Jun 17, 2008

MUSIC REVIEW: Chris Sligh's Running Back to You

I have been hard on Christian music for many years.  In fact, this has been one characteristic of mine that has really not changed much since high school.  I remember irritating my youth pastor Jimmy Fogleman with my caustic comments about various Christian albums.  That didn't stop in college . . . or in Tampa . . . or in Orlando.  I even have made rude comments about Christian music to my friend Dave Senes - who is the Programming Director for WAY-FM Christian Radio in Nashville.  (He took them well - filed them in the "Ignore what David Says File.")  Why have I been such a jerk over the years?  

I think it is because I love music.  I listen to music whenever I can.  More correctly, I love good music (doesn't explain my Weird Al albums).  It should have good music, and good lyrics.  I want it to be moving and powerful and fun.  Music has always been a part of my life.  I often just find myself singing for no reason as I wander around - songs I know, songs that I change the lyrics to, songs in a bizarre Operatic or choral style that drives Heather nuts.  My kids have heard my singing since they were babies when I would walk and sing them to sleep.  Sadly, due to my acid reflux, my singing voice is much damaged and does not have much range.  But I still love music.  

Here's what I hate about music.  I hate being told who I am supposed to like (David Crowder).  I hate having older artists get by on their laurels for years even after they lose their passion and skill (Point of Grace).  I hate having music executives identify trends and put out clone artists to make money (Whoever the Sarah Bareilles knockoff is on the radio now).  I hate songs being played over and over and over again until you learn to hate them (Chris Tomlin).  I hate contrived and manipulative songs that try to jerk your emotions for no reason other than that they can (Cinderella, Mark Schultz).  Put all those things together, and you can see why I am so hard on Christian music.  The industry as a whole is guilty of all of those things - on a very regular basis.  And Christian radio just perpetuates those problems.  

The problem is that when I don't listen to Christian music, and I am saturated with other music, I begin to find myself drifting.  I don't think there is anything wrong with me listening to U2 or Michael Buble.  But if that is all I do, I drift.  So I have to force myself to listen to Z88.3 - our Orlando Christian station - or to my iPod, which doesn't work right in my car.  After doing that for a few days, I get to the point where I can't take it anymore and find myself listening to Rihanna warbling about her Umbrella-ella-ella or lying boyfriend.  

All of this contributes to why I am so thrilled when I find some high quality Christian music.  A couple weeks ago, I heard a song "Empty Me" on the Z.  It was great - and a familiar voice.  I looked at Heather and asked, "Is that Chris Sligh?"  Sure enough, the DJ announced it was Sligh from his new album.  When it iTunes, I bought it.  And, dang, it is great.  For those of you who don't know, Chris Sligh was in American Idol 2007.  He was the slightly chunky guy with curly longer black hair.  During the early rounds, he sang Mute Math and dcTalk.  And his poking fun at himself and Simon got him early favorite status.  Well, right before the final 12 were named, he started to develop a bit more nasty attitude with Simon - nearly got him booted.

Once the Top 12 started, the fun loving Sligh was nowhere to be seen.  He was still popular enough to make it through the first two shows, but got booted and finished 10th.  His comment was, "I made the AI Tour, which was my goal."  It made us wonder what had happened to him.  And after listening to this CD, maybe a small hint comes out.  His song "Empty Me" talks about how the spotlight is addictive, how quickly your heart can stray, how fast you become a prodigal.  It makes me realize that he may have been battling a lot more than we thought in those contests.

The CD itself is 13 incredible songs - all written by Sligh.  He also plays numerous instruments and does background vocals.  I have not heard an album this good since Kevin Max's "The Blood" CD I mentioned back in January.  Actually, Sligh's is better.  A quick rundown of the CD:
  1. ARISE - Incredible song about God's mercies discovered each morning.
  2. CRY TONIGHT - About the fear involved in trusting God, thanks to all the times we've been hurt by people.
  3. I'M CLEAN - One of the greatest songs I've ever heard about God's forgiveness.  Talks about how God sees us wrapped in Christ's Righteousness.  Difficult concept for people to understand and accept - much less write songs about.
  4. EMPTY ME - "Empty me of me so I can be filled with you."  Sums it up.
  5. SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL - We can't understand the mysteries of God's grace.  We just know they are amazing and beautiful.
  6. LET YOU KNOW - Great music on this one about trying to figure ourselves out.
  7. IN A MOMENT - Christ's love changes everything in a moment.
  8. ARE YOU PLEASED? - My favorite song on the disc.  INCREDIBLE lyrics.  Asking God are you pleased with me?
  9. POTENTIAL - The frustration of when are finally going to grow up and "make it" to a maturity in life.  Great relatable song.
  10. LOADED GUN - Took me a while on this one, then got severely convicted by it.  We claim to be loving, but never make our words match our lives - or our witness.
  11. WAITING FOR YOU - Echoes of Rich Mullins in this question of why God takes so long.
  12. LOVE IS RAINING DOWN - Fun upbeat song about God's love.
  13. VESSEL - Inspired my post on being a Vessel recently.
I know this was a long post that was roundabout in its purpose.  But I have been wanting to write about this album for weeks.  It is amazing.  And I think it would encourage so many people.  Plus, the dude's voice is gorgeous and the music is a fun mix of stuff you would hear on any station on the dial.  In short, it is not locked into "Christian music" genre - even though the words are some of the most Christian I've heard in a loooooong time.  Full of theology and doctrine and wrestling.  In fact, I think I'll listen to it again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't get to hear new Christian music on the radio here. Thanks for the info. -- Diane