>The CCM

>There is something that has been bothering me over the past few weeks, and is something that, for the simple fact that it bothers me, will irk most of the people around me.

I do not pretend to be a great musician, but I believe that I have earned some sort of credibility to kind of know what I'm talking about if I critique or praise or point out details of a certain work of music. I'm not a music snob and I do not worship one genre or one musician more than they deserve, and I try to take my influences from all reaches of the universe of musicality. I don't automatically change the song every time I hear power chords or punk rock riffs, I don't turn down the volume when someone starts screaming, I even sit through, and enjoy, opera. I have playlists on my iTunes ranging from "Oh! So Epic" to "It's Happy Cause It's Poppy," "Techno School, Pt.1," and "Christmas Songs." I don't hate Jack Johnson, I believe that a little bit of Hardcore is good for the soul, I think that the piano is the only instrument that can, at any time, make you feel like you're in love, and I can't wait to learn how to play the banjo. I have learned every major, harmonic, melodic and natural minor scale, conqured the church modes, grasped transposition, studied Bach and Beethoven and Buxtehude, and played Gospel Blues with Jamaicans.

But I can't bring myself to classify Contemporary Christian Music as.... good music. The reason that this bothers me is that it has that label slapped on it, the same label slapped on me and on everyone who strives to be a "little Christ," and it hurts me to know that His name is associated with something that is not solid. Yes, the lyrics of most of today's CCM are bold, Christ-centered lyrics that can be incredibly powerful, but they are backed by a shocking lack of musical demonstration. I do not have a problem listening to songs that consist of only 4 chords (punk rock has a special place in my heart), all I ask is that you do it well and with a twinge of originality and passion. I accidentally turned on J103 the other day and was blown away by how each song ran into each other, with the only separation between the same chord changes being the sound of the DJ's voice. We have mistaken well-produced for well-written, and as the icing on the cake, we have slapped Jesus' name on top of it.

The last time I checked, Jesus never settled for mediocrity. We serve a God that created an entire universe teeming with life and beauty and color and innovation and vast enough to leave nothing but incredulous bewilderment at the onset of attempting to comprehend it all, and the genre we associate with him is filled with nothing but similarity? Somehow, that seems blasphemous.

This is not to say that there aren't exceptions to this rule. Like every rule, there are bound to be exceptions, and I do believe that they are rising up daily. But sometimes, for one reason or another, they have decided that selling out to a cheap style is a worthy use of the gifts they have been given.

I realize that many are going to disagree with everything that I've said, because what I have are mere opinions and there is no way of convincing someone that opinions are fact. I realize that some people enjoy CCM, and to those people I say keep it up! It does good things, and is encouraging to a large number of people, filled with lyrics of hope and inspiration and joy. If this person is you, then keep listening to what you are listening to, but just... don't be afraid to branch out and listen to some other styles of music. For the most solid lyrics and some of the best musicality you can find, check out As Cities Burn or Edison Glass, Emery or Brave Saint Saturn, Mikeschair or House of Heroes... I just said these off the top of my head, and if you would like a list of some easy alternatives, just let me know and I'd be glad to help you out :)

What I'm trying to say is let's not settle for a simple chord progression simply because it's easy to play. Why use just watercolor when oil is available? Why play on gravel when there's a court just over the fence? Ok. Done with stupid analogies. My God is one that doesn't do the mediocre. My God is the one that created the diversity that we have represented all around us, the inspiration for ten thousand songs.

Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.