What is the deal with Christian music? I know I am probably going to offend some of you out there, but according to my exacting standards for good music (write your own music, play at least one instrument, have talent, and be an innovator), a vast majority of "contemporary Christian" music does not qualify. Pop music today is a vacuous wasteland, so if your musical style apes the pop music of today, like most Christian music, you're already in deep trouble.
Now I realize that pop music, by definition, is the most-purchased music out there. But check out the top 10 artists on the current Billboard Hot 100 list (Fergie, Gnarls Barkley, Nelly Furtado, Sean Paul, The Pussycat Dolls, Cassie, Ciara, Christina Aguilera, Ne-Yo, and Panic! At the Disco) . Are you kidding me? There's only two of these supposed "artists" that I have even heard of, and whether or not they can sing or are even a great singer is beside the point. Will anybody be listening to these songs twenty years from now? Is any one of them doing something interesting with their music? Are any of them virtually interchangable with each other, or a thousand other singers out there? What are Christian artists doing trying to sound like them, or worse, trying to sound like pop music that's 10 (or more) years out of date.
I think musical giftedness is a talent from God. I sing and play a little bit of guitar, and I have written music, but I have no illusions about my talent level. I have heard artists in many churches that greatly exceed my musical abilities, and yet still have no business with a recording contract. So why is one of the most obvious of God's gifts seemingly missing from the pool of his servants? Where are the innovators in Christian music? Where are the artists who are masters of their instruments, who worship God with their amazing talents? Where are the Mozarts and The Beatles? The Beethovens and the Bob Dylans? Where are the bands who are creating music that truly glorifies God rather than sounding like a cheap knockoff of Celine Dion or Nickelback? Is God really pleased with music that couldn't make it among the likes of Josh Turner and Rihanna?
My favorite Christian band - well, the only one I listen to anyway - is Third Day. I like Mac Powell's voice and I think some of their songs are pretty good. But as far as innovation goes, they are probably 30 years behind the rock bands they sound like (Lynnyrd Skynnyrd or the Allman Brothers). What has happened to the talented and interesting performers? Is there nothing new to play or sing?
In my opinion, Christian music should be better than pop music. The singers should have better voices, the instrumentalists should have more prowess. Can it really be the case that none of the most talented musicians in the world are Christians? I hear music on our three local Christian stations that would not have been interesting on Top 40 radio in 1986, much less 2006. And don't even get me into the theology of Christian music. Most of it is either lightweight "Jesus is my girlfriend" type nonsense, or simple and repetitive praise music (or both). When was the last time you heard a confessional song along the lines of Psalm 51 ("Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned, and done what is evil in Thy sight")? Or a lament like Psalm 79 ("They have given the dead bodies of Thy servants for food to the birds of the heavens, The flesh of Thy godly ones to the beasts of the earth.") Where are the Christian artists who sing out about our country's struggle against Islamofascists or the moral issues of the day (abortion, crime, poverty, personal debt, etc.) and cry out to God for help? Instead we get man-centered songs that are so innocuous that they can crossover to the pop charts and be inoffensive to everyone (see MercyMe's "I Can Only Imagine" for a recent example). Something is very wrong here.