Wednesday, April 23, 2014

To Be Clear: Owl City Music Isn't "Christian Music" in the Usual Sense

This isn't a criticism of his music. But it's a pushback against the attempts by well-intended fans to promote exposure of Adam Young's faith and influence others through the knowledge that there's a deeper meaning to certain songs' lyrics.

The pushback is for two good reasons. It's to discourage the attempt to pigeon-hole everything as being of theological significance, and it's because once you want to call something "Christian Music," there's a legitimate reason to hold it to a higher standard of ... clarity.

Several songs in Adam's repertoire, on average one or two per album, present a fairly noticeable Christian theme, in part or full. But this is far from a complete Gospel, which I think it's fair to expect a song touted as a Christian Song ought to include. The closest his songs come to this is by mentioning the exclusivity of faith in Christ, which is good, but even a song about Allah (if Islam didn't forbid music) would contain emphases on exclusivity, so that isn't something that, on its own, makes a song uniquely Christian.

Adam has covered two very good hymns, In Christ Alone and How Deep the Father's Love for Us, and these are splendid for the fact that they project a crystal-clear Gospel. These are Christian songs, yes, but they are not original to Owl City. Adam has yet to produce a praise-and-worship song, and so it wouldn't be appropriate to call his music "Christian" as if that were their primary defining characteristic.

This is a very good thing, in fact. And why should I say that?

Because so much of CCM ("Christian Contemporary Music") is full of songs that sound pleasant to the ears, but don't always make a lot of Biblical sense -- worse, much goes against the Gospel and appeals to people's emotions, as I've written about before. Once your music is labeled "Christian," first and foremost, people will expect it to be representative of Christianity. It puts limits on how you can express yourself, because if what you share are just your personal feelings at a given time, or even just disjointed thoughts, you need to make that clear. If you don't, you'll sow confusion among listeners.

Owl City music is legendary for its whimsical and confusing lyrics. They leave themselves open to a wide variety of interpretations, or none at all. This is perfectly fine because Adam isn't trying to send a specific message. He is making music to make people feel good. This is fine and great. And I think that part of the reason he has avoided writing explicitly Christian music is because he has more freedom to be mysterious and melancholy, since there isn't the presence of a limiting expectation.

This gives him the freedom to make music and still include Christian elements, either in symbolism or inspiration for the lyrics, without having to go to the lengths necessary to make sure he doesn't confuse people who would, because of the descriptor "Christian music," come to his music expecting to be told things that they can then characterize as Christian.

I think this is for the best.

~ Rak Chazak

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