Saturday, October 24, 2009

A conundrum indeed...

I love music. I really love music. But I have an issue. I wish there were more John Mark McMillan's in the world...

I'm really critical. I expect a lot of other musicians. If you're a professional musician, you should constantly be pushing the creative envelope. Seeking to write good lyrics and tell good stories and move the listener in some way. Seeking to put together songs that are sonically pleasing and different at times.

With that being said, I don't like listening to the radio. For one, the commercials drive me crazy. I don't wanna pay for Sirius or XM radio, and terrestrial radio is heavy laden with commercials. They drive me crazy. I don't wanna hear about Crazy Eddie's furniture or Flora Templeton Stuart's law firm. But that's not my biggest problem with listening to the radio.

My biggest problem is that most of the music that radio stations are playing sucks. It just sucks. Country music. Rap music. Pop music. Adult contemporary music. Most of it sucks. I know, I know. I'm critical. They have record deals, I don't. They are getting national air play, I'm not. They actually play with a band, and mine hasn't practiced in months. Nonetheless, as someone who considers himself to be a musician of sorts and wannabe songwriter, I have high expectations and don't have a problem voicing them.

Earlier this year, I started working with a group of four young musicians at our church. They're all four freshmen in high school and quite talented. I've been working with them on leading music for student ministry events. (We covered Beyonce's "Crazy In Love" the other night, but that's not a typical selection. Normally, we're playing songs that would be classified as hymns.) Teaching them how to play certain styles, use dynamics, transition and follow the song leader have not been a problem. In fact, the problem isn't with them at all. The problem is with song selection.

As with other songs on the radio, a lot of songs in the "Christian" genre suck. Many are trite, uncreative and utilize terrible theology. (When I say many, I really mean "most.") When you're a band that spends most of its time leading songs in a church setting, you typically select songs that others have written. In a sense, you're a cover band. But I can't stand to listen to a lot of modern "worship" songs. In this case, its not the music so much as it is the lyrics. I feel like the lyrics should be the most creative and compelling of any song lyrics out there. And I'm having trouble finding songs with such lyrics.

Fee has a new one called "Rise and Sing." David Crowder Band has a new one called "Alleluia, Sing." Delirious has a new one called "My Soul Sings." I like these three. They fit the criteria I'm looking for: they have well-written, engaging lyrics; they are fun to sing; they are great songs overall. But I'm frustrated because I can't find many more. I need help. Please: recommend good songs! Are there new artists out there I don't know about? Are there songs I don't know about?

If you search for "best worship songs 2009," you'll find lists and lists of songs from CD's released this year that include recordings of songs written 2 , 3, even 4 years ago. There's nothing wrong with older stuff. I just don't ever wanna get stuck on them and constantly recycle stuff rather than moving forward. I always wanna be progressive. I want new. I want fun. I want good. I don't want what's good enough to get radio play. I want better than that. To be honest, I think God wants better than that. I know its the struggle of worship pastors and music leaders everywhere to select the right songs--and I'm always concerned about picking good stuff that will click with a younger crowd. So...

Please. Help me. Someone. Recommend good music for a church setting. Please.


Be Thou My Vision said...

I went through a lot of your posts-- meaning I visited some and read them. Thank you so much for sharing. I learned a lot of things.