If you are new to Christian rock, please read this
post about the definition of Christian rock and some of the biggest questions about Christian music.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Issue-Based Lyrics Part 2

This is Part 2 of my blog posts about Issue-Based Lyrics. In part 1, I go into detail talking about lyrics and why bands choose to sing about everyday issues occurring in teenagers’ lives today. To see part 1, click here.

In this part, I am mainly going to give you more examples. Since, there are so many examples of great songs by Christian rock bands, I couldn’t squeeze all the songs into one post. The examples, in my second post, are going to be about different subject matter than my first post. My first post was about issues in kids’ lives today such as cutting, divorce, and suicide. Instead of focusing on these subjects again, the following songs strictly deal with love, peace, and faith in God.

This first song is by the hard rock band, Disciple. The song, After the World, is a ballad spoken from God’s perspective. This song describes how much God truly loves us. According to Kevin Young, lead singer of the band, this song is about people searching for something to fill a void in their lives, and finally realizing God can fill that void. “It’s basically a song where God’s saying, ‘Hey, that thing that you’re looking for, that purpose, that happiness, it’s me. I’m it,” said Young in an interview. This is the official video made for the song, After the World.

The second song is called Smiling Down. Pillar recorded this ballad in order to give people hope after the death of a loved one. This song was inspired by two events that happened in peoples’ lives who were close to lead singer Rob Beckley. In an interview, Rob Beckley goes into great detail about the song, so if you want to read the full interview, click here. But I will give you a quick recap. Part of the inspiration came from a family who’s 18 month-old son drowned in a pool at a church gathering. The second inspiration came from Rob’s cousin who passed away from cancer. This song is all about giving hope and peace to family members who have lost someone near to them. Smiling Down serves as an anthem to tell people everything is going to be okay.

This next song is Believe by the Letter Black. This song is all about standing up for your faith. The Letter Black boldly declares to have faith, belief in the unknown, and they are putting faith in God alone. This is an awesome hard rock band who firmly declares they are Christians, and they put their faith in Jesus Christ. This is the official music video for the song.

The fourth song is by Decyfer Down. The Best I Can serves to inspire listeners’ to never give up. We are all humans. Therefore, we all mess up and fail. But, we shouldn’t get down. Even though we mess up, God still loves and cares for us. God’s love is never ending no matter how many times we fail. This song talks about picking yourself back up after you fail, and continuing to try the best you can. In this video, Decyfer Down is performing an acoustic version of the song.

The final song is by a new band called Sent By Ravens. The song, Salt and Light, appeared on their debut album, Our Graceful Words. Salt and Light is a song all about love. This song talks about how God’s love is all we need. When we were born, we came into this life with nothing. But when we die, and go to heaven, we will leave with a lifetime of God’s love, and we will be entering heaven where his love is eternal.

I hope you have enjoyed my 2 blog posts about issue-based lyrics. Christian rock bands choose to sing about numerous issues in teenagers’ lives today, and they want to offer up hope to kids. Christian rock bands want to impact the younger generation through their music and serve as inspiration, hope, and the light of Christ to the kids they meet.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Issue-Based Lyrics

With this post, I want to talk about Christian rock lyrics. Within Christian music, there are two types of lyrics: issue-based, and worship lyrics. I am going to talk about issue-based lyrics and the purpose of this style of lyrics.

For the most part, Christian rock is an evangelism tool. Most Christian bands believe it is their job to evangelize to the lost. They believe their true purpose is outreach, and, by doing this, they are giving praise unto God.

You may ask, “So how are Christian rock groups witnessing and evangelizing to people?” Christian bands do it in a variety of ways including: on stage performances, personal testimonies, one on one talks with fans, and interviews. But, the main way Christian rock bands evangelize to the lost is through their lyrics.

The target audience for most Christian rock bands is middle school through college. Yes, there are older and younger people than that listening to Christian rock, but the majority of listeners lie in this age group. Therefore, most Christian rock groups choose to sing about subjects/issues going on in teenagers' lives.

In my post about the definition of Christian Rock Music, I go into detail about issue-based lyrics. I will give you a quick recap. I speak about how bands choose from a wide variety of topics. Most bands sing about everything from positive issues, like prayer and witnessing, to negative issues, such as alcoholism and cutting. There is a very fine line that Christian bands walk on when singing about negative subject matter. Most bands choose to sing about these subjects because kids are dealing with these subjects everyday. Christian bands believe that they can reach out to kids and witness to them by meeting them wherever they are. They want to show teenagers that even though they are alcoholics, or they are cutting themselves, or they are doing drugs, that God still loves and cares for them. With this subject matter, there is one major difference between Christian rock bands and secular rock bands. Secular rock bands glorify these subjects. Secular bands glorify alcohol, drugs, and suicide. On the other hand, Christian bands are showing kids that these are wrong, but God still loves and cares for them.

