I liked Abbey’s suggestion about making a list of my Least Favorite Praise and Worship songs. But Stephen is on staff at our church, so in the interest of diplomacy and friendship I hesitate to be too much of a hater.
So here is my disclaimer: I know that EVERYONE has opinions about church music; these are just mine. (And I recognize that they are just those–opinions—not matters of character or judgment.)
Part 1: Generalizations.
I generally blackball a song if I perceive that it exhibits one or more of the following qualities:
1. Repeats the same word or phrase more than three times in immediate succession
2. Emotionally evocative yet basically substance-less language: feels manipulative
3. Too self-focused
4. Not melodious. (This goes for complicated hymns as well as rambling contemporary songs)
5. Fine for the radio, does not translate to corporate singing.
6. Only one verse. (Seems like lazy songwriting)
7. Old hymn not improved by adding repetitive chorus and emotional bridge
8. Questionable content
Part 2: A few specific examples
(numbers in parentheses correspond to the previous list)
1. “How He Loves Us” by David Crowder et al. (1, 2, 6)
This song makes this list entirely on its own merit, but I should say for full disclosure that I don’t like David Crowder songs in general.
2. “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” ; Passion remix. (1, 7)
I love the original version of this song, but the fast tempo of the remix makes the verses hard to sing and follow.
3. “How Great is Our God” by Chris Tomlin (1)
Or pretty much any other song by this artist.
4. “Make a Joyful Noise to the Lord” by Shane Barnard (2, 4, 5)
Shane B songs are very enjoyable to listen to, but terrible to sing along with, and almost all of them break these same rules.
5. “Amazing Grace” (4, 7)
(a) I don’t like the original melody.
(b) I also don’t like the contemporary versions that rip off the verses to this song to accompany their own lame choruses.
(c) It bothers me to sing “we’ve no less days” when it should be fewer.
(d) Sandra McCracken has redeemed this song for me with a remix that features a revised melody, adds no additional chorus, and omits the offending verse. She released it under the original title of the song: “Faith’s Review and Expectation.”
4. “I’ve Got a Mansion Just Over the Hilltop” (3, 8 )
This song is so bad for so many reasons, it should go without even saying. But we have been in two churches that sang this song in all seriousness, so I’m including it as exhibit B that songs do not get a pass from me just for being in a hymnal.
5. “Marvelous Light” by Charlie Hall (4)
I actually liked this song okay until I sang it in the car one day and realized that without a distracting musical arrangement this is actually more of a chant than a song.
6. “Here is our King” by David Crowder (2)
A classic illustration of poetic language that actually says nothing.
7. “I’m Here to Meet With You” by Ten Shekel Shirt (8)
As if God is the one who may or may not show up?
8. “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me (1, 2, 3)
So glad this song seems to have run its course.