“The Music” Vs. “The Message” (w/poll)

January 9, 2009

Sometimes, the inspiration for threads here in the Chamber come from rather odd places, and this is going to be one of those times.  You see, yesterday, I was hanging out on the showroom floor at the dealership, and I couldn’t help but notice that the background music playing over the speakers was what I used to call “Jesus music” (these days, usually referred to as “Contemporary Christian“).   It was playing all day.

At first, I couldn’t understand why in the heck someone would decide such a thing was appropriate for the environment (considering the fact that any Buddhist, Hindu, Hmong, Jew or Muslim could walk through the door and want to buy a car), but then another thought struck me.  First though, I should say that, during my time in this particular profession, I’ve come to realize that this genre is more popular than I would have expected, based on how many radios are tuned to KTIS when we hop into customer’s cars and run them through the wash.  But I didn’t really take the time to stop and ponder it all until yesterday.  christian-albums

In any case, the thoughts began with something like “What the heck is with this stuff, anyway?”.

I’ve got to wonder if anyone would be rocking out to “Awesome God” if you changed the lyrics to, say, something about beer.  Or women.  Or politics.   Also, is it just me, or do all the male vocalists sound the same?  I mean, I think I could tell that I was listening to CC before I heard the first “savior” or “redeemer” uttered in the song, just based on style.  I dunno, there’s just something about it that gives it away. 

Look, I enjoy all kinds of music.  My MP3 player often skips from reggae, to pop, to classical, to metal, to hip hop when I’m playing it.  I can understand why some people enjoy opera and country, even.  But the vast majority of what I was listening to yesterday was just plain bland and mediocre.

So, I guess I have to assume that our KTIS junkies out there listen to it for the message rather than the quality of the music.  I guess there is that choice.  But I can’t help but think that, at some point, one would have to deduce that what you’re listening to is simply the best material recorded by people who happen to sing about Jesus, and that you’re ignoring the huge selection of tunes out there that are really much better from the perspective of raw musical talent.   So why continue?  Perhaps it could be viewed as a sacrifice of sorts, like some kind of perpetual Lent?   


I had this discussion with my girlfriend, and I was surprised to find out that the lyrics themselves actually effects her taste in music as well.  Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be that shocked, ’cause once I thought about it for a second, I guess I could understand that there would be people out there who can’t get into anything instrumental, no matter what sub-genre.  A sort of a “can’t like it if I can’t sing it” mentality.  And if one is going to sing it, it’d be more entertaining if the subject was something meaningful to them on a personal level, I imagine.   That’s her, and maybe that explains the KTISers as well.

As for me?  I told her that I’m quite the opposite; the song could be about a dog taking a poop on a rug, and as long as it was catchy, I’d probably like it.   It’s definitely more about the rhythm and harmony in my world.  Give me some powerful chords, groovy beats, and impressive solos, and I’m usually diggin’ it.  

So, I have to ask, who’s more weird?

(I suppose there could be a third, less common category: principle.  By that I mean the selection was about the artist him/her/themselves, and not the lyrics or music per se.  For example, you choose to listen to U2 because of the work Bono does, or don’t, based on it.  What happened with the Dixie Chicks might be another example)

-Exit question:  Is there a name for the two schools?  Or should we coin them in this thread?

-Added miscellaneous factoid:  Did you know that they sang “Shout to the Lord” on American Idol last year?  I didn’t think I’d see that, but here it is:



  1. I can imagine the potential directions this thread could take.
    Suffice to say I’ve always been a message person. Even in the punk days I was never about the razor edge chords and rapid fire bashing of the band. I’m of the camp that if the beat is all you need you’re missing out in the higher neurons department, no offense CZ.
    I apply the logic when I occasionally defend some rap/hip-hop. Many of the lyrics have something real to say even when mashed in with soundtracks and ripped off material.

  2. I’m of the camp that if the beat is all you need you’re missing out in the higher neurons department, no offense CZ.

    Certainly not just the beat, but following your logic, I suppose you’d consider Mozart and his fans a little blockheaded?

    Or, how about jazz. Is there a message in jazz?

  3. Well I’m all for people having their likes. I actually listen to classical to veg out. I don’t like jazz although I blatantly lied my ass off once and said I did and named like three jazz guys I knew just to make a blind date with a cutie work a lil better. As a rule though jazz does suck

    • Yea, jazz does suck.

      How’d it work out with the cutie jazz lover, though?

  4. Let’s put it this way I could’ve written a good Blues tune about it/

  5. I don’t know man. I think “My state treasurer is an awesome state treasurer” is a top 40 hit just looking for a contract.

  6. Eh, I like jazz too, but prefer it live. Certain musicians I will listen to just to see how they improv though. As for CC music, I generally think it sucks bigtime. Not because of the message either, just because it’s the same canned crap even in it’s “edgier” presentation that passes these days as the radio-friendly version of alt/punk. It’s just the same ‘blah’ to me that bands like “Slipknot” offer. I guess I’ll always be for more underground types of music.

