Tag Archives: Culture

What’s the Big Deal With Michael Buble?

I originally wrote this post when Michael Buble came out with his new Christmas album. It had been brewing for a while, but I kept forgetting to write it. Then when I started to see people talking and tweeting about the new project, it reminded me of him, so I wrote it. Then I forgot about him again and this post got forgotten in the process. I’m posting it now for no particular reason, except the fear that I might forget… again.

Basically, here’s my question: What’s all the fuss about with this guy? For those of you who may not know, he’s a crooning swing-pop sensation who sings “throwback jazz” in the style of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. And he appears to have quite a few fans within Southern Gospel. In fact, I don’t keep up with the secular music scene, so that was how I first heard about him. And it was all rave reviews. So I thought I would check him out.

My conclusion was that he has some nice chops. But let’s just say his personality and ideas of comedy leave a lot to be desired.

I’ve browsed through numerous concert reviews from all different venues where people have consistently described his jokes as “R-rated.” On several different occasions, he’s even singled out small kids in the audience in some way (pointing them out, getting a picture with them, etc.) and then turned right around and done “the finger” or dropped the f-bomb. He also jokes about the fact that people think he’s gay, sometimes saying that even though he isn’t, he would be “very proud of it” if he was. And all that is just the tip of the iceberg. I should add that this kind of behavior has been noted even by people who are giving him positive reviews—they seem to think it’s funny.

There’s another thing I know some people might be able to brush away, but I think it’s worth mentioning as well. Granted his music and music videos may be tame by certain standards, but the vid for the song “Haven’t Met You Yet” features Michael lounging around with some cute chick on a bed in the middle of a grocery store. Fully clad, but still. I’d feel weird if my 10-year-old put it up for her Facebook status (which a 10-year-old I know of actually did).

However, whatever your opinion may be on that, I think a lot of his Christian fans who’ve never been to a concert of his (or who’ve caught him on a good night, as one gospel singer did) may simply be unaware of the kind of show he consistently delivers. The consensus: NOT a family-appropriate one. And I don’t know about you, but that really lowers my respect for him and makes me disinclined to listen to his music, even if I think he has some talent. It just makes me appreciate performers who have real class all the more.

Now let me clarify something before going further: I’m not against listening to secular artists. My ipod is loaded with them. Sure, Billy Joel isn’t exactly a model of morality. But he’s not aiming for the demographic Michael Buble is aiming for. And I can’t appreciate the kind of artist who markets himself to a wide age range, attracts families with children to his concerts, and then proceeds to frat-boy his way around the stage with no regard for that demographic whatsoever. If you’re going to be crude and obscene, at least don’t pretend to be the classy, family-friendly type in the image you project to the market.

And you know, the sad thing is that I can see why he’s popular. I can see why a lot of people like his music, and the reason is that his style hearkens back to a more innocent time. It’s different from the junky hip-hop and club disco and electro what-not that’s circulating around these days. People associate his music with class, elegance, and style. Would that he personally embodied those characteristics in the way he acts when he’s not singing. And tell the truth, it’s difficult not to sense that he’s immensely pleased with himself even when he sings—very much of an “Anything you can sing, I can sing smoother” attitude.

So bottom line is… if you see some of your favorite gospel singers tweeting about Buble, and you don’t happen to recognize the name… it’s a lot of hype over a guy who doesn’t deserve it. Take my word for it.

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Filed under Commentary, Culture, Other Genres

A Tale of Two Songs: The Answer

Yesterday I conducted a little poll to see whether my readers could tell from isolated snippets whether two songs were Christian or secular. Though I didn’t get quite the response I would have liked (COUGH COUGH… just kidding ;) ), I got a nice little handful of submissions.

The majority of the votes were divided between option one (both songs are Christian) and option three (the first is Christian, the second secular), with a small percentage voting that they were both secular.

Another small percentage voted for the right answer: option four. Song one is secular, and song two is Christian.

If you’re surprised by that, I don’t blame you. Because if I hadn’t been the one setting up the competition, I probably would have been surprised too.