When starting this post, I realized, there are so many bands and songs that I could talk about. So instead of leaving out important and influential songs, I have decided to break this up into two parts. This part I am going to share with you five songs that solely deal with issues going on in teenagers' lives today. I am going to use a variety of Christian rock genres and styles. I have a piano ballad, a punk rock ballad, an alternative rock song, a hip-hop song, and a hard rock song.

This first song is a piano ballad by the pop rock band Nevertheless. The song is called Topics and it was inspired by conversations the band had with kids after shows. In an interview, Nevertheless said so many kids were coming up to them after shows and spilling their guts. Teenagers were telling deep and dark secrets to the band because they did not feel comfortable talking to their parents or people in the church. This song highlights some problems that teenagers deal with. The goal of this song is to wake up the church to hurting kids. The band wants the church to again realize the idea of grace and not judgment.

Everything You Ever Wanted is a punk ballad by Hawk Nelson. This song is simply about divorce. It is told from the child’s point of view. The child is feeling guilt, shame, and anger over his dad leaving his family. But, that is not the point of the song. Hawk Nelson believes ultimately this song is about forgiveness and loving our enemies. “Things aren't perfect but that's life and we just need to know that. And this song says there is hope and you need to find resolution by forgiveness. And forgiveness is so essential, you know?” said lead singer Jason Dunn in an interview. This video features the band speaking about the meaning of the song and performing Everything You Ever Wanted.

The next song is an alternative rock song called The Way That You Are. This song, by The Classic Crime, is about standing up for yourself. The band uses a lot of examples of people going through tough times, and being told by everyone else that it is simply the way you are. In the song, The Classic Crime urges people that we should not be content in our problems, but we should look to God for healing and comfort. Even though we have so many hardships, sins, and disgrace, God still loves you just the way that you are.

This fourth song is a hip-hop song by KJ-52. This song is called Fanmail. This song is probably the most moving song on my list. Fanmail was conceived solely out of letters written to KJ from fans. The verses are excerpts from some of the received letters. This song talks about a wide variety of subjects including: cutting, rape, suicide, addiction to pornography, alcoholism, anger towards God, and struggling to fit in. The most important part of the song is the bridge. KJ-52 tells listeners that they are here for a reason and they are not a mistake. He goes on to say that Jesus Christ is waiting and willing to pick you up and help carry your burdens. Jesus Christ loves and cares for you, and desperately wants to have a relationship with you. This video is the actual music video shot for this song.

The final song is definitely one of the most unique songs Skillet has ever recorded. Throughout the song, John Cooper speaks the verses and sings the chorus. John Cooper believes this song is simply about making a difference in the world. “I feel the song 'Looking For Angels' is the most important and relevant song that I have ever written. It encompasses what my message is right now. With all the terrible things that are going on in the world, you can make a difference if you want to. You can be there for someone and you can be Jesus for someone who needs to experience that. You can be hope to someone who doesn't have any hope,” said Cooper in an interview with SoulShine. This video is the official music video of the song.

I hope you enjoyed this first look at some of the most important and influential songs in Christian rock. All of these songs are about issues happening in teenagers' lives today. Once again, these bands are reaching out to kids exactly where they are, and spreading the love of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Christian Metal and Screamo Part 1

With this blog post, I want to talk about some of the more controversial genres of Christian rock music, Christian heavy metal and Christian screamo in particular.

Before we can begin to dissect Christian metal, we must first look at the definition of metal music. According to the freedictionary.com, heavy metal music is, “loud and harsh sounding rock music with a strong beat; lyrics usually involve violent or fantastic imagery.” This is the definition of secular metal music, not Christian metal music. Christian metal bands do have a loud and harsh musical style with a strong beat. But the major difference is the lyrical content. Christian metal bands, in their lyrics, put an emphasis on issues happening in teenagers' lives today or they put Christ at the center of their lyrics.

Christian metal is controversial to not only Christians, but also non-Christians. Fans of metal music view Christian metal as lacking originality, or believe that the true purpose of metal music should reject religion, not embrace a religion such as Christianity. Some Christians do not believe that Christian metal, is Christian. I disagree.

