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Why All Christian Music Sounds the Same (Even When it Doesn’t)

Why All Christian Music Sounds the Same (Even When it Doesn’t)

The other day, my sister (who was visiting from out of town) walked into our kitchen during the chaos that is breakfast prep. Over the usual din (“What cereal do you want? Oh, all three kinds? No, it’s too late for eggs”) she heard the song that we were listening to (it happened to be “Wake Up Sleeper” by Zac Hicks and Coral Ridge Worship) and, after probably three seconds, said, “Is this Christian music?”

I’ve had this conversation many times during my life–why is it that you can always identify “Christian music” within seconds of hearing it?–but I’ve never been…

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Vulnerability, Judgement and The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds Turns 50!

Vulnerability, Judgement and The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds Turns 50!

Half a century is pretty “outta sight” if you ask me. To celebrate, here’s the two main Pet Sounds portions of The Beach Boys essay in Mess of Help. We’ve posted portions before but never all of it. Catch a wave: 

Brian Wilson was the original heart-on-your-sleeve auteur. Young men had been vulnerable on record before, but usually in the service of garnering swoons rather than expressing actual warts-and-all weakness. Brian’s was not the attractive kind of vulnerability; it was the awkward kind. In the song, his girl’s devotion even makes him “want to cry”. The Beach Boys sang about teenage male tears more than…

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Sending Lady Gaga to Her Room

Sending Lady Gaga to Her Room

Circa 2009, around the time of The Fame Monster, there were very few American high schoolers cool enough to talk down about Lady Gaga. For both girls and guys, she was edgy enough (and inevitable enough, releasing single after single after single) to leave everyone feeling at the very least a distant admiration. She did however possess a particular power in the art classes, one that you wouldn’t see her having on, say, the lacrosse field, and this was because historically speaking art classrooms have always been “interesting” places. Mine was no exception: it was by all accounts an underground church, the…

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Call Me Aaron Burr, Sir

Call Me Aaron Burr, Sir

During a 1995 interview with NPR’s Terry Gross, Pat Conroy related a story about his father, Don, that epitomized the patriarch’s delusional view of identity. The two men were discussing why Pat’s mother left Don when the elder Conroy broke down sobbing. Thinking that Don had finally realized the error of the ways, Pat quoted the ensuing conversation to Gross: “‘Dad, do you understand what you did wrong?’ And Dad said, ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘What is it, Dad? What did you do wrong?’ And my father said, ‘I was too good. I didn’t crack down hard enough. I was…

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Beyoncé, Lemonade, and the Things We Inherit

Beyoncé, Lemonade, and the Things We Inherit

This one comes to us from Heather Strong Moore.

What happens when one of the most successful and influential artists of our time experiences a deep and fairly public heartbreak? She takes those lemons and makes them into Lemonade. Beyoncé’s “visual album” was released on April 23rd and already it’s made history with every track appearing on the Top 100 charts. In her hour-long film that accompanies the majority of the tracks, she tells the story of a broken relationship and the process one goes through when one’s life falls apart.

This story appears to be about her 8-year marriage to Jay-Z and a…

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May Playlist

2016 NYC Conference Book Table

2016 NYC Conference Book Table

As requested, here’s the list of books (and music), we had for sale up in NYC, along with a couple of selections that were heavily referenced in talks. Lots of overlap with the “Recommended Reading” list on our I’m New Here page, but what can you do.

Theology/Religion

Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law, and the Outrage of Grace. Robert Farrar Capon.
The Christian Life: Cross or Glory? Steven A. Hein.
Comfortable Words: Essays in Honor of Paul F.M. Zahl. Jady Koch and Todd Brewer.
The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ. Fleming Rutledge
Eden and Afterward: A Mockingbird Guide to Genesis. Will McDavid.
Grace in Practice: A Theology of…

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Black Day, Stormy Night: Don’t Die Without Knowing Prince

Black Day, Stormy Night: Don’t Die Without Knowing Prince

Deeply saddened by the news of Prince’s death today at age 57. Since it’s borderline impossible to find his music online, those looking for some immediate catharsis would do well to tune into Minnesota public radio The Current, which is streaming his records non-stop.

Like everyone else who was alive in the 80s, Purple Rain and its many singles were my entry point into the music of Prince Rogers Nelson: the bassless “When Doves Cry”, the euphoric “Let’s Go Crazy”, the Journey-cribbing title track (no joke). Yet while I treasured my “Batdance” cassette single, I’d be lying if I didn’t say…

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From the Archives: Rock Bottom Rescue in Merle Haggard’s “How Did You Find Me Here?”

From the Archives: Rock Bottom Rescue in Merle Haggard’s “How Did You Find Me Here?”

Timely one from our “Songs of the Outlaw” series. Rest in peace, Hag. 

As we’ve said before, we’ll say again, if anyone knows about compulsive meandering, if anyone characterizes the triumphs and tribulations of going it on your own, it’s the American outlaw. It’s a unique approach to rebellion, one that’s openly translated freedom as independence, the open range the sanctuary, the “Big City” that won’t “turn me loose and set me free.” This thus leads the cattle-calling rambler anywhere and, anywhere, nowhere. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that all of the Outlaw songs–from Johnny to Willie–are…

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The Last Time I’ll See The Who

The Last Time I’ll See The Who

This one comes to us from Mickey Haist Jr.

“Every year is the same / I feel it again / I’m a loser / No chance to win.”

Hearing these words at my first concert, at age fourteen, is a powerful experience.

Quadrophenia, the rock opera album on which these lyrics can be found, is my favorite in The Who’s catalogue. It’s the crystallization of the band’s ethos: loud, but sad; at once hopeful and wistful. Its story is vague enough that any teenager, or former teenager, can find their own story reflected in it. That’s one of the great skills of Pete Townshend. He could…

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How the Webb Was Woven: April Playlist

How the Webb Was Woven: April Playlist

“You really should listen to this guy”, he said. “A couple of the songs on his new record remind me of what you were saying tonight.”

“I don’t really listen to Christian music”, I responded, half seriously.

“Yeah, um, well, your loss. There’s a strong Yankee Hotel Foxtrot vibe on his new one.”

I’m not proud of the exchange, which took place back in 2005. I had just given a talk to some high school students, and one of the older boys had wanted to engage afterward by telling me about musician Derek Webb. I’d given him…

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Maundy Thursday Miscellany: Mr Rogers, Stinky Feet, Memes, Cartoons, and Jams, plus Love & Friendship!

Maundy Thursday Miscellany: Mr Rogers, Stinky Feet, Memes, Cartoons, and Jams, plus Love & Friendship!

First, if you didn’t get around to the Mr. Rogers’ story a few weeks ago, TODAY is the day!

Second, no one tells a better foot-washing story than Sally Lloyd-Jones in The Jesus Storybook Bible, for which an animated version exists. God loves stinky feet, people:

Third, the Last Supper Meme of the Year is definitely:

Fourth, Six Maundy Thursday Jams That Aren’t “Sweet Cherry Wine”

The Last Supper – Johnny Cash
Sister I Need Wine – Guided by Voices
Yea! Heavy and a Bottle of Bread – Bob Dylan
(Gotta Get) A Meal Ticket – Elton John
Pass Me Down the Wine – Oasis
Hollywood – Tobias Jesso…

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