Oceanlab, On a Good Day

Clean: 4

Quality: 3.5

Genre: Trance

Trance is a subcategory of electronic/dance music that has a relatively fast tempo but also sometimes a slow melancholy melody over the top of the fast beat. Trance music is repetitive and “the effect of some trance music has been likened to the trance-inducing music created by ancient shamanists during long periods of drumming.” (Wikipedia). I would classify the group, Oceanlab, as dream-trance: Trance music that is almost new age sounding. There is a calming effect even though there is a dance beat in the background. This particular song is good standard trance. The music, the lyrics and the mellow vocals of Justine Suissa all meld together wonderfully. Vocal trance is probably my favorite type of music so I liked this song the first time I heard it.

The song, On a Good Day, is melancholy, thoughtful and hopeful. The words are about working through some issue and moving on to live the rest of life. The funk is beginning to leave but isn’t gone yet. The words express some slight regret and sadness but also optimism for the future.

Lyrics and song below:

A little bit lost

A little bit lonely

A little bit cold here

A little bit of fear


But I hold on and I feel strong and I know that I can

Getting used to it

Lit the fuse to it

Like to know who I am

(Chorus)

Been talking to myself forever, yeah

And how I wish I knew me better, yeah

Still sitting on the shelf but never, never seen the sun shine brighter

and It feels like me on a good day (repeat)


I’m a little bit hemmed in

A little bit isolated

A little bit hopeful

A little bit calm

But I hold on and I feel strong and I know that I can

Getting used to it

Lit the fuse to it

Like to know who I am

Advertisements

Response: Is Rap Inherently Evil?

I have to respond to an article I read today in a blog called the “Christian Research Net” called Reformed Rap: My Thoughts. This article challenges the idea that rap (or metal or punk etc) music can glorify the Lord.  Even if the words are about the gospel, contain sound doctrine and lead people to Christ, Sam Guzman argues that all such music is ungodly.  He writes:

The first problem I see with Christian rap is that rap as a genre has a lot of baggage. I don’t think anyone would deny that. Secular rap celebrates and glorifies things that are antithetical to the gospel; things like drugs, crime, promiscuous sex, hate, rebellion, and violence. In addition to these more obvious things, rap, and the culture that surrounds it, celebrates pride and arrogance.

I would like to answer him because I think his view is relatively common amongst older Christians and Christians who just don’t like these genres of music. I am ashamed to admit that when I was younger I thought the same about metal music. “How can music that sounds like chaotic screaming, glorify the Lord?” I thought.

First, the Bible teaches that every human heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9), and that “none is righteous, no, not one; no one seeks for God, all have turned aside, together they have become worthless, no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:11, 12). I would then argue that not only rap, but ALL of human culture is utterly depraved– all music, all clothes, all art, all movies, all literature, all science–everything! Everything has baggage, everything is tainted.

Secondly, I want to respond to this quote, “it is clearly unscriptural to view music as a tool for evangelism. Scripture unequivocally states that God has chosen the foolishness of preaching to save those that believe for the very reason that it shouldn’t work (1 Cor. 1:21). When it does, God gets the glory and not man.” Guzman is confusing two separate issues here. I agree with him that the Lord chooses the foolish things of this world to shame the wise, and that when God uses us, his servants, to accomplish something for his glory, it glorifies him all the more since we are so foolish. BUT, the passage from 1 Corinthians he alludes to in his quote does not say that preaching is the ONLY ordained way to evangelize. The passage is emphasizing the foolishness of man and of different cultures and human wisdom, and how Christ defies them all by being totally crazily foolish. Paul even says earlier in the passage that God did not send him to baptize but to preach. Does that mean that we should not baptize? May it never be! He was talking about himself and his specific ministry call. I also somehow can’t see Guzman make this same statement about the evangelism of such CCM artists as Steven Curtis Chapman, Sandy Pattie, or Carmon. It seems like a bit of a double standard to me.

Third, I want to point out the creativity and diversity of the Lord’s creation and of humanity’s acceptable worship to him. One must look no further than the Nature channel to see all the wonderful and terrible animals and plants he has created. God himself points out that he created the terrible sea-monster, Leviathan, for his own pleasure (Job 41). Also, in Exodus, the Lord commissions artists and craftsmen of all kinds to build the Tabernacle. This diverse work of theirs glorifies him. David himself shamelessly dances before the Lord in 2 Samual 6 to celebrate the return of the Ark. When his wife Michal, confronts him he responds with “I will make merry before the Lord. I will make make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes.” Prophets of the Old Testament often were commanded by God to minister in unorthodox and shocking ways such as walking around naked and barefoot or marrying a harlot.

