It’s Sunday and I thought I would write about church-going music. So let’s begin with a song my mother heard on the radio and a quote from my mother when she heard it:
The song? Flyleaf “Again”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbdCeWoEH1U&ob=av2e
(little lead singer with a huge voice)
My mother doesn’t get half the music I like but she is always interested in hearing things … and always interested in what has changed since … well … Frank Sinatra (to be fair she also likes the Beatles and even David Bowie’s voice).
Writing about contemporary Christian music crossed my and for a several reasons … first was when I skipped through the dial and heard a Flyleaf song I happen to like and decided to point out to my mother that they were a Christian band (which elicited the quote at the beginning) as well as I heard a Switchfoot song under the introduction to an espn gameday football game (oddly … I also heard a Switchfoot song under a radio ad for The Vampire Diaries and Secret Circle).
That is how mainstream christian bands have become.
Oh. Yeah. They are both christian bands if you didn’t know.
Oh. Yeah. That would mean they play “christian music.”
Uh oh. Bad stigma. Christian music is no good.
Wrong wrong wrong.
I will remind everyone with Switchfoot who really was the first to showcase the new face of christian music.
Maybe the most recent? Skillet. Kind of been chugging along under the mainstream radar and then their 2 recent often played songs Monster (which is disliked) and Awake (which I liked): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aJUnltwsqs&ob=av2e
Just in case you haven’t been paying attention christian based music has gotten better. And in some cases really good. Sure. There is still some of that sappy bad forced lyric stuff out there but there is a new generation of musicians have expanded their christian view to be broader in how they communicate their christian values and beliefs.
As I pointed out to my mother …. there is a whole new generation of ‘enlightened christians’ out there who are seeking shit <music> that is relevant to their own generation.
I admit … maybe even 10 years ago if someone said “you wanna listen to a Christian music cd” I think I would have just asked if someone could have stuck an ice pick in my ear instead. Today? Not so much the ice pick in the ear thing.
Christian music really has evolved with the times (although, I would suggest that what would be considered an ‘atheist’ song, Dear God by XTC – an AWESOME song – probably did more for Christian music than any song before: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hk41Gbjljfo ).
Some of the music can be really nice to listen to. Maybe it’s a growth of some sub genres but the Christian sound is keeping pace with mainstream (although I do believe they still tend to be a little formulaic with big multi chord riffs and lyrical chorus overlays).
I guess I attribute the evolution (beyond my thought on Dear God) in my own warped mind that I envisioned some Christian musicians woke up one morning and remembered that Jesus led a quasi normal life. I seriously doubt he walked around his entire life talking in parables (which is why I loved Crash Test Dummies “God shuffled his Feet”:
God shuffled his feet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzNzCiZwk28). I bet he had a life with family and friends and probably talked to them about the new sandals on sale at the corner market store, pimples and how much he hated black olives. I would assume he just talked sometimes (or at least one would hope or his friends would be exasperated trying to figure out the parables in every conversation).
Anyway. Simplistically the change probably occurred because different generations desire different things. So, to stay relevant, some musicians with some new ways of looking at things came along. And the good things for those writing these songs is that the reality is people do want to feel like God exists in the present, and not some antiquated relic that couldn’t possibly understand the issues of today, approached music through their own eyes and ways of looking at things.
Trust me. If God actually did speak to me I would hope he would avoid the ole thee’s and thou’s in trying to communicate something. And a lot of musicians understood the same thing.
And if you listen to today’s contemporary Christian musicians many of the rock songs transcend the intended market and reach the ears of people not completely in sinc with the whole church thing.
Here is the fun thing (at least to me). The christian traditionalists, who I would like to point out are most typically parents, hate it.
Why? People (simplistically) say … it’s rebellion. It’s unholy. It’s … well …different.
I would like to point out here that different musical taste is not in itself an act of rebellion. Each generation distinguishes themselves musically from the generation before. That is a fact. Older generations don’t like it, but each generation does it (Beatles to their parents, jazz to their parents, etc.).
To me music has never about rebelling against my parents or anyone else. I just liked the sound. I just liked how it sounded and inevitably how it spoke to me and the feeling I have. I liked what it represented as to what I thought & felt.
And while I titled this Christian music I do believe labeling “christ-centered music” as christian music is a mistake (but it helped me provide a thread for what I wanted to write about). That label implies a form that is inherently ‘Christian’ (which is false). I asked a christian friend of mine once what is a Christian. I got a nice simple response. A person in love with Christ. So what would it sound like singing? Jeez (I almost typed the ‘other word’). That’s a stupid question. It could sound like anything.
To me there are three types of Christian music.
1. The overt Christian band. Note. This is typically not my type of band.
This band seems to use their music/lyrics to specifically talk about god and such and is quite open about who/what they’re talking about in their lyrics. They preach. They celebrate. They specifically do Christian type messaging. No guessing games here. Let’s call this ‘all Christian all the time’.
Personally I think their stuff is often too preachy and difficult to listen to if you don’t have that faith (even though some of the music is well written and the singers have interesting voices).
Professionally I believe they struggle because there is some restrain on the authenticity and freedom to create great music. True creativity means truly expressing what is in your heart/soul. It means allowing freedom into the music which means you don’t feel the inexplicable need to resolve each song by singing “Jesus Saves” (or “I love god”) in every refrain.
