Good read

August 16, 2006

Is It Really All That Bad?
At Christian Music Today, we’re often applauded for being objective, critical, and fair when it comes to opining about new music. After all, it can’t all be great. And one of my pet peeves is how some people insist that all Christian music is “good” because of its intentions—to glorify God, to witness to others, and so forth.

Conversely, it’s equally frustrating to hear people declare that “all CCM sucks.” There’s certainly nothing new about this mindset—it’s long been fashionable to bash Christian music for lack of quality or creativity. But over time, secular culture has learned to ignore CCM or accept it, if not occasionally embrace it. Today, it’s Christians that do most of the bashing.

Some bashers would say they only want to push Christian music to do a better job at being relevant to secular culture. Others are frustrated that CCM only succeeds in capturing part of the total Christian culture. I’m certainly with those who feel that Christian music doesn’t adequately embrace Christians who find success in the mainstream, like U2 and Sufjan Stevens. And I’m the first to admit that in recent years, the narrow scope of Christian music radio has me flummoxed.

But it’s shortsighted to proclaim all Christian music “bad” based on limited playlists and a few top sellers. How many are giving knee-jerk responses based on their limited exposure to the broad spectrum of CCM? Some even criticize the genre based on musical styles they never liked to begin with. Some readers rip into pop artists, only to cite hard rock bands as their preferred style of music. Some complain about a band sounding too emo-rock, using them as another example of bad Christian music, only to admit they don’t like emo-rock to begin with.

Friends, nowhere is it written that all Christians must appreciate all Christian music. We all have different tastes and opinions as to what is truly “good.” Growing up in the ’80s, I seem to remember enjoying as much as 20 percent of what was played on Top 40 radio. But I also appreciated being exposed to a broad range of musical expression, and that’s what’s missing in today’s compartmentalized culture.

Nearly half of the music we cover at Christian Music Today is ignored by much of the industry, or else lost in the shuffle—radio, media coverage, promotion, etc. Unfortunately, it’s often the good half that’s ignored or underplayed in a market that already has limited channels of exposure. Thankfully, it’s easier today than ever before to try out new music online. Rather than condemn an entire genre, music enthusiasts should do a little more digging and use media outlets like us as a guide. Odds are there’s a struggling artist or band out there you’ve never heard of before that’s right up your alley.

One of those artists might be in this week’s review coverage: Leigh Nash (formerly of Sixpence None the Richer), Sarah Kelly, Leeland, Jimmy Needham, Men of Standard, and the latest Hip Hope Hits compilation. You also won’t want to miss our deeply felt discussion with Sarah Kelly about her abusive past, or the poignant excerpt from Mark Hall’s new book, Lifestories, about Casting Crowns’ hit “Praise You in This Storm.”

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