Dear Christian music,
Hey, how’s it going? What have you been up to lately? Myself, I’ve been good. Trying to get used to the whole full-time job and married-with-a-puppy life, but I couldn’t complain. What about you? How’s Chris Tomlin? Is Michael W. Smith still hanging around?
Anyway, I thought I’d write you a letter. You see, I’m a little angry with you. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed a lot of what you’ve had to offer over the past few years. And your old stuff is good too- love me some Rich Mullins. I could do without the metal-ly sorts of things you allow, but I won’t get picky.
The things is, I love you. And that’s why I’m writing this letter. Is it too much to ask that you rethink the whole worship music scene? I get that it’s supposed to be simple, and God knows I love a lot of conventional worship songs. But is it too much to ask for a little creativity every now and then?
Take that new single by John Mark McMillan– “Future / Past”. The guy could hardly be described as conventional before this, but it’s safe to say this is one song of his that seems to conform to what we expect from worship music- relatively simple and repetitive lyrics, verses that escalate in intensity towards the chorus, choirs singing in the background, etc. The man is even allowing his voice to resemble other humans’; it hardly even sounds guttural anymore.
But McMillan’s sudden slide towards the mean only serves to highlight what’s been missing from worship music in the first place. These things include, but are not limited to, 1) arrangements of music beyond guitar chords building on top of each other; 2) lyrics that don’t eschew imagery and eloquence in order to be easier to remember or even to sing at all (I mean: “The constellations are swimming inside / The breadth of your desire”, wow); and 3) opening songs with sweet, sweet saxophone solos.
I’m not saying every song has to sound like “Future / Past”; that would be boring (but better than every song sounding like “Above All”). But it wouldn’t hurt to look for some different things to incorporate into the songs we use to worship our God. God made us to be creative beings. There’s value in sticking with a good thing that works, but God injected a lot of diversity into his creation. To reflect him is to do the same with ours.
I love you, Christian music. I’m not ashamed to say it. This isn’t a breakup letter. Just a “come to Jesus” sort of moment for our friendship (HAHAHAHA). Let’s make plans to hang out soon.
P.S. Btw, the album sounds just as sick. Check it out.