Categotry Archives: music

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My Rantings About the American Music Awards

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Categories: music, Rantings, whine-and-opine

Last night, I did something beneath me…

I watched a music awards show on TV.

It was the American Music Awards. (Okay, so nothing else was on. Sue me.)

Anyhow, just some opinions about some of the highlights of the night:
  • Kanye West, in typical uber-narcissistic fashion, preached about how he wanted to be the next Elvis, instead of thanking anyone for his award. He followed this up by turning in one of the most boring performances of the night. (He, no doubt, believed his performance to be flawless.)
  • Jonas Brothers showed a lot of stage presence but also demonstrated the weakness of their young voices in a live performance.
  • Coldplay, known for their great live shows, actually performed below their normal standard. (Oh, well, everyone has a bad night now and then.)
  • Beyonce shook a lot of booty and had several near misses in the “wardrobe malfunction” department, while singing a song about wedding rings, for probably the most flashy performance of the night. (no pun intended)
  • Old New Kids on the Block sang a medley of their greatest hits…no comment needed. 🙂
  • Alicia Keys’ performance was great–right up until the 2nd verse when Queen Latifah got up and began rapping about Barack Obama. Followed by…an opera singer?? The “superwoman” theme was cool and all, but…come on???
  • Some of the performances that sucked less than the others…Sarah McLachlan (surprise duet with Pink); Taylor Swift; The Fray; and Christina Aguilara, who opened the show with a medley (the only one of the young blonde divas that can actually sing).
The hands-down, show-stopping performance of the night? Annie Lennox. Singing alone with a piano, with no flashy set, no pyrotechnics, no sexy dancers. Brought down the house.

So…can anyone tell me why the one amazing performace in a 3-hour music awards show was by a woman in her 50s who topped the charts over 20 years ago?

No, this isn’t about musical style, and I’m not dating myself. I actually listen to some of my kid’s music, and like it. But when a 53-year-old woman with a piano can outclass production numbers that probably cost millions to produce…this is saying something. This is about performance, execution, and raw talent. Why don’t they make ’em like this anymore?

I don’t think it’s because we don’t have talented people these days, because we do. But something is getting lost in the translation.

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Soundtrack of Life

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Categories: fun, music

Sometimes I don’t think we even realize how much music is in the background.

Today as I sit in this coffee shop, they are playing Christmas music. Like they have for days.

Walmart has been playing Christmas music since the day after Halloween. (Don’t they know Thanksgiving comes first? But then again, does anyone know any “Thanksgiving Carols?”)

Christmas is my favorite time of year; I just don’t want to be tired of it by the time it gets here.

Anywho….

This got me thinking about how much music punctuates our lives, whether or not we are paying attention.

About a year ago, I did something kind of fun for myself. I formed a “Life Soundtrack” playlist on my ipod. (I’d share it with you, but my ipod isn’t with me just now.) These were songs that I remember from marking moments and seasons in my life…what was playing on the radio when such-and-such was going on, and things like that.

Songs that would bring back a memory, something from my history.

So…do you have any choice picks from your “life soundtrack?”

How about this? In the comments today (if you’d care to participate)…tell me:
  1. Five songs that were playing at marking moments in your life;
  2. What one song would you say has been the most memorable or meaningful, and why.

I’ll chime in with my answer later today in the comments.

Ready? Go.

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How My Picture of Ministry Is Changing

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Categories: changing mindsets, food for thought, music

(You might want to read these two posts first, if you’re just joining us, so you have a grid for this one.)

In my last post, I shared how in a conversation with my family about our creative gifts, we realized that we had been trying to fit our gifts into a traditional ministry paradigm, instead of letting those gifts BE the ministry. I shared what an “a-ha” moment this was for me.

When a truth like that confronts you, it creates a paradigm shift. In other words, when you build a whole mindset around some assumed beliefs or facts, and a new truth is entered into the picture, you have to re-think your assumptions to accommodate that truth.

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Retooling our Gifts for a New Season

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Categories: changing mindsets, church, food for thought, music

My mind has been drifting back to some previous posts (see here and here) where we were discussing individuals who function in various ministry positions (like pastors and worship leaders), who find themselves displaced when they no longer feel they belong within institutional Christianity. Their gifts don’t go away, but they no longer know what to do with them. My blogger friend Glenn has talked about it; I can certainly relate; and I know there are others.

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A Conversation I Had Yesterday With a Nashville Producer, the Two Reasons I Think Indie Music Is Exploding, and Why I Am Telling You About It

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Categories: food for thought, music, Rantings

As a musician and songwriter, one thing I’ve been doing lately is to take steps to make my music more visible and accessible. One way I’ve done this is to create a MySpace Music page and use it for networking.

The other day I got a very complimentary message from a producer/songwriter in Nashville regarding my songs, telling me that he felt the recordings were rough (which I knew) but that the songs themselves had potential to reach a wide audience if they were re-cut.

So I called the guy. (What would you have done if you were me??)

What transpired was a long and eye-opening conversation. He was very nice, took his time on the phone with me, tried to answer all my questions, but more importantly tried to give me a realistic view of the music industry and what it takes to “make it.”

It was enough to make the faint-of-heart…well, faint. Here is a summary of the most significant parts of the conversation.

The days of sending in demos and getting “discovered”, he told me, are pretty much over. These days, there are so many people bombarding the record labels that for them to even look at you, you have to already have made a buzz, have some sort of following, and be able to prove you can sell records. (This is one reason, I believe, why indie music is exploding right now; it’s almost like you pretty much have to already have made a successful record in order to get signed.) In his words, with the music industry, it’s “all about money”–all about selling records–and they won’t take a chance on you with their money unless they are fairly certain they will make money on you, no matter how talented you might be. And speaking of money…it costs a lot–a lot–to make a competitive recording and get it noticed. A lot.

