It’s kind of insidious – I sometimes get the guilty feeling that the reason most current Christian music has a similar effect on me to the sound of fingernails being dragged down a blackboard is that I must be evil or something… (or have perverted my tastes with some of the music mentioned a couple of days ago: you know, like getting used to spicy meat and not liking the veggies so much?)
I don’t think it’s that, though (YMMV!) I think it’s a couple of things. One is that the Christian radio stations (which also drive me crazy by reassuring me in every station ID that they’re ‘safe‘) only play the really middle-of-the-road stuff. Heck, secular middle-of-the-road music is fingernail/blackboard material for me too, so I guess there are no surprises there! The other is that a lot of it tends toward being ‘praise and worship music’. What that means in practice is that the lyrics all begin to sound alike after a while, and as though the songs could be written using some sort of random lyric generator. Just throw in enough of the words listed below and let the computer pick the order.
Mighty, praise, worship, bow down, glory, holy, Almighty, Ancient of Days, Lord, crowns, cross, sacrifice, power, beauty, awesome, love
Put it to a middle-of-the-road tune that meanders a lot, add some pretty schmaltzy string arrangements and an over-emotive singer and you’ve got your song. It helps if there’s lots of ‘nothing else at all in my life or the whole world means anything, you are my universe’ stuff, and a slightly disturbing schoolgirl-crush dimension to the lyrics.
The final one is that a lot of it is very triumphalist: “Our God is so awesome and powerful”. It’s not usually there explicitly, but for me at least it’s very implicit that “and your god (broadly defined) is not”. I guess it’s kinda compulsory, but the whole ‘my god is bigger than your god’ thing just rubs me the wrong way.
Having said all that, there are some Christian artists, like Russ Taff and Rich Mullins, who escape all of these traps and make rich, thoughtful, musical, interesting stuff. I’m sure there’s great non-mainstream Christian music out there too, and maybe I need to go and search out more of that. But please, no Shine FM in the car while I’m driving.