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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Lyrical Manipulation: Part 2



As I continue in this series of examining lyrics, let me remind you that the intent here is not to find "appropriate" artist and those to put on the "shun list." We are simply trying to guard what is poured into our thoughts by being able to discern what we are listening too. 
You do need to understand though, that just because an artist is called a Christian, doesn't mean they are 1) pursuing their career with the intent of glorifying Christ and leading you to the Gospel with their talents, 2) theologically sound and able to clearly apply truths in their lyrics, 3) teaching Biblical truths and not polluting scripture, 4) actual believers who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.
I know this sounds judgmental, but you want to have the right resources and facts before allowing your mind to meditate on what you are hearing.
That all being said, today I am going to focus on two songs by the band NeedToBreathe. After we break down the lyrics, and compare the points of view, we will see what the artist see themselves as and the music they are making, which is very popular in both the secular side as well as the Christian Contemporary side.


"Something Beautiful"
NeedToBreathe

In your ocean, I'm ankle deep
I feel the waves crashin' on my feet
It's like I know where I need to be
But I can't figure out, yeah I can't figure out

Just how much air I will need to breathe
When your tide rushes over me
There's only one way to figure out
Will ya let me drown, will ya let me drown

Hey now, this is my desire
Consume me like a fire, 'cause I just want something beautiful
To touch me, I know that I'm in reach
'Cause I am down on my knees, I'm waiting for something beautiful
Oh, something beautiful

And the water is risin' quick
And for years I was scared of it
We can't be sure when it will subside
So I won't leave your side, no I can't leave your side

Hey now, this is my desire
Consume me like a fire, 'cause I just want something beautiful
To touch me, I know that I'm in reach
'Cause I am down on my knees, I'm waiting for something beautiful
Oh, something beautiful

In a daydream, I couldn't live like this
I wouldn't stop until I found something beautiful
When I wake up, I know I will have
No, I still won't have what I need

Hey now, this is my desire
Consume me like a fire, 'cause I just want something beautiful
To touch me, I know that I'm in reach
'Cause I am down on my knees, I'm waiting for something beautiful
Oh, something beautiful


From a Biblical world view, we can possibly infer the ocean as life and preparing to be overwhelmed, the singer is looking for something to save him and be by his side as it overtakes him. Yet, other than the phrase "down on my knees" it is very hard to find a spiritual tone. This song actually has less to point towards God than some of the others being played on secular stations right now.


As for the secular world view, this song has the imagery found in popular songs dating from the 60's and frequenting today's music scene. Imagery doesn't really need to make sense or point to a definite theme, so this song can just flow from the verses into the chorus and finish with a repetition of finding something beautiful in our lives.
I really enjoy Bear Rinehart's voice and the way he folds the words over onto themselves. He is a very talented singer and the style they play accents their abilities making it no surprise why they are popular in both music sides. And 
whew, what an interesting use of visualizations in a song without a clear meaning. 


Now for their second song.




"Lay Em Down"
NeedToBreathe

Come down to the river
Come and let yourself in
Make good on a promise
To never hurt again
If you're lost and lonely
You're broken down
Bring all of your troubles
Come lay 'em down

All you sinners
And the weak at heart
All you helpless
On the boulevard
Wherever you are now
Whatever evil you've found
Bring all of your troubles
And come lay 'em down

We're all tied to the same old failings
Finding shelter in things we know
We're all dirty like corrupted small towns
Bring our troubles
Bring our troubles
Lay 'em down

All you rich men
And the high above
All those with and without love
All you burdened broken down
Bring all of your troubles
Come lay 'em down
Come lay 'em down
Come lay 'em down

Come all you burdened
Come all you helpless
Bring all your burdens
Just lay 'em down

Come all you broken
Come all you helpless
Bring all your troubles
Just lay 'em down

Come lay 'em down
Come lay 'em down
Come lay 'em down


This song has a catchy "clap" beat that is really... catchy? I have even seen a congregation of normally immobile members start swaying and clapping while singing this song. 

As for the lyrics...

Biblical: Their is an obvious call to laying down your burdens in scripture and this song highlights the various types of people in the world, all of whom have burdens that weigh them down. The Gospel is definitely filled with hope for those who are burdened and want to be set free of their chains. But any follower of Christ should be able to identify the part of laying down your burdens that is missing from this theology(*1a). And I am sorry, but picking and choosing scripture to make a happy feeling song should not be acceptable. We can find great joy in taking up Christ's yoke, and to exclude that part of the lesson is taking away too much truth and keeping the song from being a great call to the burdened.

Secular: This song, as it is, can point to so many personal joys or escapes from the troubles of the world. Honestly, it could be about drinking your troubles away or the like. Without a definitive target to lay down your troubles to, it is up to the listener to pick what fits best for them. Sad that a song with this kind of impact and influence  is missing a mark that could lead many who hear it in the secular music side, to come to know the truth of Christ in this act.

I said we would look at the band's own words, so here they are. (Emphasis added)

"One thing we’ve had to come to terms with, as a band is that we need to play the same show, whether it’s at a club, or at a Christian festival the next day. We’ve figured out as a band there are certain things you can say from stage that will help you sell more CD’s. The difficult thing for us was coming to grips with who we are, and being consistent even if it means not all of the Christian audience 'gets us.'  - Bear Rinehart

Regarding the band's religious beliefs and how they play into their songs, Bear Rinehart told titletrakk.com: "Christianity is something that is important in our lives. It's not the only thing that's important in our lives, but then we wouldn't be relevant to society if that was the only thing we talked about. I don't think the band struggles with it that much. Sometimes the thing we struggle with the most is the Christian media." - Bear Rinehart

I will just let those words speak for themselves and invite you to learn about the music and artist you listen to. Even if you decide to continue listening and feel no conviction by it, you should still be aware of what is behind the music.

