Creative Differences…

Michael Gungor

Monday night, right before bed, I happened to read a Tweet from Jenn Jonhson (@JennJohnson20), one of the worship leaders from Bethel Church in Redding, California. She actually re-tweeted a link to a blog post by Michael Gungor (@michaelgungor) of the band, Gungor, about Christian Music. The actual blog post by Michael is quite lengthy, but there is a pretty good summary (with commentary) on the website for Collide Magazine.

Basically the Gungor frontman had some time on his hands and dumped his feelings, journal style, onto the bands blog space. In the blog, Michael talks about how easy it is to spot Christian music on the radio. Not by the lyrics, but strictly by listening to the music. He takes the industry to task for its perceived lack of creativity. There is much more in the article, but I’ll allow you to decide what you think of what’s written.

I found the blog very interesting and had a lengthy conversation about Christian Music with my best friend since 8th Grade and current host of Backspin Radio (available for free on iTunes), Bill Moore.

Bill worked in the Christian music biz for over 15 years. He has an intimate knowledge of how things work. Obviously he has an opinion. I worked in Christian radio for 6 years a very long time ago and I obviously have an opinion as well.

For me, I’ve always had an issue with Christian music’s tendency to “copy” what’s popular in the world of secular music. Secular music is basically anything and everything that isn’t considered Christian music.

Christian radio is not marketed toward me, the middle aged white guy. There are two local Christian music stations that I’m aware of in Central Ohio. One of those stations is your classic adult contemporary with a lot of different bands that all start to sound the same after a while. Then there’s the hip, youth driven, make your ears bleed station that has a lot of singers screaming in a very deep metal voice for hours on end. Neither one is my cup of tea.

I’ll readily admit that I tend to be all worship music or good ol’ Pop/Rock Top 40 music (limited hip-hop please). Generally speaking I’m always going to like a nice upbeat Rock song. Hair Bands were my favorite… yes, I had a mullett.

Deep down inside, I really want to enjoy what the Christian Music Industry has to offer, but I just can’t get into it. I can’t really tell you why, but Michael Gungor’s blog came as close to why as I’ve ever been able to articulate.

So, let me ask you this: Do you listen to Christian Music? If so, what do you like about it? Do you think that Christian Music lacks creativity?

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11 thoughts on “Creative Differences…

  1. Cindy Knull says:

    I do not listen to Christian music. It is very rare that I find a song that causes me to pause and take note. I would rather listen to silence. That’s sad.

    • I’m sure there’s some good stuff out there, but I am so out of the loop now. Listening to 104.9 or 88.7 just isn’t a regular occurrence, and like I said, not sure those stations are aimed at me.

  2. d-roc says:

    I haven’t listened to Christian music in a long time. I miss some of the bands like Jars of Clay and dcTalk, but for the most part, they do nothing to satisfy my musical hunger. I think most christian music is mediocre, bland, boring, and typical. I stopped listening to the Christian rock bands because of this and started mainly listening to worship music. But now, I think most worship music is mediocre too.

    You can hear passion in a voice and when I hear more passion coming from a secular band than I do a christian band, that’s who I will gravitate towards. “Contemporary” christian music just means watered down. Right now there are several worship bands that have very passionate music, but you won’t hear it on “The River”. It’s not safe.

    Recently, I had a more religious experience listening to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” than I have had with any worship song. It made me so happy, It almost brought tears. I praised God for that moment.

    • Funny you mentioned that… I am often moved by secular songs that have passion or express real emotion. Always love a good Rock song.

      I will say this though, Bethel seems to always have worship that hits the mark for me personally. Jesus Culture and Bethel’s main worship teams always seem to have passionate, moving stuff.

      • d-roc says:

        Agreed. Jesus Culture, and Misty Edwards are who I’m thinking of, just to name a few.

        Clarification: I still listen to worship music. I just haven’t been moved by much on the radio stations.

  3. Bill Moore says:

    I hope there is a follow up blog that talks about the piles and piles of absolute crap that passes as mainstream music. I also find it interesting that people who only know a few Christian groups, some of who are no longer making music, still feel like they can make an honest assesment of the industry as a whole. All art is subjective. To expect a reasonable concensus to be reached on this topic is unrealistic.

    • I guess I should of mentioned that, but I thought that was a given. There are tons of awful songs out there, both Christian & Secular.

      My hope was, with all your knowledge, you might bestow some wisdom on us. Help us out with examples of good Christian music… we should have recorded that conversation!

  4. Cheryldonnelly says:

    I still listen to MWS, Amy Grant, SCC, Out of the Grey, Jars, Bebo Norman, Brandon Heath, Jadon Lavik, Aaron Schust, Leeland, Lincoln Brewster, Sanctus Real, Starfield, Toby Mac. Some are old favorites that just have sentimental value. Some of these people actually put out new music that I enjoy. I don’t care what anyone else thinks, I like what I like and that is that. I gave up on being cool with my musical taste back in 1998 when I started listening to Christmas music in August.

    I listen mainly to worship music on my daily commute – Jesus Culture & Bethel Live. But worship music is all about the lyrics for me, I can overlook a tune that’s uncomplicated, simple, or sounds just like the tune I heard 5 songs ago.

    And once in a while I throw on a little Avalon and sing along at the top of my lungs.

    • Cheryl, for you, the lyrics are huge. I think the music is secondary for you… I tend to be the opposite. I need a good hook. Which isn’t necessarily that creative all the time, but music is big for me.

  5. Larry Castle says:

    I pulled up my iTunes sorted by number of plays to make sure I give an honest answer here. The top 15 songs were by Sara Groves. Next up in number of plays were Brandon Heath, Train, Chris Tomlin, and Gungor… in that order. Note, my three daughters have had some influence on the number of plays of certain songs (cough…Hey, Soul Sister).

    Funny that Gungor made the list considering that I just stumbled across them a few months ago and some of the others have been in my library for years. I have their two most recent albums and really like their music. I think I like them because they’re “creative”. Just kidding I said that because he made such a big deal of it in the post.

    Seriously, I think my all-time favorite artists are my favorites because the way they match the music of a song to the words. I love it when a song makes you stop and think, “That’s so cool how she composed music that was so appropriate to carry that message.” It’s pretty subjective yet it feels certain like a science. For examples of what I’m talking about, listen to “See The Glory” by Steven Curtis Chapman, “Tornado” or “Maybe There’s A Loving God” by Sara Groves, “Tick Tock” or “Smell the Color 9″ by Chris Rice, or “Dry Bones” back-to-back with “Beautiful Things” by Gungor.

    That’s what I listen to the most. I made some other comments about Michael’s post on his blog and reposted them on the Backspin Radio blog. Basically, I wonder if trying to make a Christian version of the music industry is the problem. I love the approach of our old friend Brian Hulsebus and Son of Adam. Be a good bad that is made up of Christians and be light in the wider industry. Not sure how that would work out practically but I love it in theory.

    • Larry, couldn’t agree with you more. I think in the end, I understand how CCM came into existence and why it was an amazing thing at the time, but I appreciate those who can make soulful, thought provoking music without being labeled or neglecting creativity to take an easier path. Music, like so many other art forms, is subjective. There’s no way everyone can agree.

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