13 July 2006

Songs of Faith = Injustice against Music

For my first post with content, I would like to look at at contemporary Christian music. First off, I'm an athiest. I'm also a classically-trained pianist of moderate ability (I played seriously for 8 years), so I know music pretty well. I know that in the good ol' days of the Baroque period, church music was at the pinnacle of compositional achievement, with Bach, among others, writing powerful, uplifting, and complicated holy music. Personally, I find most Bach to be overly technical, but a lot of people like him. Second, my wife is a happy Christian who loves popular Christian music that she hears in church: she sings it in the shower, buys CDs of the stuff, and feels that it is very uplifting. You know what else it is? It's crap.

I'm not knocking the content (well, I could), rather I'm knocking its musical value. These songs are just plain awful. There is one song she has on our computer that sounds like it was a rejected ensemble song from an awards show, with about a hundred people singing, "Ce-le-brate ... Je-sus ... Ce-lebrate!" over and over again to repetetive and obnoxious John Tesh-style synthesizer music. Speaking of which, John Tesh is one person I'd seriously like to have kicked in the nuts.

The songs at the church we go to aren't much better. Since this church is fairly modern, they invariably play uplifting, peppy music. The styles vary, but what doesn't vary is their lack of musical complexity. Sometimes it's fluffy pop music, sometimes it's the new fashioned "wimp rock" (you know, that style of stuff that airhead teenage girls listen to when they want to rebel against Britney and her ilk, that only has three different guitar chords that are each played repeatedly for two measures, forming no melody whatsofreakinever), or sometimes it's adult contemporary, like Kenny G but with vocals. Regardless, there is no musical soul.

Now, I know there are some excuses, like the music and lyrics need to be easy so people can sing along. And I understand that. But I've noticed that it seems to extend beyond church singalongs as well. I know that this is unscientific, but in my experience, a lot of Christians tend to listen to fluffy crap music outside of church as well. My wife listens to pop and dance music, and prefers Britney (who can't sing) to Christina (who can). My religious friends in high school and university also listened to music of dubious quality, mainly country and pop. My non-religious friends tended to listen to Metallica or the Tragically Hip: music that without a doubt contains more talent and creativity.

Could it be that turning off your skeptical, critical mind when it comes to religion results in turning off those same skills when it comes to music?

I don't know. What I do know is that it still sucks, and I heartily recommend the South Park episode where Cartman forms a successful Christian rock band by taking pop-rock songs about love and replacing the words "baby" and "girl" with "Jesus."

In closing, there is a Christian song where the singer sings the line, "I can sing of your love forever," for the entire second half of the song (about 3 minutes). He doesn't really sing of Jesus's love forever; it only feels that way.

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At July 13, 2006 9:35 p.m., Blogger The Uncredible Hallq said...

I suspect some people will swallow any garbage as long as it has "contemporary Christian" on the lable. I have doubts about the thesis that this extends to Christian taste in non-Christian music.

At July 17, 2006 8:39 a.m., Blogger King Aardvark said...

Ugh. Right about swallowing anything labelled as Christian.

I too have doubts about my idea that this extends into non-Christian music. It has been true in my personal experience, but my sample size is understandably small and most are from the same family or same clique, so I don't get the range of tastes that one would need to study that claim. I'll leave it as food for further thought and study. But not by me.

At March 04, 2012 12:57 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christian here, and somewhat agreeing on your assessment of most Christian music, if not your assessment of Christians. Well, there is some music that's moderately good and Christian, but you have to look mainly outside of "church" music. The excuse given is somewhat valid on singing along. I know for a fact I can't raise my voice or follow the lines of quite a few professional singers. Also, it's wise for a non-Christian to avoid the lyrics on the assessment of talent. He's likely to slip up a bit on some points. Anyways, have you ever played the organ? Complicated, I know, but I've got a friend whose a genius on that thing and plays many pieces for his Lutheran church. It's not an imitation of contemporary music, but a style that practically belongs to the church, and at least in my mind, it's quite beautiful.


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