Culture

Music

Culture | The 5 bestselling CDs in Contemporary Christian music for the week ending Feb. 27, 2000, according to Soundscan

Issue: "It's Bush vs. Gore," March 18, 2000
WOW Worship: Today's 30 most powerful worship songs Compilation
Style
Sentimental lyrics set to simple melodies, ideal for anyone raised on pop radio and the notion that hymns are "old-fashioned"

Best Cuts
"Mighty Is Our God," "Ancient of Days"

Question
Is worship "powerful" to the extent that it cuts itself off from previous Christian musical and liturgical traditions-monastic chant, classical chorale, Negro spirituals, black gospel, and Protestant hymnody included?

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Worth Noting
This style, which began in the early '70s as a means of appealing to youth, has now become the norm for adult-oriented worship.

WOW Gospel 2000: The year's top Gospel artists and songs Compilation
Style
Despite some well-known soloists, large choirs and extemporaneous performances predominate.

Best Cuts
Tri-City Singers, "Never Seen the Righteous"; Dottie Peoples, "God Can"

Question
When the best of these songs have to be prematurely faded out simply to fit, should WOW reconsider its attachment to the number "30"?

Worth Noting
The volatility of rap and other "urban" genres has had little effect on the musicians of the black church, who remain more sensitive to tradition than to trends.

Speechless Steven Curtis Chapman
Style
One man's perspective delivered passionately over a strummed guitar or tickled piano and inflated at times into bombast by a marriage of rock band and orchestra not made in heaven.

Best Cuts
"Great Expectations," "The Invitation"

Message
That walking the walk means more than wearing WWJD bracelets and sticking "little Bible magnets on [one's] refrigerator" (cf. "Change")

Worth Noting
The humility and decency with which Mr. Chapman comports himself both on record and off suggests that a plethora of Dove Awards needn't be corrupting.

WOW 2000: The year's 30 top Christian artists and songs Compilation
Style
Practically every genre or variant thereof currently doing a brisk business on the pop charts

Best Cuts
Newsboys, "Love Liberty Disco"; Sixpence None the Richer, "Breathe"

Question
Is contemporary Christianity set to market-tested musical styles the way to reach the lost in a post-literate age?

Worth Noting
The Pauline standard of being "made all things to all men" in order to "save some" now means being made tattooed, body-pierced, and ridiculously coiffed as well.

This is your time Michael W. Smith
Style
Densely layered, electronica-driven pop, the occasional slow ones ensuring that Mr. Smith's trademark sentimentalism remains intact

Best Cuts
"Rince Dé," "I'm Gone"

Message
What the world needs now is friendship sweet friendship-i.e., the same agape-lite that Mr. Smith has been distilling for teens since he recorded "Friends" 17 years ago. The title cut, which pays tribute to the Columbine martyr Cassie Bernall, is not lite at all.

Worth Noting
The faithfully married, offspring-enriched Mr. Smith remains a symbol of promise-keeping Christian manhood.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
As some musicians attempt to pour eternal truths into contemporary wineskins but lose the effects of both, the "classical-crossover" duo Oberon has shown a way out of the cul-de-sac. Oberon's Sonnet (Koch), an album featuring recitations of 12 of Shakespeare's sonnets by genuine Shakespearean actors and actresses, gives listeners the rare opportunity of hearing the Bard's lines pronounced trippingly on the tongue. It also solves the challenge of blending dissimilar form and content by foregoing it altogether. Instead of fitting their compositions to Shakespeare or requiring the thespians to measure their inflections against the music, Trammell Starks (Oberon's composer-arranger) and Felicia Sorensen (Oberon's vocalist-lyricist) use their compositions as between-sonnet segues. As befits "classical-crossover," the music is an airy distillation of classical, jazz, and New Age motifs; with the exception of the 14th-century "Heaven Queen" (a.k.a., "Edi Be Thu"), the music feels too diaphanous for the greatest poet ever to write in English. Nevertheless, the incongruity is never extreme, and Contemporary Christian musicians in search of models could do worse than to follow in Oberon's footsteps. Psalm, anyone?

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