help but think how poor and predictable Christian music has become. actually I heard some songs that weren't worship songs and i was thinking. Its about darn time people got of the "worship" Kick Worship rules but like you said its more than choruses. hopefully the creativity comes back, and hopefuly we are all open to accept it even though it will be different.