Skip to comments.Is Christian Music 'Genreless' and 'Unoriginal'?
Posted on 09/14/2011 9:19:22 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
While some have sought to make Christian music more relevant by adding an electric guitar or a hip-hop beat to it, others prefer to listen and worship through more traditional forms of music, such as hymns. But should Christian music be limited to a designated genre, or can faith-based themes be effectively portrayed through any number of styles?
Though people may disagree on which style they like best, there's no denying that Christian or Gospel music is widely sought after.
A 2009 report from the Gospel Music Association indicates that Christian music sales total about half a billion dollars per year. In 2008, the Christian music industry sold over 56 million units in the form of CDs, cassettes, digital tracks and digital albums.
But a recent article by Will Edwards, which appeared in University of Alabama's student newspaper, The Crimson White, describes Christian music as being unoriginal and genreless.
Edwards' article, titled Guitars killed Christian music, no resurrection in sight, argues that Christian music, in the form of hymns and classical music composed by the likes of Mozart and Bach, made an impact because it once led the musical culture. With the rise of rock-and-roll and the increased use of broadcasting technology, however, Christian music was left behind and has been playing catch-up to secular culture ever since.
He accuses Christian music of lacking in originality, saying, Many Christian songs have a near-identical equal in the secular music industry. Its a knock-off of the original ... For the past 50 years, Christian music has been playing copycat to whatever is popular on secular radio. They havent changed the message, but the music that delivers it has become stale and unoriginal.
Musician and minister Jimi Calhoun agrees with Edwards in many ways.
"There's a considerable amount of people who think that music hasn't been original since the '70s, Calhoun told The Christian Post in an interview.
A resident of Austin, Texas, Calhoun previously worked as a professional bass guitar player, playing with a number of famous musicians including Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Etta James, Lou Rawls and more.
He said that, from his experience, Christian music is not well-respected in the broader music industry.
"It sells a lot of records ... if I were an executive I would want to try to get market share in this, he said, but from the player's standpoint ... it's not looked up to."
Calhoun's journey to Christ began on a trip to England, where he started his search for God and for inner peace. He studied both Buddhism and Metaphysics, but eventually ended up at Christianity and later became an ordained minister.
Though he has worked in several other ministries before, he is currently planning on starting his own church with the goal of bridging the gap between art and spirituality.
Calhoun pointed out that Christian music as an evangelism tool is noneffective and that it's never utilized in an arena where people are going to hear it and make a decision for Christ.
"It's an art form that goes directly to the choir. It's an edification thing, even though we tell ourselves that we're witnessing, he explained.
Edwards doesn't just criticize Christian music for its lack of creativity, however. He also suggests that Christian music should be confined to a specific style of music.
Christian music is genreless, he writes. Turn on the Christian radio station and listen for 30 minutes. You will hear two piano ballads, three pop/rock songs and one pseudo heavy metal thrasher. It doesnt sound like anything specific. When I put on the pop station, I know what Im getting. Theres a genre there, but Christian music lacks that.
But Patrick McGuire, associate of Music and Worship at the Florida-based First Baptist Church Merritt Island, argued that Christian music doesn't have to fit into a particular style. To create a Christian-specific genre would be to limit the impact that Christian music has on the world.
"We're really called to be in the world and to serve the way that Christ did, and for us to have music that is explicitly religious and therefore not accessible to outsiders ... I don't really think that's the call of Christ," he stated.
McGuire has been working at the church for about a year and serves as its leader of the rhythm section. The church has a choir and orchestra, but they also play more contemporary music as well. First Baptist's worship team spent last summer writing and recording original music, which he says lends authenticity to corporate worship experiences.
"The most important thing that I relate to ... is just how powerful it is to see a twenty-something standing next to a 70-year-old in the choir and to hear them in one voice proclaim the Gospel, he said.
If your taking a poll - I’m voting for Gregorian Chant.
Inspiring holiness since circa 600 AD.
“We’re really called to be in the world and to serve the way that Christ did, and for us to have music that is explicitly religious and therefore not accessible to outsiders ... I don’t really think that’s the call of Christ,” he stated.
I think the Call of Christ is to “seek and save the lost” or something like that...
interesting article though
I remember when Micheal W Smith went “mainstream” his music was really bad during that time. Andre Crouch tried the “mainstream” “stuff” too IIRC..
A few months ago I went to church, I was late getting up and had to go to the “contemporary” service. The guy playing the guitar was jamming like he was at a heavy metal concert instead of a church service. It really made me sick. I thought that this was punishment for getting up late.
Gone are the days of the Righteous Bros, Forester Sisters, etc., singing perfectly clear and lovely lyrics.