The answer to my first point for the Christian, is not to run, hide and isolate himself from the world in an effort to stay pure from sin. Indeed, our own hearts are the source of sin, not the world. We should not “throw the baby out with the bathwater” as the saying goes. Just because the words of a rap song or the message of rap culture is bad does not mean that we should throw all of it away. Christ has called us to go into the world and tell it about him. The answer is to act within culture to try to redeem it for his glory and point humanity to himself. God created non-Christian rappers and gave them their talent. They do not use it as they should, to point to the the Lord, but their talent is not evil–their heart is (and so is mine btw). Rap itself is not evil. Indeed much of it is energetic and passionate and captures the mind and spirit of listeners in a way no other media can. When a rap artist uses the talent and passion that God gave him and performs with sound doctrine to point to Jesus and share the gospel then it does glorify the Lord. One might compare the Leviathan with rap music and wonder how something so crazy, (or ugly as some might say) can glorify the Lord. Yet he made them both for his good pleasure.

Fourth, I believe the article in question was written out of spirit of fear. Guzman says:

God saved me out of the punk rock culture. Punk rock glorifies rebellion and anarchy. The music– again, not just the lyrics — is in your face, aggressive, and loud. Is it really possible to communicate the glorious truths of the Gospel through a medium that reflects anger, rebellion, and even hatred? Coming from that background, I would say no. I can’t fathom God receiving glory from music that sounds like it was born in hell.

He is confusing his own sin and experience with that of all people. Young people are naturally living in a time of life when they are questioning who they are, and want to be. They are living in a state of confusion and are often very emotional. I would argue that ALL young people feel this way regardless if they are rebellious or hating. It is a chemical thing. Thus, these sounds of angst, while in the non-Christian world are associated with the things Guzman listed, resonate with all youth and can be expressed in a godly manner. When anyone, young or old, turns to the Lord in their confusion or pain or passion and lets him direct their paths, I would argue that God is glorified.

Fifth, Guzman is reponding to the video below. He says:

The following video bothered me. It has a very fleshly spirit about it, from the dancing girls in tight shirts, to the practically moshing audience. The performers, as well as the music and the way the lyrics are sung, exude a spirit of pride, arrogance, and look-at-me-ness. I can’t imagine Jesus Christ being at the event and being pleased– and no, I don’t say that just because I’m white. Ignore the lyrics entirely, and I believe you will see little difference from any other secular rapper. Watch the video and come to your own conclusions.

uh…I would absolutely disagree with Guzman here. I have watched other videos that contain club scenes. The sexual grinding and the half naked outfits are absent here. What I see instead are people dancing (like David?) with their hands raised, even pointing, to the Lord. The performers appear to be worshiping the Lord as they perform. I would argue moshing is not inherently evil, what is evil is the drug filled and lustful spirit that often accompanies it. I would also like to point out the difference between a concert, which is what seems to be going on in this video, and a church service. A concert is where people go to listen to and dance to music. The musicians are performing and expressing themselves in often exaggerated forms. During a church service, the musicians are hopefully not making a performance, but instead should be more muted (imho). Church services are not mosh pits and rightly so. Also, I must defend the young ladies in this video. They are wearing totally appropriate outfits. They are not super loose styles (should they wear mumus?), but these ladies are young and modest. The tightness of the clothes is a far cry from what is worn at your average dance club. I’m a pretty modest girl and I could wear these clothes myself (see 1:24).

Praise God for these musicians who are using their talents to glorify the Lord and evangelize for His purpose.

Linkin Park, What I’ve Done

Quality: 5

Clean: 5*

Genre: Rock/nu metal

Dooood! If you know Linkin Park you might be surprised to see them on this blog. But honestly, sometimes there are artists that strike right at the heart of existing, the very essence of life. This is one of those bands. I think sometimes they get caught up in their status as a rock-rap/metal band and sing about the usual topics, but here is a song that will rock your socks off if you listen closely to the words. I can’t say I’m surprised however. Read Ecclesiastes and then listen to In the End. Enough said.

Before I keep going, I want to make a shout-out to my professor from Bible college, Mr. Oliff, who pointed out this song on Facebook.

First lets talk about quality. I gave What I’ve Done a 5 maybe a bit unfairly. Its more a 5 for Linkin Park as a band overall. They have done some great quality rap-rock mashups, have fused electronica with their metal sounds and even use different vocalists and vocal styles depending on the song. That all to say that this particular song is more average for them. I am actually not a huge fan on Linkin Park. Usually they are too metal sounding for me but occasionally a song like this comes out that still contains their style but is more palatable for a non-matal listener.

