CNN Looks at the Issues within Christian Contemporary Music and Explores the Culture

Recently CNN had an article that looked at the issues inside the Christian contemporary music industry. This is a result of evangelicals increased engagement in politics. A few years ago I don’t think CNN would do such an article. It probes the culture and the problems inside the industry.   

“Music is the greatest communication in the world. Even if people don’t understand the language that you’re singing in, they still know good music when they hear it.”

Lou Rawls 

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psalm 19:14 NIV

Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. 

CNN had a fascinating article about the issues inside Christian contemporary music the other day. The article which looks at the culture, explores the industry, the business side and how its reacting to politics. Or how its not reacting. In the article you learn about how progressives and also mainstream artists like Bono from U2 regard Christian contemporaneity music. The issue as I see it is that if evangelicals are going to be involved politically then that opens up other aspects of their culture to criticism and scrutiny. That is how I see this article. The fact that CNN did a deep dive into evangelical Christian music culture is not something that would have happened a few years ago. But like much of evangelicalism if you look under the hood much of what is there is rotten and lacking substance. The CNN article can be accessed here

11 thoughts on “CNN Looks at the Issues within Christian Contemporary Music and Explores the Culture

  1. I remember CCM being a vibrant industry in the 80s and 90s. Along with the saccharine stuff you found on the radio, you could find much better lyrics in the alternative, rock and metal branches. They went into everything–hypocrisy in the church, marital problems, poverty, troubled kids, racism, war. Teri Desario did a song that probably would never be allowed today: “I will never be a soldier, marching off to war…ravage others if I disagree…all in the name of the Lord.” Some time in the naughts, though, that died out. I haven’t listened to anything new in the industry in well over a decade. Like the article said, they’re dominated by P&W now. Some time ago, I also read that labels don’t want to get into anything controversial, so nobody’s doing anything innovative anymore. It’s a shame.

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    • I agree with you as I was very familiar with the material in the 80’s and there was a wide mix of issues dealt with in the songs. I am more out of touch with things today, but from my limited experience I think that the metal and (I’m undoubtedly describing this genre wrong) rap/hip-hop genres are the likeliest to broach those more complicated issues today. It seems like most CCM outside of those areas today is geared towards becoming the latest contemporary worship songs in church services.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Remember Sixties music?

      I do, and it was a lot more than “Dope is Groovy!” and “Get Out of VIETNAAAAAM!” like you hear on “Oldies” stations. Sixties pop music was a time of wild experimentation, much of which ended up crashing and burning in the long term.

      By the Seventies, that experimentation had ossified into What Sells, and you had AM stations playing commercial bubblegum pop.

      “AM radio was playing Captain & Tenille over and over on heavy rotation while FM stations were doing “Twelve straight hours of The Grateful Dead”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nyssa of the Shire, the “classics” are the ones I call “Dope is Groovy!” and “Get Out of VIETNAAAAAM!”

        Some years ago at my shop, the PA system got tuned to an “oldies station” doing Sixties music. Total playlist of maybe 20 songs tops, on heavy rotation like Twisted Sister on 1984 MTV. Half of them were “Dope is Groovy!”, the other half “GET OUT OF VIETNAAAAAAM!”

        We had an employee mutiny within the week.

        Eighties music was also a high point; I recommend the soundtrack CDs to GTA: Vice City as a good sampler of Eighties pop music. (And if you can scare up MP3s of the two Vice City talk station soundtracks, they are hilarious parodies of NPR and general talk radio.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, that’s what I’m referring to as well. On TV shows, the rock music has a different sound to it–less of the protest rock, more of the Beatles/Monkees. Like, for example, when a rock band got marooned on Gilligan’s Island, I liked their sound. I remember going to oldies and classic rock stations as a kid, looking for more of *that*, but just found the usual protest and Doors and such.

        Oh, I know 80s pop music. I listened to quite a lot of it before hearing from adults that “rock music is of the DEVIL!!!!” and switching to Christian. But I only listened exclusively to Christian for a few years in the late 80s.

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      • Oh, I know 80s pop music. I listened to quite a lot of it before hearing from adults that “rock music is of the DEVIL!!!!” and switching to Christian.

        And did it seem like a consolation/booby prize for those who are forbidden to listen to the real thing?

        This might be a way to lead GUBAs (Grew Up Born Again) out of the Christianese Bubble. Expose them to the REAL THING. Like the sermon illustration how “you don’t learn to recognize counterfeits by studying counterfeits, you learn to recognize counterfeits by getting familiar with the REAL money.”

        After you’ve toured tracts of imaginative landscape with the likes of Professor Tolkien and Cordwainer Smith, the Christian-approved likes of Flame Tree Planet and Left Behind will seem incredibly LAME.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This reminds me of a great explanation video (though volume control varies in some places) from Youtube called The Problem with Christian Music by Josh Keefe, from a Christian’s point of view about the industry. I love his approach to the subject because I always wondered what it was that bugged me about Christian music as I was growing up… and now I nod along because he hit the nail on the head.

    And I’m gonna look up some of the artists he was talking about that break the mold.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Some of this could be CCM jumping on the bandwagon and going “ME, TOO!”, imitating all the problems of contemporary pop music:

      1) No matter what the preview still shows, this is a serious lecture about problems in pop music by Thoughty2. See how many of them also apply to CHRISTIAN(TM) music.
      2) ADBLOCKS ON before clicking — YouTube has more commercials than old broadcast TV.
      3) The same thing happened to Science Fiction in the 70s and 80s when it tried to become Respectable Literature and ended up acquiring all the bad habits of Respectable SERIOUS Literature.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. No wonder I hate modern pop music so very, very much. It doesn’t just happen to pop: It happens to every genre which gets popular (metal in the 80s, alternative in the 90s). The labels take it over and turn it into an Industry churning out cookie cutter songs that sound more and more alike. Alternative sucks now so I stopped listening several years ago. Alternative used to be innovative, but last I checked, it had all gone folksy. Hard rock was good for a long time, but for some years now, the local stations have been so stuck on playing the same 90s stuff over and over and over that I couldn’t stand listening to it anymore.

    Meanwhile, Goth/Industrial is fresh and vibrant, while most people still don’t know about it, so it struggles to stay alive.

    Incidentally, the same thing has been happening to book publishing. In workshopping and reading writing advice on the Net, I get tired of hearing how I should edit out the nuance and richness of my book so that it’ll suit time-crunched readers, or change it to fit a genre better.

    I detest formulaic fiction, and prefer books that are rich in characterization and aren’t afraid to explore wider themes. Yet I keep hearing that a book should be no more than this many words, with an opener that GRABS you, not too much description, not too much philosophizing, not too much “meandering,” and for goodness sake, you’ve gotta fit the genre expectations! Can’t cross genres, or nobody will know how to market it! Yet I still read novels which don’t follow any of those rules. I also avoid formulaic TV shows. I can’t be the only one out there.

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