Let’s talk about song one first. It is called “I See You,” and it’s the theme song from the recent blockbuster film Avatar. (The singer is Leona Lewis—very talented UK “diva.”) These are the full lyrics:

I see you
I see you
Walking through a dream
I see you
My light in darkness breathing hope of new life
Now I live through you and you through me
Enchanting
I pray in my heart that this dream never ends

(Chorus)

I see me through your eyes
Living through life flying high
Your life shines the way into paradise
So I offer my life as a sacrifice
I live through your love

You teach me how to see
All that’s beautiful
My senses touch a world I never pictured
Now I give my hope to you
I surrender
I pray in my heart that this world never ends

I see me through your eyes
Living through life flying high
Your love shines the way into paradise
So I offer my life
I offer my love, for you

(Bridge)

When my heart was never open
(And my spirit never free)
To the world that you have shown me
But my eyes could not envision
All the colours of love and of life evermore
Evermore

(I see me through your eyes)
I see me through your eyes
(Living through life flying high)
Flying high
Your love shines the way into paradise
So I offer my life as a sacrifice
And live through your love
And live through your life
I see you
I see you

You don’t really have to know the story to get the gist of the song, but it’s taking off on the movie’s idea of “spiritual seeing” that the noble blue Na’vi have (and the nasty humans, of course, don’t). The two main characters will sometimes say to each other, “I see you,” which is meant to convey something “deeper” than mere physical sight. There’s a good dollop of eco-mysticism woven throughout here, with lots of “colors of the wind” type stuff (for those of you who remember Pocahontas).

But what really disturbs me about this song is the way in which the language borrows from the language of Christianity, so blatantly that most of you thought from the snippets I posted that this was a Christian song. Now, religious love language is not new. There’s a history of love poetry which attributes god or goddess-like characteristics to “the beloved.” However, most romantic poets who used that language in their work did so with a kind of mischief. There was a twinkle in their eye. They knew they were exaggerating, tongue firmly planted in cheek. But this song is different, because it takes itself very seriously. It’s the soundtrack to an epic romance. We’re supposed to feel we’ve listened to something profound when we hear it.

Let’s focus on those snippets again. First:

I see you
My light in darkness breathing hope of new life
Now I live through you and you through me

Does this imagery ring any bells? Sound a little familiar? Maybe a little too familiar? Keep in mind that this is written in the first person from the perspective of the human protagonist, who is falling in love with an alien woman. She is taking on the form of a Savior figure for him. He’s finding “new life” in her. Here’s the second snippet:

Your life shines the way into paradise
So I offer my life as a sacrifice
I live through your love

“Paradise” here refers to the beautiful, untouched world of Pandora, which is then invaded by the humans. (By the way, “heavy-handed” would be the understatement of the year as far as this film’s many and sundry liberal agendas are concerned, but we don’t have time to get into all that today.)  Christ opens the way for Christians to enter paradise, and this woman is doing the same for the speaker. The next line is the creepiest, in my opinion: “I offer my life as a sacrifice.” Yikes! This could refer to a couple of things in the story, but ultimately it probably refers to the fact that the protagonist  sacrifices his human body to become fully Na’vi at the movie’s end. Of course, we as Christians are to offer ourselves as “living sacrifices,” with the small difference that we are doing so for, uh, God. “I live through your love.” Again…sound familiar? Final snippet:

Now I give my hope to you
I surrender

It’s like a twisted mash-up of “Take My Life and Let it Be” and “I Surrender All.” Charming, eh? The speaker is, essentially, placing his soul in the hands of the woman he loves. And through her he has… what? The song tells us: “Life evermore.” Life evermore. As in eternal life.

This is pernicious stuff. It is clear that the writers of this song were intentionally taking language very familiar to Western society, which is steeped in the traditions of Christianity, and using it to suit their own perverted spiritual ends. It goes beyond being just a fluffy pop song, because it’s more dangerous than that. The film it’s based on, of course, is itself pernicious (while managing to be, quite frankly, laughably bad at the same time, pretty blue eye candy or no pretty blue eye candy). It is openly pagan and shows the Na’vi worshiping Pandora’s equivalent of Gaia (Eywa), which really just is The Earth.

