Thursday, October 25, 2012

What's the opposite of "suckage"?

 (Source)


So I did a post about Contemporary Christian Music's (CCM) supposed suckage in the minds and ears of quite a few. It went up, but the views for it didn't. At least that is, until the very cool Matt at The Church of No People kindly retweeted the link.

Quite suddenly, a bunch of peeps in the Twitterverse let me know, in no uncertain terms, that CCM is, if not awesome, at the very least, the opposite of "suckage". At first, I got scared. Really. See, I've found myself cornered by anonymous folks on the Interwebs in the past, trying to converse to no avail. So when I saw all those "@alishadefreitas" comments... I felt a chill.

But I warmed quickly when I actually read through the replies. There was no attack on me, just heartfelt defenses by music lovers. Once the convo got going, I asked two of the Tweeps if they would do an interview via email... and they agreed. Yeah! So please allow me to introduce you to Claire (@claireshegoes) and Ben (@bhrome).

Ladies first, so without further delay, the lovely, bespectacled Claire from Canada:


Claire

AD: How long have you listened to Christian music?

C. I want to say that I’ve been listening to Christian music in some form my whole life. When I was a child my parents played different records. I can’t remember the artists’ names. But I recall that certain artists sang only about Jesus and God's love. 

My parents also sang in church.  My mother often did solos.  I remember crying because her voice touched me so deeply.


AD: CCM is a broad term. Which particular type of Christian music do you listen to most? Rock? Rap? Worship? Country? Gospel?  

C: In the CCM world, I listen mostly to gospel and pop, along with some rock.

AD:  I quoted a lot of folks in that post. Are there any points you agree with? With what did you most disagree?

C: Among the people you quoted, I agreed the most with Benjamin Drew Griffin.  There will be diversity among the sounds—and quality of sounds—in the CCM canon.  I don’t think it’s realistic for people to expect anything else.  

I also agreed partially with a quote you took from Action Magazine. I know from experience that repetition of lyrics can grate on people’s nerves. 

However, I disagreed with the writer later on within the same passage. I remember that he had an issue with people referring to God as “worthy”. When I read his words, I became upset.
I wondered who he was that he felt qualified to criticize someone's diction so closely. All any of us has when we approach any subject is our own humble, human vocabulary. Although the word "worthy' may not do God justice, I don't know how someone could fail to see that someone was using it with the intent of honoring Him. 

Beyond that, I absolutely disagree with Father Longenecker, who stated that--regarding CCM, “Too often the audience actually like the crap that is being dished up.” Different lyrics, tempos, and styles of music mean different things to different people. I don’t see his reason for tarring all Christian music with a “crap” brush. 

More importantly, though, I have a question about a declaration that he made, which was echoed in D-Sane’s words. Father Longenecker said, “…the problem with most ‘Christian’ music is that it is secular music with Christian words.”What do people mean when they say this? And honestly, what do they expect? Is CCM supposed to utilize other-worldly instrumentation and lyrics? Human beings are only capable of doing so much.

To be fair, though, I will admit something. A few years ago I caught myself cringing over a couple of CCM artists. When I listened to them, all I heard was a bastardized version of Britney Spears. 

Hence, I'd like to clarify my position. Although I can see the problem with plagiarism and artistic laziness, I don’t object to parallel genres within the field of CCM. The majority of society has been conditioned to listen to music that adheres to certain patterns. 

Which brings me back to my main question: what do critics want CCM to sound like?
If it is supposed to be different from secular music, just how different is it supposed to be? Are there specific guidelines that musicians ought to follow? For all of their complaining, there has been very little explaining.

A great deal of energy is spent insulting CCM and stating what it shouldn’t be. How about some concrete ideas regarding what it should be?



AD: Do you listen to secular music? If no, why? Do you believe its wrong or sinful? If yes, who? What do you listen to most, secular or Christian?


C:  I listen to secular music, probably more often than Christian music.  I enjoy pop,  as well as contemporary and classic rock and soul.  I appreciate artists such as Jill Scott and Jason Mraz.

AD: How long have you been a Christian?

C: I’ve been a Christian since childhood. However I haven’t always gone to church.
 
AD: Do you go to church regularly? If yes, what type of music is sang? Hymns? Praise & Worship?

C:  I’ve recently begun to attend services again. The church I am visiting plays a combination of traditional hymns along with contemporary praise and worship music.

AD: How important is music to you?

C: Music is my lifeline. I truly believe it is one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity. It restores my soul. It helps me to stay sane and focused.
 
AD: How do you listen? iTunes? CDs? Radio? Pandora?

C: I usually find music via iTunes. 
 
AD: Do you have a favorite artist?

C: Currently my favorite CCM artist is Mali Music.

AD: What would you say to those who feel CCM is weak or lacking artistry?

C: Stop whining. There are terrible artists in every genre of music. Get over the idea that the quality of any and all “Christian” music represents you.

Let’s look at another genre. Based purely on stereotypes, I’m supposed to be attached to R&B. But do you think I’m happy with every so-called soul singer that I hear? Absolutely not.

Meanwhile, I actually feel defensive when people say things such as “rap sucks” because I know differently. I don't see the sense in insulting an entire style of music because of a few unimpressive artists.

The quality of any type of music depends on the artist that a person is listening to. I think that it’s foolish to negatively depict an entire genre of music simply because a few artists are flawed.
If nothing else, I think that the critical vocabulary surrounding CCM needs to change. Alisha, your blog post isn’t the first time that I’ve heard that Christian music “sucks”.  I think that those who dislike CCM could do a lot better in terms of how they describe what they dislike.
Over the years I’ve heard a lot of complaining about CCM with very little offered in terms of means of improvement.

Hence, if someone thinks CCM sucks, I say to them, “Fine.”

Write your own material. Record it. Perform. 

But whatever you do, go beyond the notion that CCM is the worst thing ever. Because really, it’s not.

AD: Do you identify as a particular type of Christian? Baptist? Presbyterian? Pentecostal? Catholic?

C:  I think of myself as a non-denominational Christian.

AD: Anything you want to add?

C: Thank you for asking me to share my thoughts with you! I'm really grateful for this opportunity.

You're welcome! Thank you for taking the time to respond and to do so with so much thought, depth and charity! 

If, like me, you find Claire to be smart and interesting, follow her on Twitter or check out her blog. Next up, D.C.'s Ben Rome takes the virtual center stage.

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