We have a Fish station here in Cleveland which I try to avoid because of the 24/7 nature of almost all they play.
Local Christian stations here in DC have been playing the SAME 15-20 songs for the last 10 years. I have NO DOUBT that all they do is put in the same 24 hour rotation sound track, put in a little weather and comment and call it a day.
Our family has since quit listening to them for going on 2 years now.
Every once in awhile we’ll check in and yep, SAME SONGS!!!!
If your taking a poll - Im voting for Gregorian Chant.
Inspiring holiness since circa 600 AD.
Correct. The Church created music to bear the mysteries of the Gospel in Byzantine and Gregorian chant. Every other attempt at ‘Christian’ music seems to be an adaptation of musical impulses from outside the household of faith. Including the Protestant hymn tradition and this contemporary pop stuff they are referencing.
That doesn’t make it bad, but must we call it ‘Christian?’
Yeh, I HATE being led by teenagers/20 somethings jamming on guitars playing to modern christian rock chorus’ and video screens.
Enough already!!! And this is coming from a guy that enjoys punk, rockabilly, heavy metal etc. etc.
Stephen Curtis Chapman
Michael W. Smith...
....With so many others who write and lead worship-- loving God with all of their hearts...
....As well as instruments and voice talents...
The question has been answered.... jmho...
As someone who has been a musician all his life, from playing blues and rock in clubs and now praise and worship music in the church; I am of the opinion that much of this article is right on the money.
However, all of the music written and recorded today is based on something that came before it. Ecclesiastes says that “there is nothing new under the sun.”
Personally I don’t listen to much Christian music but stick to Motown and classic rock because I find most Christian music to be predictable and uninspiring. Strange that those of us supposedly filled with the Holy Spirit can’t come up with something more inspiring. But then again tastes on music are subjective.
I welcome any suggestions on good Christian music that you find good and interesting and will take the time to listen. Thanks!
Gregorian Chant dudes doing an Ozzy cover tune:
Same dudes covering Metallica:
Christian music presents a contradiction of sorts. Music is a creative, often spontaneous and mysterious thing and if you are a believer then you ascribe its origins and power to move to God.
The problem (for lack of a better term) is that contemporary Christian music is by definition centered around a single subject i.e. everyone knows how the song ends before it begins because of the intentions - stated or unstated - of the individuals or groups performing such music.
Many artists do themselves no favors by mindlessly copying the pop music flavor of the month along with certain production techniques in order to appear hip. From Roland JC-120 amps in the 80s to Mesa/Boogie Rectifiers in the 90s and 00s, it’s one thing to use state of the art gear but quite another to create soundalike tracks or performances with predictable ‘you’re a bad/sad/lost person but here’s hope’ narrative lyrics. Such a narrative is, by definition, inescapable given the genre and I think bands are conscious of this with their often elliptical - but still confined - choice of lyrics. Hence ‘deep and meaningful’ titles ‘Is It Worth It?’ ‘Don’t Turn Away,’ or ‘Drop Your Guard’ (these are all fictitious but typically trite examples).
Making matters worse, there are some insanely talented people in PWBs (to use the Craigslist acronym) but far too many hacks meandering through 3-chord songs on poorly tuned acoustics. You may say ‘they hear a calling’ and fair play to them for acting on it but any public performance should come with a self-inventory of one’s preparedness.
I realize this is potential flame-bait with claims of ‘you’ve never heard of XXX’ or ‘XXX’s lyrics aren’t like that’ but as before when you start with one subject you will, inevitably, end with the same subject.
most modern praise songs are like commercial jingles, except more simplistic!
The usual thing ... “Music I don’t like is bad. Waaaaaaaah!”
All of it I’ve heard since about 1994 is soulless. Everybody in the Christian rock community needs to listen to old time gospel and find out what a joyous noise sounds like.
From my exerience the Holy Spirit has blessed me with over 100+ songs in all different styles. For the past 10 years He has given me melodies as I play in the Spirit. Then, as I read the Bible up pops verses or entire portions of Scripture that fit the melodies. It's a real God-thing.
The Lord says, "Sing to Me a new song." He puts songs in our hearts.
I once invited a young secular immigrant from Bulgaria to a Christian Youth Fellowship Group ( mostly composed of dozens of late teeners and college students ).
After the fellowship, the Bulgarian told me that the songs being sang (including the lyrics ) sound like love songs he heard in Bulgaria ( and remember, Bulgaria is secular and was under atheistic communism for many years ).
Yes, it generally is.
Very sincere, however.
And Christianity had a great run in music that lasted for centuries.