What helps you out is they call themselves Christian so you can avoid it if you want.
How up front they want to be with that is up to them, whether it’s in all their songs or just some of them. But If I purchased a CD from a band who labeled themselves as a “Christian” band though I’d expect to be hearing about Christ somewhere in those lyrics.
2. The ‘not as overt’ bands. In other words (not mine but a Christian’s description) “the band that crosses more into the mainstream/secular world” and “taking the medicine to the sick.” (oh my)
They don’t hide their faith, but they don’t spell it out in their lyrics all the time. And some of these bands kick ass. Flyleaf. Switchfoot. POD.
These are the kinds of bands that people frequently ask about because they can’t tell by listening to the music. Switchfoot’s “Meant to Live:” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hp6Qh-wT3ys&ob=av2n is probably the song (if they weren’t a Christian band) I would use as the anthem for my Global Generation idea (although I do suggest a POD song in Global Generation 3). Meant to Live is a song U2 would have been proud writing and singing. Interestingly (and I would imagine many people would argue with me) I would put many Country music groups in this section.
3. Then there are the mainstream bands that have (some) Christian members. Their lyrics might be about anything without mentioning Christ specifically. However, I suspect their beliefs sneak out in places throughout their lyrics, whether they mean for them to or not. Think Mutemath, Evanescence, Lifehouse, The Fray. These are bands that have some faith and weave in their beliefs within their songs but don’t dedicate their full portfolio to the message. Think about Evanescence.
Oh. And 12 Stones. Remember them?
Bet ya don’t.
Okay. Remember Evanescence “Bring me to Life”? (AWESOME song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YxaaGgTQYM&ob=av2e). The guy who sings along with Amy Lee is the lead singer of a band called 12 Stones (a christian band … and the songwriters of Evanescence just didn’t like to be called a Christian band but suggested their songs communicated a positive faith message).
Why do I think the first group has such a challenge (beyond the obvious thought that some people just don’t want to hear it)? Think creatively here.
Christian artists, who are overt, have a challenge. They want to meet what they call the The Great Commission (“go and make disciples”) but it’s difficult to do in a single song (let alone an entire cd).
Think of it this way. If I wanted to write a song about my girlfriend Bunny, then decide to write an entire cd about her (even if her specialty was talking in metaphors … or parables … I always struggle to figure out the difference …) and then I decided to make sure I used her name in every song on the cd it would mean I have an entire cd filled with Bunny references. Well. Figure Christian artists try and do that every cd but with god/JC/Him. And that is bad for anyone (whether you believe you have JC on your side or not).
In the end, if you turn on the radio try and be open-minded. There really is no such thing as just one type Christian song anymore and some of it is really really good.
the Letter Black (a new band I think will cross over)
Flyleaf (if you see them in concert you would never imagine in a zillion years they were Christian)
Leigh Nash (ex lead singer of Sixpence Nonethericher)
Robbie Seay band
Some of my favorite Christian songs (beyond ‘I can Imagine’ which I can imagine – pun intended – is difficult for anyone to dislike):
- Switchfoot “Meant to Live.” This is the song that probably put Christian music on the mainstream charts. Awesome song. Well written and big anthemic feel. “Dare you to Move” would be a close second: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOTcr9wKC-o&ob=av2e
- Rebecca St. James “Beautiful Stranger” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgH40uV-nEc ) The first time I heard it was with the video and its impact was HUGE. As a stand-alone song it is awesome also. But with video it’s amazing. Ok. And as for a full on Christian song … God of Wonders is a beautifully crafted and beautifully sung song.
- P.O.D. “Goodbye for Now.” Powerful rap rock San Diego band. Boom is another awesome song. Alive and Youth of a Nation are also good. I actually use one of their newer songs as the anthem for the Global Generation. Oh. The opening riffs on Boom and Alive rank up with two of the best openings to a rock song as you can get. They kick you in the gut from note one.
- Jennifer Knapp “A little More” (its fun a nice folksy song).
- Ginny Owens “If you want me To.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GocT5SAQPNM&feature=related One of the most heartfelt songs of all time. Don’t listen to it if you have just broken up with someone. “Someone Searching” is the next song of her you should listen to. Another beautiful heartfelt song. Lastly. If you ever want your teen to listen to something so they know that you unconditionally love them, consider playing “Without Condition” for them. Yes. It is about God but at its core it will share the thought of love without condition. Which is appealing to anyone regardless of faith.
Here is where the rubber hits the road.
One thing I do know … artists with a Christian vision have a passion to minister to a world that they believe needs help.
I believe the best of the best are realistic about their impact but are also very open about their passion for the ‘lost’ in the world and their desire to help even one.
It is easy to slam something we don’t understand.
There are a lot of good musicians who have a strong faith.
And incorporate it into their songs. Some songs. Maybe not all their songs.
Adam young. Better known as Owl City. He’s a devout Christian who takes his faith as seriously as his music. Evanescence. Speaks out often about faith. Paramore. Once again. Christian. Mutemath. But all desire to be known as musicians who have faith and incorporate the message within.
Not Christian bands who can play music. The list goes on and on.
There is a lot of good music out there so ignore the ‘label’ (genre title) and just listen up. You never know what you are missing.