If you take metal music by itself, there are no religious, Christian, or non-Christian implications in the basic definition of metal music. Some people and musicians have taken this definition a step further and made metal into a lifestyle, not just a type of music. A type of lifestyle has nothing to do with the style of music a musician plays.

As I said in my first blog post, there are three criteria to deciding whether a Christian artist, is a Christian artist. These three criteria are: being a Christian, the musician’s lifestyle, and the lyrics. The type of music a person plays should have no bearing on the validity of someone’s faith. This includes metal and screamo music.

As a Christian, we should not look at music and say, “We don’t need to take part in a certain style of music, or we don’t need to listen to a genre of music because there are immoral and evil bands out there.” Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe there are some immoral bands out there, especially some metal and screamo bands. But as a Christian, we should not take that stance.

We should look at music, whether it is metal, pop, screamo, electronic, hard rock, etc, and say, “Here is an opportunity. How can I take this style of music and use it to bring glory to our Lord?” That is the stance we, as Christians, should take. We should look at music as an opportunity, not something we should avoid. We should look at all types of music, metal and screamo included, as an opportunity to bring praise and glory to our Lord, not view it as something we should shun.

There are all types of Christian metal today. I am going to take a look at two different metal bands. The first band is August Burns Red. They are a Christian Metalcore band that is signed with Solid State Records. They have released three albums, and their latest album was nominated for a Dove Award. In an interview with Shout online magazine, guitarist JB Brubaker said this about August Burns Red being a Christian band.

“Christian is a religion and not a style of music, however, we are all Christians so I guess some people decide to tie that into our musical style,” said Brubaker.

August Burns Red is a band that believes music should speak for itself instead of having a certain label put on it. The band openly shares their faith through their music, lifestyle, and lyrics.

The song I am going to share with you is called Redemption. This song is a heartfelt prayer and cry out to God from the band. August Burns Red is crying out to God for grace, forgiveness, and the willingness to be used by him. This video presents the song and the lyrics as well.

The second band is probably the most well known Christian metal band. Demon Hunter has released seven albums since their debut in 2002. I have included two videos of the band. The first video features each member talking about their faith and the ministry of the band.

This next video is a music video of the song called Carry Me Down. This is a ballad off their Storm the Gates of Hell album. This song has many different lyrical meanings. I will share my interpretation of the song, but you are more than welcome to have a different interpretation. I believe this song is about someone who is on their deathbed. They are speaking to a close friend. The person who is dying is comforting the friend because they believe they are going to heaven. In my opinion, this is one of Demon Hunter’s most powerful songs.

The second type of controversial music is Screamo or post-hardcore music. There are a lot of definitions, interpretations, and variations, of screamo music. Instead of going into a deep, in-depth look at the history and styles of screamo/post-hardcore music, I will give you a quick and abbreviated definition. Screamo music is a style of music that features a vocalist that screams, sometimes mixed with singing. This style of music developed from hardcore punk, which is an offshoot of punk rock music.

The screamo band that I am going to talk about is probably the most popular Christian screamo group, Underoath. Since their debut with Solid State Records, in 2002, the band has released 5 albums. Two of their albums have been certified gold.

In an interview with breathecast.com, keyboardist Christopher Dudley said this about the band’s message, lyrics, and belief in Jesus Christ.

“The issues that we tackle mostly deal with the fact that no matter who you are, and what you believe, you'll go through rough times. We're normal like everyone else, we aren't special people. We're Christian, we love Jesus and we still know hard times, but we have Jesus to help us out. There is a stigma about Christianity that says, ‘boom, everything is better when you're a Christian.' When people realize this is not the case, they need to understand that God is with us forever and he is our healer.”

The song I chose is one of my favorite songs by the band. This is probably their softest song on any of their records. Some Seek Forgiveness Others Escape is a song about a conversation between God and a person. The chorus is God speaking and the verses feature a person talking. Unlike most of their other songs, this song does not feature screaming vocals until the end. This video presents the song as well as the lyrics.

With this last video, I wanted to remind you how important the lyrical content of a song is, not the type of music played. The final video I have is from a Christian heavy metal band called Becoming the Archetype. This is a heavy metal version of the beloved hymn, How Great Thou Art. I hope you enjoy this song, and I hope you remember that what defines Christian rock music is the life of the artist, and the lyrical content, not the type of music played.