Question of the Week: What Do You Want In Your Lyrics?

Question of the Week: What Do You Want In Your Lyrics?

It has long been said that Christian music is the only so called genre that is based solely on the content of the lyrics, even though in my eyes it has more to do with the current status of an artist’s soul than the topical nature of their songs.

Still, with the designation of Christian music comes with a lot of different expectations by a lot of different people groups. Of course there are the very strict radio stations that go with the old JPM standby. That’s the terrible term of “Jesus Per Minute”, where you actually count how many times someone says the name Jesus in a song, so that you know how holy it is.

Although most of us are not that extreme, we still each have our own expectations of what Christian music is versus what it should be.

Some might still say that Christian music has to be quite specific, like a Bible study where the artist is clearly outlining a specific idea or topic that they want to address and then stating exactly what they want the listener to get out of the music.

Likewise, some might believe that all music should be lifted upward to God in some manner of worship, either directly with lyrics that praise Him or indirectly worshiping Him no matter who they are addressing.

Still others might believe that musicians should be no different than any other artist (painters, sculpters, authors), such as C. S. Lewis who was famously asked if we need more Christian writers, replying “No, we need more writers who are Christian.” The basic point being that our art should be like any other person’s art, but with our worldview affecting all that we do.

Sometimes the line between one thought and the next is razor thin and it is hard to distinguish one from another, but I’ll ask you what you like to hear in your lyrics?

I’ll leave you with this:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Colossians 3: 16 (NKJV)

About Tyler Hess

Tyler Hess has been running Christian Music Zine since he created the site in 2008. His favorite bands are Relient K, Bleach, Emery, House of Heroes, The Classic Crime, Children 18:3 and Anberlin. Twitter = @tylerscotthess More Posts

26 Comments to “Question of the Week: What Do You Want In Your Lyrics?”

  1. Justine Obi Wan Johnson // May 15, 2012 at 7:17 am // Reply

    You might wanna fix the title, Tyler. :)
    Good thoughts, though. :D

  2. I just want my lyrics to be deep. It doesn’t matter how much they mention Jesus or the Bible as long as what they’re saying lines up with a biblical worldview.

    Or you could be Family Force 5, in which case you don’t need lyrical depth…but I love them anyway. :P

  3. Carey Womack // May 15, 2012 at 9:48 am // Reply

    The lyrics I hope to hear depend in part on the style of music through which delivered. Witty, funny lyrics sound better in some genres than others.

    Mostly, what I want, are lyrics that are clearly written from a Christian worldview and/or the honest emotings of a person of faith. They should be artfully and well-written, but not so cryptic that I can never understand them or their intent.

    I tend to like albumns in which the perspective of faith clearly impacts a majority of the songs.

    There’s also a place for well-written worship/devotional lyrics, ones that say it in a little different way.

    Lyricists I favor include: Jon Foreman, Glenn Kaiser, Mark Heard, Toby Mac, the Downhere boys, Terry Taylor, Randy Stonehill, Lecrae, Ashley Cleveland, Jeremy Riddle, Matt Morginsky, Reese Roper, Sarah MacIntosh, and many more.

  4. There should definitely be “Bible study” songs, the more the better. But not every band has to write them and not every band who writes them has to write all their songs like that. I think Christian bands writing about the full spectrum of their life is a great thing. Even goofy songs. I’m not very picky as long as it’s something I can enjoy.

  5. I would love it if people could write worship lyrics akin to the brilliance of “Be Thou My Vision”. I’m not sure you can ever match the power of old hymns like those.. but it’d be cool to see someone try. It’d be nice to see worship artists with more poetic leanings rather than just repeat the same refrain over and over again.
    John Mark McMillian, Jon Foreman, and My Epic are all great example of this. I know My Epic isn’t considered worship but I think their stuff is the most worshipful music out there. :)

  6. That’s a REALLY hard question for me. I would say AT LEAST 90% of what I listen to is from openly-Christian bands, while the other 10% is secular. Even then, all but maybe 3-5 bands are bands without Christian influence, then there are ones where they are secular bands that have Christian influence.

    The secular bands I listen to that DON’T have Christian influence are older bands I grew up around, except for one. With them, I still isten because they have exceptional musicianship.

    Nowadays, I can’t say that I pick up on secular music. I haven’t started listening to a band without Christian influence in probably 6-8 years. When I look for music, I look for stuff made by Christian bands or secular bands with Christian influence. The intent is to avoid music with vulgarity in its lyrics and/or a message I find immoral.

    When I listen to Christian music, I care more about the sound than the lyrics. However, there are bands, like Thousand Foot Krutch, where I love the sound, but the…oddness of the lyrics can be a turnoff at times.

    I lean heavily on heavier music, though I’m also someone with not-so-great hearing, so I’ve gotten used to being unable to tell what is being said in many parts of many songs by those bands. That’s why I often spend a good deal of time looking up a band’s history, because I’m also not great at decyphering the meaning behind songs, so I want to know that the people’s hearts are in the right place.

  7. I’m more partial to lyrics that have depth and meaning to them. It makes an album all the more meaningful. But I also enjoy bands like FF5 for the fun that they bring.

  8. I really like complex lyrics that arent cliche or cheesy..or sung by 100 other bands out there.

  9. I’m not one to worry a whole lot about the topic, even with Christian bands. But I’m old (fashioned) enough to like “clean” lyrics. You can sing about the love between a man and a woman in a positive way, or make it just plain dirty. Hmmm, will I be as open to lyrics about the love between a man and a man?

  10. Jesus said give Him the first fruits so I think Christian bands should definitely put repping Christ first. I don’t mind the occasional funny song or love song (see KJ-52/FF5) but when the whole cd is void of the name of Jesus/Christ/God…it’s a little disturbing to me.

    • Justine Obi Wan Johnson // May 16, 2012 at 1:16 pm // Reply

      Totally agreed on that point! If we are trying to stand out from the rest of the world so that it is obvious that we love Jesus. What is the point of avoiding the use of His name if we claim to follow Him? People watch that more than we realize sometimes.

  11. Loser of Greatness // May 16, 2012 at 3:31 pm // Reply

    For me it is more about what I don’t want in lyrics. I’ve noticed a couple things that I have a hard time listening to (not that I should feel that way):
    1) Songs written from the perspective of someone in sin, like Flush by Brian “Welch”. I can see the art in the songs, but I like to sing along with my music and embrace the lyrics.
    2) Songs that speak negatively of people, like Drama Queen by FF5.
    3) Songs that I have no clue what they mean try as I might. See at least half of Capital Lights songs. Whenever I think I might have a clue, the next line proves me wrong.

  12. For me, I like lyrics that are like poetic, clean lyrics. I also prefer songs that have unique topics. Songs about scars, letting go, and songs that have choruses entirely of holy, holy, holy are too common.

  13. Rob Neiman // May 17, 2012 at 11:26 am // Reply

    More meat…To much fluff and filler and not enough meat on a lot of the new cd’s. I like music and lyrics that move me. some cd’s got it, some cd’s don’t When I was going through treatments for a brain tumor, Matthew West, and Sanctus Real really spoke to me. In the old days, records always had a meat side and a fluff and filler (B sides) side. With the way the music industry is crumblin’ the artists need to step up the game and desire to release music that’s 110% of themselves. Better music means better sales and better sales means a mew start of music to the world. Quality is job 1 period.

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