December 22, 2006

Some sweet day I'll stand beside my king

It looks like there's a new trend in music videos for lazy dino-rockers. String together a bunch of old clips so it looks like you -- or other people -- are singing the new song. I'm not complaining, mind you. Both of the recent videos to do this are pretty great. First Bob Dylan's Thunder on the Mountain and now U2's Window in the Skies. Dylan's is the better song by far, but the U2 vid is the more clever and technically proficient. Watch 'em both and see what you think. Has this been done before?

The Dylan video debuted on Slate as part of a contest: "identify the year in which each piece of footage was shot" and win a guitar. I wasn't on top of this quickly enough to realize, but I'm willing to bet almost anything that Slate fucked up. Identifying the year in which the footage appeared is easy enough for Dylanologists, but when it was shot? For instance, take image 7, a still from the video for Cross the Green Mountain, the theme song for the 2003 film Gods and Generals. Did Bob shoot his scenes for the video in 2001, when the film was shot? In 2002, after it wrapped? Or in 2003, just before it was released? I have no idea, and I'll be shocked if Slate does. Stay tuned.

As for the U2 song. I've become more interested in this band over the past year as I've become aware of the strange place they hold in the Christian pop subculture. In some circles they are totally embraced as contemporary christian music. But there are some radio stations, churches, etc. that will play cover versions of U2 songs by artists on CCM labels, but not the original versions of those same songs. Meanwhile, when I bring this up with non-evangelicals, they're often totally stunned, having had no idea that U2 is a Christian band. Or they'll say, "Sure, the band members are Christians, but the music is not Christian rock" (meaning, "It can't be, because it's too good/complex"). Maybe you have to know what you're listening for, since it's true that U2 rarely invokes Jesus by name, but other than that, they're not exactly hiding. Window in the Skies, to take only the latest example, is about as explicity Christian as you can get.

The rule has been disproved
The stone has been moved
The grain is now a groove
All debts are removed

As for whether Bob is still a Christian, well, that's a whole other post.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


One reason people don't realize this is because Bono is such a lazy lyricist (Pride, which is as much about Jesus as MLK, features the notorious "Early morning, April 4" line). We were pretty clear on their politics and faith on War, but I went to a Catholic high school filled with Irish Americans.

And I would quibble, saying U2 are catholic, not christian. Bono is quite clearly stumping for a straight up contemporary catholic New Testament read of the duty of humanity towards others. How he thinks he's gonna fit himself through the eye of the needle will be interesting to watch. I'm betting he gives him money to Gates/Buffett.

Do they count Sufjan Stevens?

Yes, but he's only popular in the alt-circles. Most evangelicals, like most Americans, have very mainstream tastes.

I hate to say this but it was my impression Bono was Church of Ireland (mother, school, wife and wedding) and maybe some of the others as well. Maybe he's like Michael Richards or Tim Whatley; "Catholic" for the Art?

How ecumenical is Christian music in general, though? I mean I realize there's no one answer for all but is there a general interchangeability among Mormon, Catholic, and various Protestantisms as long as the focus is Praise and not doctrine? For that matter is there Mormon pop music?

CCM as a genre (albeit a uniquely defined one) is probably 90% by and for evangelical protestants. Mainstream CCM artists almost always avoid doctrine entirely in their lyrics, not so much to avoid alienating Catholics or mainline Christians, but to avoid alienating different evangelical sects. Few radio stations would play a song that gets into the nitty gritty of when and how to do baptism, for instance. There's a trade off here, of course. On the one hand you gain larger audiences and promote a kind of tolerance; on the other hand, lack of specificity means blander music.

There are exceptions to every rule, of course, but I've met few people in the bubble who consider Mormons to be Christian, and I have no idea if there's any Mormon pop music, though I wouldn't be shocked. Catholics are generally accepted by all but the true fundamentalists, and there are plenty of Catholic CCM fans, though few major Catholic artists (maybe one or two, who first became popular as Protestants and held on to their audience). There are also Catholic artists who reach non-CCM audiences, of course.

Mainline Protestants also make up a smaller segment of the CCM audience and a virtually nonexistant segment of its artists. However I'll happily point you to a genuinely awesome Lutheran singer-songwriter, who should have a much larger following than he does: Jonathan Rundman (click for free samples). I'll almost certainly quote his "Xian Bookstore" somewhere in my book.

Most of the christians I met in the south had a negative opinion of catholics, ranging from the genially dismissive to hostility that seemed greater than that saved for liberal atheists. But I've also be surprised over the years about how marginal the liberal catholic community is both inside the church and outside it.

I'm not too proud that I know this, but the Barenaked Ladies had a video made up of old clips to look like they were singing a new song a few years ago. Don't know the name of the song, though.

I can totally vouch for the existence of Mormon pop music, or at least for its existence 12/13 years ago, when some Mormon rock group took over the main auditorium at my high school for a concert (I was on-site because we were running a show in the black-box theatre in the back, and we kept sneaking out of the green room to gawk at them.) My Christian taxonomy was none too good at that age, but I feel secure in my claim because my one clear memory of the event is when the lead singer bellowed into the mike "Who's going to Camp BYU this summer?" and was met with a fierce roar from the crowd. It was definitely a "more things in heaven and earth, Horatio" kind of moment.

>> I have no idea if there's any Mormon pop music, though I wouldn't be shocked.

Dunno anything about Mormon pop, but there appears to be a thriving Morman film industry. There are several titles at my local (Long Island) Blockbuster.

You seriously think the Dylon song is good? Maybe sung by someone else.

Thank you for that original observation. I wonder if the people who said the same thing back in '65 still maintain that the definitive It Ain't Me Babe was recorded by the Turtles.

Bono is very definitely not Catholic, and only one member of the band ever was Catholic at any time (Larry Mullen Jr.)

The lyric is actually "the grave is now a groove," not "grain," btw.

How ecumenical is Christian music in general, though? I mean I realize there's no one answer for all but is there a general interchangeability among Mormon, Catholic, and various Protestantisms as long as the focus is Praise and not doctrine?

What's called "Christian music" tends toward fundamentalist, and they hate the word ecumenical almost as much as they hate... well, most of the world's people. You can see a hint of this, mildly expressed for a general audience, when you see someone say things like: "And I would quibble, saying U2 are catholic, not christian."

Catholicism is, of course, Christian, but the hatemongers of fundamentalism cannot accept this simple and obvious fact. Given that, how can you expect them to accept any kinship with people outside their own sect?

Hey, 99, you've just been called a fundamentalist hatemonger! I know you'll have something to say about that. Be sure to run it by Dobson first.

The lyric is actually "the grave is now a groove," not "grain," btw.

Really? Grain is better. Has anyone ever pointed out what a lazy lyricist Bono is?

In 65' Dylan could hold a tune. Now he sounds like he's phoning it in. That's not an original comment because it's sadly true.

What? [sounds of hasty paper shuffling] Um, suck it, or words to that effect.

99 is a lazy commenter. Has anyone ever pointed that out?

U2 is half protestant and half catholic. Larry Mullen Jr. is Catholic, The Edge Evans is Protestant, no one really knows what Adam Clayton is, and Bono is considered a "bad Catholic"(a catholic who has no problem worshiping at a protestant church).

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