    I still consider early U2 to be Christian, even newer U2 (“Mysterious Ways” is apparently about Mary). They also considered themselves a Christian band as well, they just played to all audiences. “Gloria” is a great profession of Faith, but it also just rocked unlike most of the modern stuff.

  7. Goodness, Chen, you’ve hit one of my favorite topics. I don’t have time for deeper analysis right now but I’ll give a quick intro to Rutherford-as-music-lover.

    Favorites (some going back to my teen years):
    Alice Cooper
    The Rolling Stones
    Creedence Clearwater Revival
    Green Day
    Oscar Petersen (yes, jazz)

    I’ll be back later with my take on music vs lyrics.

  8. I was a hard-core heavy metal drummer for a few bands in my youth.

    With that said, I could rarely even hear the singing while playing. And when I could, I sure couldn’t understand it.

    For me, it’s almost all about the music. Although, when there are lyrics added that I can understand and get into, that just makes the song all the better.

  9. I like most kinds of music, everything but very hard hard rock where the only thing possible to get from it is hearing loss. But listening to music with a good message, or, at least, without a bad message, is very important to me. It isn’t so much that I don’t like the beat or music, it’s that I don’t think that what they sing about is good to listen to. So yes, I am one of those people who listens to christian music.

    “…tunes out there that are really much better from the perspective of raw musical talent.”

    I would disagree, while I won’t say that any music has a monopoly on talent, many of our “mondern” music misses talent because of the way the songs are written. Christian music, though, is able to use a lot of that talent because of it’s diversity. Name a type of music, and chances are that christian music has an equivalent. Their are certain talents that christian music doesn’t use (yodeling is not very popular in christian music today), but I think they have most of their bases covered.

  10. Lex U2 a Christian band ? First I ever heard of it. I always saw them as a post punk political band. Politically “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is a better tune than if you want to believe it’s somehow a Christian anthem

  11. Alfie–they mixed political strife in their native Ireland (as in Sunday, Bloody Sunday) with their devout Christianity. It was often mentioned in interviews as well that they prayed before every concert and that bassist Adam Clayton was the only member who didn’t. Sheesh, half the songs on their early albums are Christian; check out Boy, War and October. “Gloria” is just my favorite example. But when those albums were current, their religion was constantly in the spotlight (what little shown on more underground music at that time).

  12. Lex…You learn something every day even on a blog. I didn’t like their early stuff.I sold my copy of October two days after I bought it. Turned down a chance to catch their last small venue gig in Boston back in the day.

  13. You horrible people badmouthing Jazz, how DARE you.I like it and i wont take this blasphemous nonsense!!
    But really i guess its just doesnt really matter what kind of music there is always more crap than the really good stuff ,the kind of music i like the best is the stuff that blows my mind by being something i never heard before, thats where the jazz comes into play imo the best improvisational musicians are the obscure ones that can play any style they like, most people would just think of it as noise. Like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtydMJKPEcU&feature=related

    The drummer is Han Bennink one of my favorite drummers i`ll never get bored listening to him, he also plays on cheese: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JL9BrZ-zUpQ&feature=related

  14. Wow, I was probably 8 when that came out. My Dad was a fan though so we listened together. He used to bring me concert Ts from Europe. LOL….I thought I was so cool. Google the lyrics from October, you’ll see what I mean. And the lyrics for “Gloria” especially. The only cool alt/punk song with a chorus in Latin and also a very Christian song.

  15. RP-

    I was a hard-core heavy metal drummer for a few bands in my youth.

    With that said, I could rarely even hear the singing while playing. And when I could, I sure couldn’t understand it.

    For me, it’s almost all about the music. Although, when there are lyrics added that I can understand and get into, that just makes the song all the better.

    Back in high school, I was very much into the death metal scene, and periodically went to shows when bands like Cannibal Corpse, Death, Obituary, etc. came to town. One of the shows I went to was to see a band called Living Sacrifice, which was basically the same music but with one exception: They sang about Jesus (the show itself was at a church). The band was very good live and there was a mosh pit and everything.

    Now, if you’ve ever heard just about any death metal record, you’d know that it is very hard to understand the lyrics. It’s intentionally that way, actually. So this is one of the rare genres of music that, unless you’re reading the lyric sheet, you’d struggle to tell whether the subject matter was about hacking off a head, strolling thru the park, or praising the Lord.

    Still, the crowd was noticeably different than what I had seen at the other shows. In fact, I’d say that the majority of the people there were the types that you wouldn’t expect to see at a Cannibal Corpse show in a hundred years. These people were in polo shirts and slacks, and not black concert T’s and torn jeans. Oddly enough, even though no one would understand what the heck the band was singing, there were still obviously people there who were there because of the “message”.

    I remember wondering if many of these people were going through that sort of “Lent” I mentioned in the thread. Like, they were suffering through the musical experience to simply gain the virtue of participating in a “Christian” event. This wasn’t “Awesome God”; it’s hard to believe that there was some sort of spiritual nexus going on with some uplifting choral/lyrical hymn. This was blast beats, downtuned electric guitars, and growling vocals. Sure, between songs the band would talk about their faith and whatnot, but to a casual listener of any of the albums, this stuff indistinguishable from good ‘ol death metal.

