It seems that Christian music seldom receives a critical review. It’s a question that’s been on my mind since discovering some amazing artists outside the realm of CCM, and it has gotten me thinking: why does Christian music rarely receive poor reviews?
Criticism is a big part of an artist’s journey. It helps us see the faults in our works and it allows us to grow as artists. This is true for, not only musicians but writers as well. It’s something I greatly value myself, I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. So why don’t we ever see it in the Christian market?
I believe there are a handful of reasons. The first is the Gospel itself. We have a tendency to believe that the Gospel message presented in a song automatically means it’s a good song. While the message can make an impact, if the music supporting doesn’t match the quality of the message, it’s not a strong song overall. No one would knowingly purchase an album full of bad music only to hear the message it brings. However, when these songs are criticised, we often confuse a genuine method of help with an attack on the Gospel itself, when most times this isn’t the case at all.
The second reason reviewers like myself are nervous to write a negative review are the listeners themselves. I’ve read some really harsh reviews on some mainstream sites, even for albums that aren’t terrible (in my eyes at least), but if a Christian site wrote the same for a Christian release, it could greatly hinder listeners from buying the album; thereby missing what the musicians have to say. Judging an album harshly, especially a worship release, could cause the listener to look at the music other than God, potentially ruining whatever He wants them to hear or do if He leads them to listen to the particular album.
This is something I’ve received myself; when making a comment on a worship artist’s newest record. To me, it sounded identical to his previous releases, and it’s something I pointed out (maybe a little too harshly, I admit). I then received a reply with a statement declaring that we shouldn’t be focusing on the music, but on God. He had a great point, I couldn’t deny that. However, the music industry like any business is one that thrives and relies on money. In a church setting, the reply I was given rings true; but when an artist with several records to his name releases the same sounding project over and over for the sole purpose of worship, with little to no growth as an artist, it sadly becomes something no longer worth investing cash in for the casual buyer. When the average record costs between seventeen to twenty-two dollars here in Australia, buying an album solely for the purpose of worship isn’t a way of spending I can easily support, especially when anyone can sing anything to worship to on their own
The third reason for not criticising comes in the command to love. We’ve become too accepting. We’ll buy most anything if it’s Christian, and because it’s Christian, we’ll slap a glowing review on it, no matter how bad the music or book or movie may be. I’ve been guilty in the past for doing this very thing.
Honesty is a rare trait to come by, and by withholding it, I believe we’re doing the market more harm than good. Criticism is vital if an artist is ever going to improve his craft, but if we’re holding it back, we’re never giving the artist a chance to grow.
So maybe it’s time we showed more honesty. That’s not to say we should be harsh and cut down an artist’s work, that’s something no reviewer should do, but it’s certainly not wrong to show an artist where he/she can improve and help buyers decide what records are worth their time and money. In the end, it shows we do more than just listen, we care.