Saturday, 5 February 2011

The appalling CCM songs meme...

This is via Rev Sam originally from Doug aka Clayboy: 'Please try to name ONE (I know, there are so many to choose from) CCM praise song that you find unbearable and at least 2-3 reasons why, pointing to specific lyrics if you must.'

Like Sam I don't know any CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) stuff because I simply don't listen to it. However, anyone that goes to church often has to put up with 'praise' songs usually grouped under the 'Worship Music' category. So my example, written by 'leading worship leader Matt Redman' (and his missus) is this complete and utter drivel:
Let my words be few

You are God in heaven
And here am I on earth,
So I'll let my words be few-
Jesus I am so in love with You.

And I'll stand in awe of You,
Yes I'll stand in awe of You,
And I'll let my words be few-
Jesus I am so in love with You.

The simplest of all love songs
I want to bring to You,
So I'll let my words be few-
Jesus I am so in love with You.
The Meme requests that 2 - 3 reasons are given why it is unbearable:
  1. It's total crap
  2. It's unbelievably banal
  3. Whenever I have heard it sung/performed the irony of a relatively short song being 'repeated ad infinitum until blessed' never seems to occur to the band!
One day I will really say what I think on the whole genre, both from a musical perspective and, particularly from the marketing side; the fleecing of Christians, temple trading... I could go on and on (until blessed!).

When these guys not only spout their 'songs' but also intersperse them with indecipherable Christianese there is a sense that actually God's name is being taken in vain. Furthermore the whole scene is so self perpetuating in that worship music propagators now organise training seminars and conferences where they train fledgling church musicians/songwriters to simply carry on producing more of the same 'spot the difference' rubbish. They could do much better by suffering (in the best sense of the word) the mentorship of genuine mainstream musicians, writers and producers but that challenges 'safeness'.

We have such a vast resource of more deeply creative and spiritual songs from the panoply of inspirational mainstream artists. Let's play them both in our pubs and churches rejoicing in the clarity of the image of the Creator in their art.


Also see contributions by:
Jon Evens
Phil Ritchie

I tag Tim, Sally, R J, Mike, Graham, Archdruid Eileen

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Philip Ritchie said...

Pulling your punches I see Peter;-) Haven't come across this one and hope I never will.

Alice Smith said...

I've read Phil's and one another's response to this meme and really feel like I need to respond now.
It seems to me that there is a musical snobbishness at play around CCM (an acronym I had never heard til this meme and I listen to the stuff!) and it often comes down to music which is essentially 'front led' and 'modern' - for want of a better expression. My observation is that some are uncomfortable with a focus on a particular musician and also uncomfortable with the expression of emotions that is characterised through the words, music and style of 'CCM'. Many worship songs are sung and written to enable musicians of all abilities to play - simpler melodies and shorter songs, allowing those with musical skills to develop them in a worship context. In relation to youth ministry, trying to encourage young people to be involved in music in church is often only successful through more modern worship styles because, frankly, not many young people play the organ or want to play hymns or the more folky/Celtic worship offerings. I see more church based youth bands than Junior Choirs...and certainly those bands have a greater sense of community and discipleship ethos about them. IMHO...
I could name a vast number of hymn type songs (those in Hymns Ancient and Modern as well as those contained in Mission Praise) that are joyless, dirgey, incoherent, old fashioned and performed in a way which is anything but worship - but I should imagine that if a meme went round on that topic, there would be an outcry at the disrespect shown to such genres.
Perhaps I'm being sniffy too, but I do think it's unhelpful to brandish the 'banal, awful, terrible' label at songs which, while not exactly world shaking in their beauty, do stick around in the musical catalogue in the same way as some of the more appalling 18 and 19th Century offerings I am subjected to week in week out at Anglican Churches across this Diocese.

Peter Banks said...

Cheers Phil...!

Alice many thanks for your e-pistle and let me stress you make so many points that I totally agree with! For example, so many older hymns are dire, what is perceived as a 'folky' approach is never going to engage young peeps and the sense of community in bands is very special.

My concerns are about Worship Music as it is just a newer way of being exclusive in church. Totally into the idea of simpler melodies and shorter songs but why do we want to sing stuff that is so dumbed down both musically and lyrically to well below the standard of equally simple / shorter songs that are out there in the real world? We have a ready made repertoire of spiritual songs that can be sung with an attitude of engaging congregations AND visitors rather than of performance worship of obscure stuff visitors haven't got a clue about?

One of the issues associated with Worship Music from a young musician perspective, apart from the blatant commercialism, is it is a soft option, requiring little or no musician discipleship and promotes a shallow gospel, similar to Santa Claus v St Nicholas, it's not the real deal!

We have such an opportunity to redeem the culture around us, use that God given creativity in His name and be different enough so those on the fringes understand.

There is a fantastic talk given a five years, or so, ago by Steve Stockman at Greenbelt about the band from his church that plays in a club on Saturday with such spirit and enthusiasm, then go into church on Sunday, open their Soul Survivor music and just go through the motions 'leading worship'. Steve draws attention to a phrase Bruce Springsteen makes about the difference between 'Making Music' (what they were doing on Saturday) and 'Playing Music' (Sunday).