However, I’m not really sure which is sadder: the fact that this is a secular song, or the fact that song two really is a Christian song. It’s called “Deep in Love With You,” and it’s by Michael W. Smith. Sorry Smitty, I think you’re a good guy, and you really can write some great music when you put your mind to it, but… major thumbs down here. Now once again, let’s be clear that this is nothing new. The tradition of romanticizing man’s relationship with God goes back for centuries, and traces of it can even be found in hymns like “Jesus Lover of My Soul” and “I Will Arise and Go To Jesus.” This song even borrows the “lover of my soul” phrase at one point. However, those hymns at least boast some excellent poetry and manage to keep a strong sense of dignity about them. This one…well, doesn’t:

I’m deep in love with You, Abba Father
I’m deep in love with You, Lord
My heart, it beats for You, precious Jesus
I’m deep in love with You, Lord

“I can’t resist the tenderness of You” is another line that just about makes me want to…excuse myself. Honestly! Has Christian music sunk so low that we’re no longer capable of expressing our devotion to God beyond the level of a chick-flick script? Now, granted, if you read the lyric as a whole, you would find some doctrinal references that would clarify that it’s a song about God, not a girlfriend. However, the main thrust and the main hook could very easily be taken as such and are hopelessly shallow. Here’s a different song with the same idea:

Every time I breathe You seem a little bit closer
I never want to leave
I want to stay in Your warm embrace
Oh basking in the glory shining from Your face
And every time I get another glimpse of Your heart
I realize it’s true
That You are so marvelous God
And I am so in love with You

And another…

You are my desire
No one else will do
Cause nothing else can take your place
To feel the warmth of your embrace

I’m sorry. I’ll stop now.

This is my point: At heart, both of my original examples are religious love songs. They’re just representing two different trends.  On one side, secular writers are beginning to intensify their religious language when it comes to describing the love between human beings, while on the other side, Christian writers are trivializing their religious language when it comes to the love we have for God. We, believers, are removing the seriousness from religious love language while they, un-believers, are increasing the seriousness of…religious love language. This should be seen as a major threat and a major wake-up call to the Church. Secularism is its own religion. Far from being spiritually neutral, it is revealing itself as deeply  spiritual in its own frightening way. It is imperative that Christian songwriters bring spiritual substance to the table. If they don’t, they will be fighting a dark and powerful enemy with little but flimsy cliches.

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Filed under Commentary, Other Genres, Songs

A Tale of Two Songs: The Poll

I’m going to give my readers a small quiz today. I’ll quote snippets from two songs, both of which some of you may recognize (in which case you already know the answer, so this doesn’t apply to you). Given the fact that my readers are (I presume) predominantly southern gospel fans, I figured it was a fair bet that at least a good portion of you won’t recognize either song. However, even if you only recognize one (which is plausible), you can still take the poll. Just don’t take it if you recognize both, because that would skew the results.

Here are the snippets. First, three snippets from song one:

I see you
My light in darkness breathing hope of new life
Now I live through you and you through me

[...]

Your life shines the way into paradise
So I offer my life as a sacrifice
I live through your love

[...]

Now I give my hope to you
I surrender

Now, three snippets from song two:

I’m home when I am here with you
Ruined by your grace, enamored by your gaze
I can’t resist the tenderness of you

[...]

I never have to search again
There’s a deep desire that’s burning like a fire
To know you as my closest friend

[...]

I’m deep in love with you…

Okay. Now, here is the question for those of you who recognize one or none of the songs quoted: Without looking anything up, would you guess that these are both secular songs, that they are both Christian songs, or that one of them is secular and the other Christian? And if the latter, which is which? Take the poll:

Tomorrow I will close the poll, reveal the answer, and discuss. So be sure to get your vote in today!

[Update @4:15 PM: It seems like either a LOT of my readers recognize both songs, or they're just not bothering to vote. I'd like to shoot for 50 by tomorrow, so make your choice! :) -- YGG]

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Filed under Commentary, Polls, Songs