    To this day, I still can’t quite understand it, but this is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. I was there because I had heard the album and liked the music.

  16. Call me old fashion, as I find a small part of contemporary Christian music pretty good, but it is going to have to go a long way before it comes anywhere close to the beauty of traditional Christian hymns.

    And as far as ever reaching the zenith of Handel’s Messiah, or something like that, at the risk of sacrilege I’ll say something about a cold day in …., with words provided for the heathens. Read them closely and learn something.

    😛 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nnHksDFHTQI 😛

    It will be a shame if my friend Rutherford won’t be joining me in an eternal tribute to the master. The trip itself would be glorious as we jetted around the universe in the incorruptible body and learned George Bush wasn’t the problem.

  17. Tex, of all people on this board (being a Muslim Jazz and Metal junkie), I find that hymn to be quite fabulous, having encountered it while at the high school choir.

    Good times..

  18. Chen—no, no, no, you should’ve been at Morbid Angel shows. Right, Sphinx? LOL.

    Tex–good point, much of the music I grew up with had a very Christian message that was more along the lines of old hymns. “Angel Band” was one of the first songs I ever knew: “Bear my longing heart to Him, who bled and died for me; Whose blood cleanses from all sins, and gives me victory; Oh come angel band, come and around me stand, Oh bear me away on your snow white wings to my immortal home.”

    That was played at my Great-Grandfather’s funeral in 1935 and has always been a song played by my Georgia relatives among others in a similar vein (“What Would You Give in Exchange For Your Soul”, etc.) “In the Pines” doesn’t fit as well, but much of the “old mountain music” (as my Grandmother puts it) has Christian themes and lyrics.

    As for CC, it just bores me musically. Tex, agreed about Handel as well as J.S. Bach. Or Morbid Angel….ROFL.

  19. Man, we haven’t heard from my buddy DR II for a while now. I hope his wife is still doing okay. If I knew how to get hold of him, I would.

  20. Yo Tex. I’m alive. When I get home from work, I have such a chill in my bones, I can’t bring myself to the computer. My wife is doing good, so far. Huge ultra-sound tomorrow. God, I hope it all goes well.

    Yesterday, I learned that I don’t fear the reaper. That cloaked bastard came at me on I-96. I think he may have been disappointed in my reaction. Warned about bad roads, I was driving carefully down a 3 lane highway when out of nowhere I find my little effeminate red pick-up twirling 360’s from the right lane all the way to the far left lane. As smooth as can be, and amongst fast moving traffic, I continued to glide on black ice right into the damn wall, smashing into it Nascar style. At one point I was actually facing a rig head on. Its a cliché, but I swear time slowed down. I’m sure its some kind of built in coping mechanism, but I displayed no emotion whatsoever. Make the plainest face you can at the computer screen right now, and that’s how I stared at the rig/reaper. I was a goldfish. With that lifeless, stone face of mine, you would think I was in some daze, that my brain was blocking out what was going down. To the contrary I took in every little detail. I was even making eye contact with people.

    No doubt, after I crashed into the wall and my vehicle came to a stop, I was freaked out. I literally had to feel my head and face to see if I was ok. I then checked to see how many pieces my truck was in. All intact. I tried to start the thing. No go. Tried it again; and off I went. Parts falling of my car, but alive and on my way home! Wasn’t my time yet, I guess.

  21. (OT)

    Chenzhen, I have signed up for the alliance with two blogs and have yet to secure any ping backs.

    I had left you a message at the WPPBA page with both of my wordpress sites last week.

    If I’ve done something incorrectly, please let me know.

    My blogs are:


    I thought the alliance was a brilliant idea. If mine were functioning… that is-

    Thank You,

    Pumas Unleashed and Hillary Unleashed.

  22. ellurian-

    You haven’t received any pings because I hadn’t added your ping page to the code. In fact, I didn’t know that you had added ping pages until I checked your site.

    Anyway, I added both those blogs to the code and you should start receiving pings once people start using the updated version. Normally, I would limit everyone to one spot, but since there appears to be different material on each one, I’ll include them. I might have to dump one of them eventually, however, given the fact that I had to make room just to get yours in there.

  23. Glad you survived the train wreck. The Chamber wouldn’t be the same without you.

    Huge ultra-sound tomorrow. God, I hope it all goes well.

    Me too! You and your Mrs. will be in my thoughts. Let us know how it goes…

  24. @ DR yeah good luck.
    @ Chen feel free to take me off,I’m the “N” in alliance. I haven’t had a page for some time. Also post something for crying out loud.

  25. Thanks Chen,

    The information posted on my blogs will soon become seriously important with analytical insights explained and explored.

    We are headed for a very serious time in our history ie. Pain and Austerity.

    Thank You for making the extra room for my blogs.


  26. You are right, it is exact

    By the way, what do you think about this icons site?

  27. I consider, that you are not right. Let’s discuss. Write to me in PM, we will talk.

    By the way, what do you think about this icons site?

  28. Quite right! I think, what is it good thought. And it has a right to a life.

    By the way, what do you think about this icons site?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: