Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Song Remains the Same

Last month I poked fun at Country USA for its "Bro Country" heavy lineup that featured song after song about drinkin', partyin' and drivin' pickup trucks.  Now comes Lifest, where the range of musical topics is even more narrow--like just one subject over and over and over again.  Perusing the catalogs of some of this week's headliners like Newsboys (which are actually from Australia--not really the first country you think of when it comes to devout Christianity--and who have a front man with the last name of Frankenstein) and Michael W Smith you find compositions only about God and Jesus.

I understand that these musicians believe their talents are gifts from on high and that they are obligated to use them to glorify their creator and testify to their own personal salvation.  But don't they want to glorify a really cool car or testify to how their ex-girlfriend was evil incarnate just once or twice an album?  I imagine them in the studio saying "OK guys, we just finished that song about how much we love Jesus--now lets cut one about how much Jesus loves us!!"  How as an artist do you keep finding different ways to say the same thing time after time?

Take for example my favorite Beatles album, Revolver.  It opens with a track about the oppressive income tax rates in Britain.  That is followed by songs about the death of a lonely woman, taking a nap, love, love again, an animated underwater child's fantasy, what it's like to be dead, what's it's like to be falling in love, a diss on your ex, the process of breaking up, prescription drug abuse, doubts about love, desire for a new love and the unknown nature of the future.  You listen to that album and you've have pretty much covered the entire gamut of human emotion and experience--in just 38-minutes.

Even some of the greatest musicians of all time have fallen into the trap of religious themes.  Bob Dylan had his "born again phase" in the late 1970's and early '80's when people wondered if he was done writing great music.  Van Morrison insisted that re-issues of his classic song "Brown Eyed Girl" replace the line "Making love in the green grass" with "Running and a-jumping, hey-hey" because it clashed with his renewed religious beliefs (which he has since moved away from again).  Even the former Beatle George Harrison changed the lyrics to his Fab Four songs during concerts to express his love for God--instead of what was likely Patti Boyd back in the day--which didn't sit real well with the audiences.

So if your are heading to Lifest, enjoy the different kinds of music--but keep in mind the words of the decidedly non-religious Led Zeppelin: The song remains the same.

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