Now as far as clean is concerned, I gave it a 5 with an asterisk. Minutes to Midnight, the album is rated explicit and this will put some people off. Even if you only buy What I’ve Done alone, it still comes with the rating of explicit attached to it. The song itself is not explicit, does not contain swears or innuendos. Linkin Park as a band however does not hesitate on a normal basis to throw around profanities or adult topics. I hesitated to even review What I’ve Done, because of the rating, but the words are amazing.

The reason I decided to review this song after all is because the purpose of the blog is to find quality and clean songs wherever they may be found. This song, found in an unexpected genre and album is no exception. It unequivocally sends a positive and thought provoking message. Also, this is an opportunity to point out that even though people don’t all agree on the same philosophy of life or religion or whatever, all of humanity still feel similar emotions about guilt, redemtpion and purpose. The song is about what we as individuals and even collectively as humanity have done, all the atrocities, war, pollution and abuses. The song begs if we can ever make up for or erase all these things? The answer in the song I believe is no we can’t– but we can find mercy and forgiveness. We can start over. The song says that the forgiveness comes from ourselves (or self). I agree that this is true in a sense. When I hurt someone, they can forgive me but I can’t move on until I also forgive myself. (I also would add that absolute forgiveness and mercy come from the Lord). The words also indicate that even though mercy and forgiveness come, pain and heartache don’t automatically disapear.

What I’ve Done helps me argue that there isn’t a clear line between “Christian” songs and “secular” songs. Certain topics are universal and not exclusive of “Christian” art. My husband used to listen to Tupac and he says there are some songs where he would think, “what…is Tupac a Christian?” Truly talented artists have a way of cutting through all the drivel and showing the rest of us what reality is. They cry out and express universal pains and joys that strike everyone. Ok that lecture was long enough. Check out the lyrics and song below. I’d say the video adds to the interpretation.

In this farewell
There’s no blood
There’s no alibi
Cause I’ve drawn regret
From the truth
Of a thousand lies

So let mercy come
And wash away
What I’ve done

I’ll face myself
To cross out what i’ve become
Erase myself
And let go of what i’ve done

Put to rest
What you thought of me
While I clean this slate
With the hands of uncertainty

For what I’ve done
I start again
And whatever pain may come
Today this ends
I’m forgiving what I’ve done!

Lecrae, Take Me As I Am and Cash or Chirist/Fanatics

Quality: 5

Clean: 5

Genre: Rap

Christian rap artist Lecrae is coming out with a new album, Rebel,  September 30. You can pre-order it from his label and from Amazon…although they are currently out of stock. If you like rap, you should check him out. I always thought I could like rap, but I never listened to it because the entire genre was too laced with profanities and ill-treatment of women. Last year one of my students introduced me to Lecrae. I felt like my musical world was turned up-side-down. Here was good quality rap music with a positive message. My husband had had the same quandary. He basically only likes rap/hip-hop but had in the past couple years just stopped listening to ALL music because NOTHING he liked was clean. So finding Lecrae was a gold mine for both of us. As one facebook fan says, “…god provided an answer to my music problem. Positive lyrics and sick beats.”

Take Me As I Am, is both my husband’s and my favorite song by him. Its from his 2005 album, Real Talk. Its basically the story of his and every conversion from living for ourselves to giving our life to Jesus. The words are poignant and convicting. Listening to a song like this on the drive to work sure beats the radio with songs like Promiscuoius Girl et al.

This is a fan made video

My second favorite song by him is in collaboration with another artist, Trip Lee. Cash or Christ/Fanatics is a mash-up between Lecrae’s original rap Fanatic and Trip Lee’s original rap Cash or Christ (from album If They Only Knew), with metal music in the background. It might sound weird but it is awesome! The main message is about living a life for Christ vs. for our material lusts. The mashup is found on an album by 116 Clique called Amped.

Here is another fan video. (I’m not a huge video person but its a way to share the songs with you). listen to the chorus by Lecrae where he says over and over that he’s Redeemed. It makes me tear up almost every time.

Check out his Myspace page which has a couple of his new songs.

Jem, It’s Amazing

Quality: 4

Clean: 5

Genre: Pop, dance

Jem: as a child of the 80’s the first thing I think of when I hear that name is Jem and the Holograms!

Ok seriously, I remember when Jem came out with her first album 4 year ago. I heard her first single, They, once on the radio and rushed out and bought the little mini EP, It All Starts Here (which was produced before the full album Finally Woken). My initial enthusiasm was a little much and I was slightly disappointed at the rest of the EP. I still liked it because it was, after all, good pop music and more on the electronic/triphop/dance side.

