Category Archives: Random

Why Most Christian Bands Stink

Stryper

“Christian rock?” I asked my friend Adam as he proudly pointed toward the new Stryper poster adorning his bedroom wall. “They can’t be real Christians!” I exclaimed.

“Yes they can!” Adam protested back. “They’re Christian rockers!”

I remained deeply suspicious, secretly knowing these Maya-the-Bee-cartoon-character-knock-offs in multi-colored tights were undercover agents of the Devil.

It’s kind of funny looking back on it. An eight-year-old, conservatively raised, Church of Christ preacher’s kid growing up next door to a much more expressive, nine-year-old, Pentecostal preacher’s kid (okay, so they weren’t really Pentecostal – they were non-denominational, but definitely with charismatic leanings).

More than once I’d told Adam it was a safe bet both he and his family were on their way to the hot place (I mean, several of them had mullets and were fans of Benny Hinn for goodness sakes). This whole “Christian rocker” thing was simply another log on the fire.

Stryper wasn’t the only baptized devil music Adam was in to – Petra, Carman, D.C. Talk – all were introduced to me by him way back in the 80s, and so I listened.

At first, I had no real frame of reference to compare Christian bands to, but as I grew older and was introduced to other more well-known “secular” bands – Beck, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Sublime, Alice in Chains, 311, and more – I realized just how sub-par Christian bands tended to actually be. They were several steps below the mainstream showing no real signs of improvement.

And so, after being into DC Talk as an eleven-year-old (after getting their Free At Last album for Christmas), I eventually became disenfranchised with “Christian” music. Not coincidentally, this move away from Christian music coincided with my move away from all things Christian – for many years I lived as an unbeliever.

But when I came to Jesus in my early twenties, I never returned to Christian rock. My foray away from faith for a few years had led me into the mainstream music industry working at several radio stations as a modern rock DJ (not that a Christian can’t be a modern rock DJ, but I certainly wasn’t). An expert, if you will, on the then-current rock music scene.

My taste in music had been refined. I’d observed enough as a working professional to recognize talent and distinguish the difference between a good band and the unfortunate alternative. As skill went, most secular bands didn’t make the cut, and Christian bands barely had a chance since, in their musical culture, real talent had largely been a missing key ingredient for years (you can accuse me of over-generalizing, but deep down you know I’m telling the truth).

In my estimation, bands were signed to Christian labels, not because they had the right “stuff”, but because they had the right message – the right lyrics. In Christian rock, the message in the lyrics had always been more important than the technical skill involved in creating a great track. This always irked me, because I believe an artist’s display of technical skill is part of the message of their art.

If a song is technically sound, that says a lot. Whoever produced it is saying, “I’m passionate about this. I care about this a lot. I care about what I’m saying in this song so much, that I want to do everything right to make sure you listen, because what I’m saying is really, really important. What I’m saying is close to my heart, and I don’t want anything to get in the way of the message of this song or the experience I want you to have in listening.”

Conversely, if a song is technically unsound and put together in a shabby way, that communicates a lot too. It says, “I’m not very passionate about my music. What I’m saying in this song isn’t incredibly important because I’m going to let all these other things distract you. Off key? No problem. Cheesy chorus? Check. Lyrics that could have been written by a first grader at recess? You got it. But hey, I’m in a Christian band, so the Christian label signed me because of my professed faith – not because of I have high level skill. Now listen and enjoy!”

Okay, so maybe I’m being a little harsh, but this is seriously where my mind goes when not enough attention is paid to detail by a “professional.” What they’re saying without knowing it is, “This really isn’t the right profession for me” (to be clear, I don’t apply this type of thinking to amateur musicians – just professionals or wanna-be professionals).

This is on my mind today because I just finished reading Body Piercing Saved My Life: Inside the Phenomenon of Christian Rock by Andrew Beaujon for a class I’m taking at Fuller. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to reading this book, but after diving into the first chapter a couple of days ago I knew the rest was going to be good and it was.

Beaujon is an excellent writer and regular contributor to The Washington Times, Spin Magazine, and several other noted publications. In addition to that, he isn’t a Christian, so reading his book covering the Christian music scene gave me an outsider’s perspective – something I really appreciate when it comes to any aspect of faith.

Beaujon, like me, believes that most bands active in the Christian music scene aren’t worth listening to, and (also like me) believes the reason most of them get signed to a label is because of their squeaky-clean image and the content of their lyrics – not because their musical talents and skills are outstanding. There are exceptions, however, and many are noted in his book.

I know Christian rock music has come a long way since the 80s. You people who listen to Jeremy Camp, Hillsong, Kutless, or Casting Crowns can put down your sticks – there are some good bands involved in the Christian music scene today, BUT they are few and far between. I believe the industry will remain this way until Christian labels and bands alike resolve to place the same amount of value on technical skill and production quality as is placed on message and band image.

Until this happens, Christians bands will continue to stink. But times are a’changing.

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Thanks for reading westcoastwitness.com

Just a quick post to say thanks for reading westcoastwitness.com. In early September this blog recorded it’s 20,000th hit after a little over a year in existence.

Today, two months later, it’s 30,000th hit was recorded.

Daily readership continues to increase, and for that I say ‘thank you.’

You make posting here worth it. 🙂

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Gross National Happiness According to Facebook

I just read a very interesting post on the Facebook blog.

Apparently for over a year social scientists have utilized computers to collect data from Facebook users’ status updates.

Here’s a quote from Facebook data team member Adam D. I. Kramer:

Every day, through Facebook status updates, people share how they feel with those who matter most in their lives. These updates are tiny windows into how people are doing. They’re brief, to the point, and descriptive of what’s going on this week, today or right now.

Grouped together, these updates are indicative of how we are collectively feeling. At Facebook, we’re always looking for ways to help people better understand the world around them, and we’re interested in how people express their emotions with one other and the world. So earlier this year, data scientists at Facebook started a project to measure the overall mood of people from the United States on Facebook, based on the sentiment expressed in status updates.

The result was and index that measures how happy people on Facebook are from day-to-day by looking at the number of positive and negative words they’re using when updating their status. When people in their status updates use more positive words—or fewer negative words—then that day as a whole is counted as happier than usual.

Though more countries or languages may be added later, the current result is notable since it is based on the updates of all English-speaking U.S. Facebook users. In this sense, it can count as an indicator of “Gross National Happiness,” a metric only measured currently via Gallup polls and national surveys in countries such as France and Bhutan. To protect your privacy, no one at Facebook actually reads the status updates in the process of doing this research; instead, our computers do the word counting after all personally identifiable information has been removed.

For our Gross National Happiness index, we adapted a collection of positive and negative emotion words built by social psychologists. Examples of positive or happy words include “happy,” “yay” and “awesome,” while negative, or unhappy words, include “sad,” “doubt” and “tragic.” We also did a brief survey of some Facebook users, which showed that people who use more positive words, relative to the number of negative words, reported higher satisfaction with their lives.

Cool.

I wonder how long it will be before this tool is used as commonly as the Gallup polls (if it’s used at all).

  

Check out the rest of Adam’s post here;  play around with the Gross National Happiness Index here.

Easter is on of the happiest days of the year in English-speaking countries. 🙂

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