Worship Music with Substance (Or How Can I Keep From Gagging?)

I’ve been listening to Chris Tomlin’s latest CD: See the Morning. It’s not a bad CD. There are some good songs, most have a decent sound.

My problem is with his lyrics. They strike me as empty, ho-hum, “reshuffle the same 30 worship words around and call it a song” lyrics. Most of his new songs are just cliche worship. For example, look at the first song, “How Can I Keep From Singing?”

There is an endless song
Echoes in my soul
I hear the music ring
And though storms may come
I am holding on
To the rock I cling

How can I keep from singing Your praise?
How can I ever say enough?
How amazing is Your love?
How can I keep from shouting Your name?
I know I am loved by the King
And it makes my heart want to sing

I will lift my eyes
In the darkest night
For I know my Savior lives
And I will walk with You
Knowing You see me through
And sing the songs You give

Ick! How can I keep from gagging? You know it’s a bad song when you can guess the last word of every line based on rhyming with the preceding line. “You” and “through,” “ring” and “cling,” oh come on. There are other words we can use in the English language!

That’s why I’m more drawn to David Crowder, Delirious?, and Neal Morse. There’s some creativity and imagination put into their music and lyrics.

Tomlin has written some great worship music. There is no doubt about it. But his latest offering strikes me as a reshuffling of lyrics and a very predictable progression of chords.

But I’m not after Tomlin. There is no shortage of poor Christian worship music out there. As a writer I have to think of creative ways to describe things and people.

Look at Ann Lamott. Read her books and columns. She doesn’t just say somebody is amazing or idiotic. She describes her idiots in such a way that you hate them just as much and those who are amazing appear in such a way that you cannot help but agree with her.

Language can be a powerful tool. Let’s use it.

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3 thoughts on “Worship Music with Substance (Or How Can I Keep From Gagging?)

  1. Charity

    “How can I keep from gagging?”

    Man, that’s harsh. (Yet, how can I keep from chuckling?)

    I haven’t listened to that album yet, but generally speaking, I know where you are coming from on this.

    Isn’t there a purpose for predictable worship music, though?

    At the church I go to, they use a lot of songs that would fit that description, but they seem to work well in a group setting like that because people can join in even when they don’t know the song.

  2. ed Post author

    Charity, great point. That’s why I wrestled with posting this. Maybe there is a place for it, especially for new believers who are not inundated with the usual worship stuff. Nevertheless, I still think on the whole we could do better.

    About the title: I needed something that was catchy. Tomlin doesn’t really make me gag, but I have been dang close.

  3. Adam Malliet

    What jumped out at me was this reckless use of the first person singular. Was this song meant to be sung alone in a car at the top of one pair of lungs or is this a song meant for corporate worship. I am just imagining (can you imagine) a church of one thousand people singing their autonomous songs of praise completely unaware of the interconnectedness of the body of Christ. One thousand autonomous religions all slightly resembling Christianity. blah,

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