Jem’s second album, Down to Earth, came out yesterday. I haven’t gotten a copy of it yet…however she’s put out a couple singles already. It’s Amazing, was released as a single in June and on the soundtrack of Sex and the City, the movie. Jem’s contribution is a solid, affirming, motivational and fun song. Lyrically, it reminds me of Mariah Carey’s Make it Happen, or Jordin Spark’s One Step at a Time. Jem urges the listener not to give up, to work hard and to have patience! The chorus is inspiring for anyone needing a little encouragement: It’s Amazing all that you can do, It’s Amazing, it makes my heart sing, now its up to you.

Musically, this song is hard to classify. Poppy, yet slightly more dancy than most pop, the beat is slightly DnB but not really…let’s just say pop. Jem revels in these inbetween genre labels however. Her first album was a little trip hop, a little alternative, a little pop, a little acoustic folk rock. This song clearly has electronic roots looping over and over in the background, but it also has trumpet, guitar, strings, and piano, not to mention Jem’s soothing voice. Oh and as a bonus a computerized 80’s sounding voice at the end urging the listener to trust her instincts, and not give up! Its a good song, not super great. I love it for its positive message and poppy beat. Certainly more creative than most dime-a-dozen pop singers out there. For 99 cents on iTunes I can’t think of a reason not to buy it.

Jem’s Myspace

Stutterin Stan

Clean: 4.5 (most are instrumental)

Quality: 5

Genre: Electronic

Most people who know me are surprised when they find out that I am a sucker for dance/techno/electronica music. Most of it ala C89.5 (radio station in Seattle), is sort of poppish and repetitive and not very quality (but I like it nonetheless). Also, most of the lyrics are about one topic (the dance floor and what happens later that night), so not the most uplifting.

When I find good electronic music (musically or lyrically) I am always super excited and want to tell the whole world because it is so rare. I feel the same way about my most recent find. Stutterin Stan, is actually a beat maker. Using software he electronically makes beats aka the rhythm or percussion that gives a song its groove. Often a beat maker will use a short sample of a pre-existing song and loop it over and over so that is sounds completely new. Beat makers also use tapes containing dozens of individual beats but mix them in such a way as to make them sound new. If you listen to the background music closely of most R&B or rap songs, it will consist of these types of beats. Usually beats are made to be only part of a song, and sound incomplete on their own. That’s ok because they are meant to enhance the vocals, not steal the spotlight.

Stutterin Stan’s beats are interesting enough to be their own songs. His tracks are more than just one sample looped over and over again, but like a dance they throw in unexpected yet graceful surprises. On his myspace page you can listen to 6 full tracks which are either instrumental or feature a few spoken verses. One is a remix of Hillsong’s Open My Eyes. You Can’t Stop Us, and World Warrior are probably my favorites but they are all great. Other beats you can by on his myspace page for cheap; they are more trance-like (I love trance but it is more repetative). Check out his blog as well. Its consists of a fun mix of his faith and music making journeys.

Below is a video of World Warrior being performed at a contest.

Jordin Sparks, One Step at a Time

Clean: 5

Quality: 3

Genre: Pop

What attracted me to Jordin Spark’s latest single, One Step at a TIme, wasn’t the music, but the words. The encouraging lyrics speak to us who feel that life isn’t progressing fast enough; When we feel as if we are on the brink of a something great or want to skip over the little details of life to get to the big stuff.  She reminds one that even the mundane stuffs of life are important and meaningful. There is a “life is a journey not a destination” quality about the song yet she captures the frustration/impatience of these moments so well that she doesn’t teeter over into cheesiness: We live and we learn to take one step at a time, there’s no need to rush, it’s like learning to fly, or falling in love. It’s gonna happen and it’s supposed to happen that we find the reasons why one step at a time.

Not normally a music video lover, I stumbled apon it at the local video rental store where it was on repeat. I was amazed by how heart warming the scenes were, all depicting normal people doing mundane tasks but all on the brink of something great. One set of scenes portrays a mother teaching her young son how to ride a skate board, one of a couple getting ready for the prom, one of a girl packing up to go to college.

Its a good thing that I didn’t know that Jordin Sparks was an American Idol winner when I first heard One Step at a Time. Actually I think the show itself is inspiring, funny, and one of the only clean shows on prime time television. The singers who come out of the show however, have a certain sound about them: highly produced, specifically manufactured for a certain demographic (whatever that particular singer’s is), good vocals but not great pop music. Jordin Sparks caught me without my usual skepticism radar, which is good because I would have missed out on a great song.

You can buy this song on iTunes, or listen to it on her Myspace page.