Music and Lyrics and Controversy

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

I really don’t keep up with the Christian music industry much, but apparently singer/songwriter Derek Webb has released a “controversial” new single called “What Matters More,” which you can listen to here

A sampling of the lyrics:

You say you always treat people like you like to be 
I guess you love being hated for your sexuality 
You love when people put words in your mouth 
‘Bout what you believe, make you sound like a freak 
‘Cause if you really believe what you say you believe 
 You wouldn’t be so damn reckless with the words you speak
Wouldn't silently conceal when the liars speak
Denyin' all the dyin' of the remedy
Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?
Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?

The song is obviously a criticism of the Church’s preoccupation with things like gay marriage and politics in the face of more important issues like poverty. Webb goes on to say, “we can talk and debate until we’re blue in the face/about the language and tradition that he’s comin’ to save/meanwhile we sit just like we don’t give a shit/ about 50,00 people who are dyin’ today.”

While I certainly agree with the sentiment, I’m not crazy about the song itself or the (manufactured?) buzz about the alleged tension between Webb and his label. If using the word “shit” and singing about the shortcomings of the Church is considered highly controversial within this industry these days, then I guess I’m more removed than I thought I was.

But to his credit, Webb speaks for a lot of young evangelicals who feel disconnected from the mainstream and frustrated with current expressions of faith.  If the song is successful, perhaps we will see more like it in the future.

Meanwhile, in the real world, Regina Spektor has released a fantastic new album called “Far.”  My favorite song is “Laughing With,” which you can listen to here.

A sampling of the lyrics:

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’re starving or freezing or so very poor
No one laughs at God
When the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one’s laughing at God
When it’s gotten real late
And their kid’s not back from the party yet
No one laughs at God
When their airplane start to uncontrollably shake
No one’s laughing at God
When they see the one they love, hand in hand with someone else
And they hope that they’re mistaken
No one laughs at God
When the cops knock on their door
And they say we got some bad news, sir
No one’s laughing at God
When there’s a famine or fire or flood

But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke, or
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they’re ‘bout to choke
God can be funny,
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious
Ha ha

Ha ha

Personally, I think we can learn a lot more from Spektor’s song than Webb’s, as it is much more subtle, poetic, and profound. Plus, I enjoy the music more.

The truth is, I stopped listening to “Christian music” about 10 years ago and haven’t really looked back. This whole “controversy” over Webb’s relatively tame song reminds me of why I did!

What is your opinion of the Christian music industry? What do you think of Webb’s new song?  Do you think all the so-called controversy is just a publicity stunt to sell more records?

And, if you’re in the mood, how do you interpret Regina Spektor’s “Laughing With”? :-)

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