As I said in the post, I could go on and on...! Do check out my post from last Sunday about the service we just took at Billericay and the link to Bradwell, it explains by actions rather than words ;-)

Thanks so much for your contribution, appreciated.



Peter Banks said...

And another thing...!

One thing I should have said is it isn't really about musical styles, old v new etc. it is about being better. Now better doesn't necessarily mean technical brilliance, although that is highly desirable too.

For example, a lot of the best pieces, classical and pop, are often simple in structure. Sometimes the flaws in a great singer's voice are what gives them their unique, characteristic sound.

Sorry, rambling again!

Just spotted Kathryn's tweet about this meme and excellent blog entry suggesting a differnt meme with a more positive approach. That has got to be good!

Al said...

Yeah, I always wondered about the 'let my words be few' self-contradiction.

Several disjointed thoughts come to mind:
--If worship is actually to demonstrate the value we put in something or someone, then singing about it is feeble and weak in comparison to emulating what we actually say we worship. Much better to be out following Jesus than inside singing about it.
--about the banality etc. of CCM music. Like anything we write or say, it shows what we truly believe. It definitely shows holes in our theology.
--On the subject of simplicity, a couple local university students demonstrated that you can write and produce a marketable pop song in less than 8 hours (to prove how shallow they can be). I imagine they could have just as easily written a CCM song in the same time.
--And then there is the unspoken rule that a 'Christian' should really spend most of his entertainment cash on 'Christian' music, and rave about how wonderful it is.

Lately I've really been getting into Taize. Go figure.

Graham said...

I accept your challenge sir. Posting tomorrow...

Liz Hinds said...

I don't listen to Christian music either. Or read Christian books.

I don't think the words are too bad of that song actually but like you hate the way we repeat verses over and over.

Brian said...

Just feel I need to make a short response.

Over this past year I have found one particular band has recorded a number of songs which have enabled me to go deeper into worship. They are a "youth band" from Bethel, Redding, CA, but they still reach me despite the fact I am mid 60's! Several times I have found myself "overtaken" by the words and music. It has certanily enriched my Christian walk and spoken to me in ways I never thought possible. There is most definitely an anointing on these recordings!

Not all modern Christian is rubbish!

Sally said...

sorry it has taken me a while to catch up with this, will blog soon!

Peter Banks said...

Many thanks for more comments guys...

For Al to expanding on the theme, Graham for your post (I have read the responses too, see below). Liz you are still demonstrating your wisdom (although I think there are some fantastic books!). Brian, am interested to learn more, found your post about moving church fascinating. Sally, no worries!

One of the comments on Graham's post from Joe asks about starting a Meme to find 'great modern worship songs – hugely biblical, singable and powerful' - and post why they are good. This is not the best question and also, I fear, too bigger task.

The questions should be why is musical liturgy misunderstood and what is it truly for?

More sometime ;-)

Thanks again everyone...

Brays said...

Of course, the devil has all the best tunes... Him and Nasrat Fateh Ali Khan.

Tim N said...

Hello, Peter, I have decided to register because I find the discussion - especially this one - stimulating. It is coincidentally running parallelto a similar blog discussion over on "Musicademy" which is a resource of/for thinking creative people involved with music in worship. Only here is a bit more extreme ;-)
One problem, of course, for singing "mainstream" songs in church would be about rights & fees would it not? I know in Germany (& presumably internationally) churches generally have licences to cover the performance (but not recording) of most published CCM worship music. So, selectivity become an important ability (including flushable judgements!).
Another alternative,which I modestly explore is "write your own" - but it's hard to write for corperate worship.Maybe that's why the standards slip?
Love and respect all the comments here! Wish I could have been at Billericay. Oh, and by the way , excuse my ignorance, but what's a Meme? (I'm new to this)

Peter Banks said...

Thanks for your erudite comment The Brays ;-)

Good to see you here, Tim and for your contribution!

A couple of important points. Firstly there is NO issue of rights and fees for utilising any music in Worship. In fact it is also enshrined in UK law that NO fees / royalties are due either. Over here
churches have been bamboozled into coughing up for a 'Christian Copyright Licensing International' (CCLI) license to even play songs in church. This clearly contrevenes the law. The Performing Rights Society (PRS) has a clause in it's list of exclusions for music as follows:

6. Music used in divine worship
PRS for Music, at its discretion, does not make a charge for music used at a recognised Service of Divine Worship in consecrated places of worship (of any recognised faith), where no charge is made to attendees for admission.

Now I accept there is a case for charging churches fees where hymnbooks are effectively 'replicated' by using just using projection, but, sadly the reality is many churches pay to something that is just like a feudal tax! I discovered our church had been paying way over the odds for years...

I did check in at 'Musicacedemy' too, wow, did Matt Redman really claim he has 'never heard a bad worship song'??!! I really need to rest my case :-)

At the end of the day the debate over this type of music is low priority, I have never seen CCM or modern worship songs as valid... I also see the abuse of the CCLI as corrupt... on the other hand I know caring for the sick, poor, oppressed and lonely is an absolutely vital part of being a disciple.

Best, PB

nevell said...

I love the song "Jahwe" from U2. -A pure prayer! And "Magnificent" also from U2 is, to my ears a great worship song. (I was born to sing to you...) OK, so no great surprise there, but both totally mainstream. And they're not trying to sound like U2, like all the worship bands are...;-)