As potentially disheartening as this information might be, it does make some sense up front. The labels have apparently made it very difficult to get “signed,” and it’s primarily for their protection. But…as I mulled this stuff over, I looked at the fruit of what the major labels are producing….and overall, it leaves a lot to be desired.

There is a lot of good talent out there, and lots of records are being sold…but the truth is, we haven’t seen a new superstar talent of the caliber of Cher, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, or Madonna in decades now. (And Britney Spears doesn’t count.) You know what I’m talking about–the “it” factor, the talent and creativity behind the production, that makes an artist stand out above the rest. I think one of the reason American Idol and shows like it have been so popular is that there is a creative void, and people are getting hungry and even desperate to find the next big thing. But it honestly isn’t showing up, not the way it once did. The music is all running together, with more and more artists in the field, but fewer and fewer that stand out. Lots of technology and sonic wonderment–very little creativity. That’s what we have to show for the music industry’s current policies. That is the fruit.

So, why am I ranting about this here? Because in mulling it over, I found a startling similarity between the music industry and something else I talk about often on this blog.

It would seem that the American music industry is very much like institutional Christianity.

It is an institution, with policies, protocols, structures, formulas, exclusivity, and well-established mindsets of how things ought to be done–and a slough of unwritten rules to be learned and kept–just like the institutional church. If you play by the rules, you might find acceptance within the culture itself; but will you really be effective in what you are supposed to be doing? That’s the spitting image of the church today. Lots of exclusive clubs, very little effectiveness in reaching people with Christ’s love. And in a different way, we can see the music industry growing more and more ineffective in its own field, for very similar reasons.

I find this particularly interesting because when you realize what you’re up against, you have to make some decisions. When we see institutional Christianity for what it is, we have a choice to make: we can choose to stay within it and try to work for meaningful change from within; or we can choose to look for a better way outside its structures. My journey has taken me outside the walls of the institutional church. I can now see the music industry for what it is, too; I wonder if my journey into the music field will take a similar path to my journey of faith.

I don’t know the answer to that one yet. What I do know is that it would be wise for some folks in the music industry to start thinking outside the box. I believe the other reason why the indie music scene is exploding is because creativity is going to find a way, and because the public, little by little, is discovering that freshness in many of the upcoming artists who are making a way for themselves without the help of major labels. Just as there is a quiet shift going on in the church right now, there appears to be a similar shift taking place in the field of music. The shift in the church, I believe, is part of God’s plan; the shift in music may or may not be. But the reality is, when institutions of any kind make forward movement impossible, at some point, movement will find its way around it.

It’s just very interesting to me how similar the two are.

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If I Could Have a Talk with Bono

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Categories: fun, music, What the heck was THAT?

(This is a sequel to the post “People Who Want to Talk to Bono“.)

HOW I’D LIKE THE CONVERSATION TO GO:
Me: Hey, Bono, howzitgoing?

Bono: Great, Jeff, how are you?
Me: Awesome. Say, I’ve got some great new ideas on eliminating third-world debt. What say we get together sometime soon and talk them over?
Bono: That would be amazing. By the way, I’m having trouble with a lyric to a song I’m writing. I wanted to run it by you and see what you think.
Me: Sure, Bono. Let’s take a look. (I pull out my guitar as Bono fumbles for the lead sheet.)
(And so the conversation goes….)
HOW THE CONVERSATION WOULD PROBABLY GO:
Me: So…you’re a rock star in a band.
Bono: Yeah, guess so.
(awkward silence)
Me: Get a lot of people at your concerts?
Bono: Pretty much.
(awkward silence)
Me: Nice weather we’re having.
Bono: Yep.
(awkward silence)
Me: So…you guys need a keyboard player?

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People Who Want to Talk to Bono

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Categories: fun, music, What the heck was THAT?

I have a friend I meet with regularly at Starbucks–a musician friend. A couple of times he’s talked about how he’d like to sit down with Bono of U2 and ask him a few questions sometime. I chuckle inside when he tells me this because he sounds so matter-of-fact about it–like the biggest rockstar on the planet is going to sit down with him and have lunch or something.

But the other reason I’m chuckling…is that I feel exactly the same way. I would absolutely love to have lunch with Bono and pick his brain sometime. When I make it big in the music biz, he’ll probably come knock on my dressing room door after a concert sometime, and he and I can go get some coffee, and…

Oh, crap. Mind-melding again. Sorry about that.

Anyhow…what makes me think of this now is that Sam posted on his blog about how he’d like to meet Bono and have a conversation with him sometime. Just as matter-of-fact as if he’d been sitting with my friend and me at Starbucks. (Is this a virus or something?)

So it got me thinking…how many people out there would like to sit down and chat with Bono sometime? I don’t mean people who are starstruck who want him to sign their navel and take a picture with him. I mean people who want to have an intellectual conversation with him and find out what he thinks.

So if you’d like to talk to Bono…respond in the comments with:
  1. Your name (first name only is OK).
  2. What ONE question you’d most like to ask him.
I’ll print the list out, and the next time Bono and I go for coffee, I’ll give him the list. (After I’m done asking my own questions, of course.)

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More Thoughts on Music and Worship…

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Categories: Meanderings (look it up), music

So I’ve continued to ponder some of the things discussed on this blog last week, particularly about music and worship. I shared how I’m bored with Christian music in general, and how even “secular” music has been speaking to me…and I use the word “secular” loosely since I’m really getting rid of the whole sacred/secular hangup, and I only use the word now so you’ll know what I mean. Knowhutimean?

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