In His Name. 






(*1a) Matthew 11:28-30English Standard Version (ESV)28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Lyrical Manipulation: Part 1



I am sure the phrase "What are you listening to?" or a variance of this, has been or will be heard from different pulpits.The basic premise is that we are not listening to lyrics that are very edifying. In fact, quite often, we are listening to the exact opposite.

I am beginning a series on lyrics and my intent is not to sway your listening habits, that is between you and the Holy Spirit, but that I might encourage you to be a better student of what lyrics are in the songs. My main focus is in corporate worship, but this very much applies to your everyday listening.

We have all been influenced emotionally by certain songs. Whether they elicit tears and sorrow, or extreme happiness; from feelings of rage and anger, to peace and relaxation. Music is very powerful and can be a great way to glorify God. It can also cause us to rebel against God.

Often, we are influenced by songs that have a catchy melody, guitar solo, drum beat or a line in the song that impacts us emotionally, yet the song is not intended to bring us in contact with the Holy Creator of the universe. Not trying to put down any artist out there, but often times they are using this exact influence to manipulate their target audience and are not motivated by bringing you to the Cross. Again, I would not necessarily put the same degree of dissection on every day listening as I do corporate worship, but wouldn't it be easier to identify these things if we are conscious of them in our everyday music as well? Pastors as a whole are missing the mark by not challenging their congregation and parents of their youth by not addressing this in more detail.

So I bring you part 1 of Lyrical Manipulation.

When I am pickings songs to play, I take a page from the book of Bob Kauflin and read the lyrics as I listen to the song. If I am not doing this, I can easily be distracted by the music and melody and skim right over a verse that is unclear, clumsy or worse, heretical.

To begin, I am going to list the song lyrics for recent popular song that we will dissect. I will do the same each part of this series and would love feedback or request for other artist and songs. Again, let me stress that I am not implying these artist are intentionally misleading, or that you should avoid listening to them. I am just showing how we allow ourselves to be manipulated and why song selection is very important.


"Lift Me Up"
The Afters

Waiting for the sunrise Waiting for the day Waiting for a sign
That I'm where you want me to be

You know my heart is heavy And the hurt is deep
But when I feel like giving up You're reminding me
That we all fall down sometimes But when I hit the ground

You lift me up when I am weak Your arms wrap around me
Your love catches me so I'm letting go
You lift me up when I can't see Your heart is all that I need
Your love carries me so I'm letting go

You lift me up with your love You lift me up with your love
You lift me up with your love You lift me up

I know I'm not perfect I know I make mistakes
I know that I have let you down But you love me the same

And when I'm surrounded When I lose my way
When I'm crying out and falling down You are here to

Lift me up when I am weak Your arms wrap around me
Your love catches me so I'm letting go
You lift me up when I can't see Your heart is all that I need
Your love carries me so I'm letting go

I can see the dawn is breaking I am feeling overtaken with your love
With your love
I don't know what I can offer In this moment
I surrender to your love To your love

You lift me up when I am weak Your arms wrap around me
Your love catches me so I'm letting go

You lift me up when I am weak Your arms wrap around me
Your love catches me so I'm letting go
You lift me up when I can't see Your heart is all that I need
Your love carries me so I'm letting go

I can see the dawn is breaking
I am feeling overtaken with your love

You lift me up with your love You lift me up with your love
You lift me up with your love You lift me up


OK, there are a few ways to view this song. We can allow our world view to guide us to a meaning, be that a Biblical or secular world view. Or we can look at the song as just a song, which is is a very apathetic and an improper way of viewing something with as much influence as music has. So to show both of the worldviews, lets open this up and see what we have.

Biblical: We automatically assume the subject of the song is God, so we see a believer who acknowledges God and His love as they live thier lives and fall down due to sin, loss, or burdens in their life. We see them relying on the strength of God and that His love is shown in caring for them. We see hope when there is despair.

Not a bad concept and certainly there is some biblical truth in this view. But before we claim a winner, let's see the other view.

Secular: God is not assumed to be the subject unless the song clearly mentions God or Jesus, or even a definitive spiritual aspect, which this song does not do anywhere. So the subject could be a husband, or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, parent or even a good friend. The idea that you have someone in your life to help you when you are down provides hope and comfort. So again, we see a loving hope when there is despair.

Again, the concept is valid as we all love  having others in our lives to lean on when we need them. So what is this song really about? Well you have to ask the write, and if you don't have their meaning, you are forced to draw your own conclusions. To me, this is a problem. If the author has to explain the meaing of a song or it is left to different interpretations, it cannot  be trusted and therefore, my emotions about this song cannot be trusted.

I happen to enjoy this song and I know what the writers intent was, but I still need to use discernment when listening to any song. And we often listen to ambiguous songs under the pretense of "worship." I am again going to steal from Bob Kauflin and mention that "worship" is an action verb that requires a subject. Much like "hold." And if the object of your worship is God, shouldn't your music be definite and less ambiguous?

Until next time, I pray you go in the Love and Grace of Christ.


Go To Part 2 Here