So it’s 3:30 a.m., and I’m at my desk wondering why I’m at my desk when I should be in bed next to my warm, snoozing wife.
I swear, that girl sleeps like an elderly zombie on quaaludes. And it doesn’t matter how freaked she is from anything going on at her job, or anything like that. She’ll be, like, “Someone at work today pulled out a gun and started shooting at everyone in the office! It was horrible! The police bashed in a wall to get to this maniac, and … zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.”
And then she doesn’t wake up for seven hours. No matter how much noise I make, or how hard I jab her with my elbow as I’m getting out of bed at 3:30 in the morning so she’ll come and have some warm milk with me and keep me company.
I swear. Some people.
Anyway, I just fired up my laptop, thinking to test the theory that writers are at their creative best when they’ve only had three hours of sleep, even though I happen to know the big champion of that theory was novelist Throckmorton “Buzzy” Marlow, who died unpublished. But whatever. I thought I’d see.
What I saw instead was that I had an email waiting for me from someone named “JB.” I’m not naturally a big fan of people whose moms weren’t smart enough to include a vowel in the spelling of their name (my poor friend, SM: if only his mom had known about the letter “a”), but what the heck. I opened the email.
It turned out to be from the host of the late night show at Air1 Radio, a national Christian radio network with more stations than the police have.
“Just wanted to say, ‘howdy,’ wrote the affable Mr. B. “I do late-nights at Air 1, a national Christian network. Love your blog; I get some great material from it. It’s one of the six or seven sites I go to first when I start doing “show prep.” I’ve even reposted some of your musings on my Air1 Facebook fan page. We’re like-minded! Keep up the great work.”
Now isn’t that sweet? Turns out I like people with no middle vowel in their two-letter name. I mean, what vowel’s gonna work for my new friend JB? Who’s he gonna be: Jab? Jeb? What is he, an old, shotgun-toting hillbilly? (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Jib? Jub? Job? Who wants the responsibility (or danger quotient) of being named Job?
No: JB he was born, and JB he shall remain.
Anyway, I wrote back dj JB to thank him, and we did some e-back and forthing—seeing as he, too, was up.
While we were e-chatting, I turned on his show. It’s mostly Christian music. So then I listened to Christian music. I got through about four songs worth of it.
Listening to that music raised a question for me: Why does listening to Christian music always make me want to listen to virtually anything else? I’d rather listen to The Monrovian Throat Singers Chorus rasp and belch their way through “Ode to Soren the Deaf Graveyard Worker” (one of the Bach’s lesser known operatic failures) than I would to one song from the “contemporary Christian music” catalog.
Why? What is my problem? I’m a Christian. And I can hear how often so much of CCM sounds just like music I actually do like. Oftentimes the vocals are top-notch; the arrangements are perfectly decent; the players are perfectly excellent; the production values always seem extra good, actually. And yet such music invariably strikes my entire aural/neurological system like unto a wet fork jammed into an electrical outlet.
Why? It doesn’t even make sense. I’m such a music freak I made a living writing about contemporary music for a year or two. (“Contemporary” is one of these words, like “humorist,” that immediately robs the thing to which it points of the very quality it’s meant to describe. Nothing instantly seems less contemporary than anything described by that word; if a dinner speaker is introduced as a “humorist,” you know you’re probably going to drown from falling asleep in your soup.)
So I thought I’d talk here about what my stupid problem is with Christian music. Because by way of finally determining the exact nature of that problem, I decided to settle in, and really listen to and think about the Christian music JB was playing on his show. I’ve never done that; I’ve never cared why I don’t like CCM, in the same way I’ve never slowly chewed lima beans and methodically thought about why they were making me retch. I’ve never cared why; I just spit them out, slap the chef around, and move on. Same with Christian music: I always just turn the stuff off, or put in my earplugs, or go to the box office and beg for my money back, and move on.
But the time had come, man. It was time for me to figure out why perfectly excellent-sounding music—about a subject that actually means a great deal to me—always makes me feel like some grandmother is pushing my face into a crappy peach cobbler she made.
But now, alas, this post is already too long. If you have any opinions about contemporary Christian music, do share! You share me yours, and then I’ll share you mine.