Sunday, January 16, 2011

Of ministries and music

Happy 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time! Before I get into the music, I'd like to share a little bit about my life.

In the late-90's, I remember coming home and flipping on the tube to watch Nickelodeon after school. You know, stuff like Rugrats and The Angry Beavers. In my teenage years, my favorite channel became Cartoon Network, specifically because of the Toonami programming block. G Gundam, Dragon Ball Z, YuYu Hakusho... that was my thang.

I would always stick around for the commercials (I had nothing better to do), and the advertisements that would always catch my attention were the infomercials for music compliations. I don't know why that was... I mean, just the other day I watched Nickelodeon (now Nick) and Cartoon Network (now CN) and that made me remember that there were commercials for Chef Boyardee and Nerf back in my day, too. Anyways, these multi-CD collections (which could be yours for just $19.99, or two payments thereof) would be presented at least once a day and were mostly ballads (the one by Time Life always comes to mind). But every once in a while (usually on a Sunday), there'd be a commerical about a soft Christian music collection.

Although the songs are nice and comforting, that's what most most people's perception of Christian music is. Not that that's a bad thing, but when you lump all Christian music together and compare it to a nature sounds disk, you're really limiting your scope. The songs from these commercials are typically from a genre called Contemporary Christian Music (or CCM). These are the songs that can be family-friendly without being family-oriented (you know, like the real novelty kiddie songs). Just easy-listening centered around the Lord of all. A contemporary (i.e. - recent) example of CCM is "More" by Matthew West.

CCM can be considered to be in between two genres: Praise & Worship and Christian rock. The former places heavy emphasis on making the songs out to be prayers and making the prayers out to be a road of communication to God. It's not uncommon for these songs to run for 6+ minutes (the best ones do), like "Desde Mi Interior" by Hillsong United. On the other end, Christian rock trades in the acoustic guitars and grand pianos for electric buzz. Christian rock is to the Christian music umbrella as pop-rock (Simple Plan, Avril Lavigne) is to mainstream. An example is "You Are" by Ruth.

But wait, there's more! If you continue reading now, you'll learn that there's further diversity in Christian music!

Christian punk takes the punchy energy of punk rock and replaces the anarchist lyrical content with Christian themes about societal norms and teenage "survival skills." Relient K shows this in "My Girlfriend." Christian metal (also called white metal, as opposed to black metal) is derived from the post-grunge and alternative metal scenes and primarily deal with themes like sorrow, anguish, salvation and redemption. Red is a big name here (see "Already Over").

Christian metalcore takes what most would call "devil music" to reach the unsuspecting headbanger and tell them how great and loving the Lord is. A staple of this genre is "In Regards to Myself" by Underoath. There's also Chrisitan hip-hop (Lecrae, DC Talk), but I'm not as well versed in those genres. Nonetheless, it is definitely popular and there are hundreds of talented unsigned MCs, like Dy-Verse, who lay it down for the kingdom.

Unfortunately, there are some artists who are wolves in sheep's clothing. Some bands are just in it for the money, like Cartman in the episode "Christian Rock Hard." They label themselves as "Christian" to get the ticket placement, but portray little (if any) Christianity in their music. Other bands, like Flyleaf and Anberlin, are the other way around: the public labels them as "Christian," but they reject the title. In these cases, the argument is that although members of the group are Chrisitan and their lifestyles are reflected in their writing, they don't want to be "limited" to that one aspect. Ultimately, it boils down to the eye of the beholder... err, the ear of the listener. In my music library, I have Skillet under "Christian Rock" and Switchfoot under "Alternative Rock." After enough exposure, you start to make your own criteria for how "Christian" a Christian group has to be.

Hopefully this helped clear up some misconceptions. I know I couldn't get everything (I didn't even hit country, which has it's own subdivisions), but I think that's enough for one post. Go on and celebrate the Day of Rest!

"Your Grace Is Enough" by Matt Maher

You've one life left to live,

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