I have been listening to the new Crowder Album ALOT recently. It’s one of my favorite albums this year so far. I knew at first listen that people would either love or hate it. One of the reasons people may not like it, is because it is heavily programmed. My next thought was, “Why are people afraid of Electronic music and why has church friendly music been confined to Chris Tomlin, Phil Wickham and Hillsong’s musical taste? Why must Worship Music sound like a certain thing to become acceptable? I remember when no one did “My Glorious” until Chris Tomlin did it, and then it suddenly became a Worship Song. So in that train of thought I began to think about Dance music and what Worship Music could learn from Dance music. This isn’t a critique of worship music for the sake of being critical but a look at a few things worship music could adapt and learn from Dance Music. Enjoy!
1) Computers are Instruments
There is a great interview with Chris Martin on 60 Minutes, heres a quick segment, where Chris Martin discusses the ”Band Rules” that Coldplay has created. One of the most interesting is that “Computers are Instruments, not Recording Aids”. Think about this within the context of Dance Music. You see DJ’s on stage with their Decks and Laptops, using their Computer to morph recorded samples and create new sounds and Technology as a whole is embraced by DJ’s to get new sounds. We have started to see more and more churches with laptops on stage, either for keyboard/synth sounds or to run tracks. But most people have to see a certain church do it before they feel like it’s OKAY for their church to do it. The extent to which they are actually using the computer is to press play on the track and then to stop it at the end. They aren’t interacting with the computer, it isn’t being treated as an instrument, its just there to play their sounds to make their band sound bigger. Just imagine what it would look like to have a computer on stage to trigger samples, filter sweeps and to add spontaneous elements to the music. What would worship music sound like if we treated the computer as it was an instrument and valued spontaneity? We have definitely made great advances already with using computers in Worship Music, but there is always room to grow!
2) Embrace and Create Energy
Its impossible to just listen to Dance music. You have to get up and Dance or move somehow. The goal of Dance Music is to create a certain vibe or energy and get you up off your feet. What if Worship Music tried to create more energy. There are some Worship Artist that are incredibly energetic and really get the crowd involved and interacting, but their are some Worship Leaders that simply just get up on Stage and engage themselves in worship but never engage the Crowd to respond and create energy. This doesn’t mean just make every song a “4 on the floor” Kick pattern, but use your message and your music to create that energy. How many churches have you seen sing about how Christ has Rescued them and Raised them up from the Dead but stand there with their hands in their pocket, half asleep? Lets attempt to create some energy and embrace energy once created, and not for the sake of emotion or creating a feeling, but because the message we are singing about and the one we are singing to is worthy of getting Excited about!
3) Smooth Transitions
One of the best things about Dance music is the focus on Transitions between Songs. Each song flows into each other and tempos and keys are similar enough that this transition isn’t awkward. How many worship Services have you been in when the Worship Leader transitions into the next song via saying something or praying, or that Each song starts and stops and they are all in different tempos and keys and don’t fit together at all? Worship Leaders should spend extra time making sure that all the songs flow together so that when you start a set, each song sounds like it’s supposed to go where it is. There are clearly times for stopping and talking and praying, but don’t use them as a crutch because you can’t re-arrange the song to fit.
4) Remix Everything!
For every song that comes out there a million different remixes of it. All in different Electronic Genres. Worship Music could benefit greatly from taking what they hear on a CD and adapting it to fit their congregation. The good thing is there are popular Worship Leaders that are already leading the way with this. Take for example “Everlasting God”. There is the Brewster version, Tomlin version, Brenton Brown’s original version. So we now have three options to pick from. But what if when you heard “Everlasting God” you said I want to adapt it to fit my church, speed it up and change a few chords. Once that arrangement gets old slow it down and simplify the chords, make an old song fresh and new. The message is important enough that it should be adapted to fit different situations. All it takes is a little imagination and creativity to make any song fit your crowd or situation.
Worship Music has made huge advances since I started leading worship for my youth group. The next generation of Worship Leaders has so many more advantages and tools at their disposal then we did when we first started. But if our goal is to continually improve and advance lets all take a long hard look at our own ministries and Worship music as a whole and see what steps we can take to improve it!