Saturday, October 24, 2015

Quickies: Controversializations Dept.

     I’m not a big country-music fan, but I find myself drawn to the music, and not coincidentally to the personae, of a number of country stars, in particular Emmylou Harris, Trisha Yearwood, and Carrie Underwood. (Yes, all three are beautiful women. More than coincidence? Your Curmudgeon reports; you decide.)

     Underwood, the youngest and today the most prominent of the three, gained recognition through American Idol. Despite the show’s legion of imitators and its enduring popularity with viewers, Idol hasn’t produced many first-echelon stars. Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, and non-winner Jennifer Hudson are about all. Underwood is probably the best known. Her many awards and huge international popularity speak for themselves.

     This morning I was powerfully struck by the following snippet from this article about Underwood at Fox News:

     Underwood, 32, is a seven-time Grammy Award winner who has recorded 21 No. 1 singles and sold 58 million records worldwide. She has never shied away from underscoring her faith and religious beliefs and lays them out for all to see....

     “After ‘Jesus, Take the Wheel’ came out,” Underwood said, “I’d do interviews, and people would go, ‘Wow, singing about God! That was risky!’ I was like, ‘Really?’ Gospel music and country music has gone hand-in-hand for decades. Plus, it was just me. It was me!” [Emphasis added by FWP.]

     With country and country-flavored bands edging ever more deeply into the pop-music current, the cultural establishment would like nothing better than for openly religious artists to knock off the God stuff. Establishment reviewers and critics strive to label religiously and spiritually-oriented country music as somehow “controversial” – that it’s “risky” and “alternative” for a country artist to embrace religious themes. Yet as Underwood notes above, country music and Gospel music have been good friends to one another for decades.

     At this time, the U.S. is the most Christian country on Earth, with 74% of its residents self-identifying as Christian at the last census. Its would-be taste-makers despise Christianity and would like nothing better than to see it vanish. So they encourage the notion that religious themes in music somehow make it “risky.” (This, of course, is directly contrary to the overwhelming importance of the Christian faith of all the great composers in our history. The faith that built Europe’s great cathedrals was the force that propelled most of the music that has survived the test of time.) They view hold-outs such as Underwood as a stumbling block – and the more so to the extent that Underwood’s music might incline younger fans, their convictions not yet set in concrete, to think that there might just be something to this Jesus stuff.

     Consider Underwood a marker, a stone in the pop-cultural river. Harris and Yearwood are similar stones; see especially Harris’s brilliant recordings Red Dirt Girl and Stumble Into Grace. Recently, Taylor Swift has displayed a comparable influence, though she tends to keep her faith out of her music. Whether there are enough such stones to disturb and deflect the establishment’s preferred current toward secularity and hedonism, only time will tell.

1 comment:

Brinster said...

Speaking of music....
I'm playing in a church group and we play contemporary Christian music.
I played in many incarnations of a band for nearly 30 years, and this is as good a music as I've ever played.
A partial list of the artists we are covering:
Catherine Mullins
Rick Pino
Big Daddy Weave
Jesus Culture
Kim Walker Smith
Hillsong United
If you've never heard of any of these artists, give them a listen, and you will be pleasantly surprised. Excellent musicianship, both instrumentally and vocally. And the songs will lift you up.

Thanks for being here.
Sal Odierno (aka Brinster)