Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Weighing in on why Christian Music Sucks

Fr. Longenecker has some harsh words for Christian Music.

I don't think he's on the mark.

He criticizes Christian rock music as being awful because rock music is awful.

I agree that it can be awful. But it doesn't have to be.

Here's the deal.

In any field of artistic endeavour, most people "suck". Most artists will not appeal to a large audience. Sometimes it's because they lack talent. Sometimes it's because their message doesn't sell. And sometimes it's genuinely because of taste.

Do you like most secular music? No. Pick a song at random and chances are, you won't like it. You never heard it, you have no connection to it, the message doesn't stir you, etc.

So Christian music is no different.

However, I think it's fair to say that Christian music as a field is replete with crappy music.

There's a Christian radio station in Ottawa. I appreciate those artists I have discovered through it, but I stopped listening because I just couldn't stand most of it. All the airy, superficial, folk pop tunes that lack punch.

There are a few reasons they lack punch.

First is that they lack poetry. By poetry, I don't necessarily mean a lot "poetic" sounding words. It means getting as much meaning into the fewest words possible. A few examples of secular artists who have poetry are Paul Simon and Sheryl Crow, especially the latter. The phrases of her song are colloquial, but those phrases have double meanings and contain allusions, so that you can appreciate every line on many levels.

Christian artists have definitely not learned not to do that.

The absence of poetry leads to superficial thought and cliches. The writer just TELLS his feelings, instead of making the listener FEEL the emotion through the words.

The second reason Christian music is bad is the lack of authenticity. I'm not saying the singers are insincere. But themes are so safe and predictable. The lyrics never go places that are dark and angry, and if they do, it's done in such a cliche manner. There's absolutely no edge to it. And so, because the feelings and words are so predictable, it never gets to the heart of human existence.

And one more reason why it sucks is that it's not catchy. It's like the writer picked up the guitar one day and just started singing. There's no attempt to size what could grab people's attention and imitate that. There's also a lack of originality. You know why U2 is so beloved? Because it tries to do something different, instead of doing what's been done.

There are probably lots of other reasons I could invoke, but those are the main ones.