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"Stop Covering these 10 Worship Songs"

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On the other thread, NIck said:

Hmm...

Not a whole lot of praise and worship songs on this list.

Just sayin'..

So I thought it might be fun to list the worship songs we think have been over covered, and celebrate those truly awful covers of worship songs that weren't bad to start with.

But now I can't think of any...

um...

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You can't think of any? Matt, you're British! I spent only five weeks in your country back in 1994 and I couldn't go ANYWHERE without hearing 'Shine Jesus Shine'. :)

Though if it's specific RECORDINGS that we're looking for, well... I don't have any.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Almost any up-tempo, U2-ish version of Open the Eyes of My Heart makes me want to tear my clothes in anguish.


"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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I think the "overcovered" aspect will be hard to pin down because most of us hang out in one church, and really have no idea what gets played/sung/worshipped to in other churches. But for me:

1) Any song that has the word "River" or "Rain" in the title. I'm all about metaphors. Love 'em. But I just feel weird singing to God about rivers and rain. I don't know what the words mean, at least in any theological context.

2) "The Happy Song" -- This one is sometimes accompanied by dance; more freeform than liturgical. Never try to induce a melancholy dude to sing a song called "The Happy Song." It's a bad idea.

3) "I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever" -- I can't even sing it for two minutes.

4) Any classic hymn sung to a TV theme song melody, such as "Amazing Grace" sung to the "Gilligan's Island" theme.

5) "The Heart of Worship" -- Whenever the singer gets to "It's all about You!" I cannot get the image of Bill Murray as Lounge Singer out of my head.

6) Songs sung among white people that mention dancing. These songs almost universally induce that wacky bob and sway that says, "I'm singing that I'm dancing, but I'm not actually dancing, so to remedy the situation I will awkwardly alternate the bending of my knees to generate body movement."

7) Any songs that are sung from the perspective of God. There is a song called "Isaiah 43" in which we are called to sing "For I am the Lord your God." I look around. I search my heart. I think, "Nope, not me."

8) There is a song that features the chorus "Yay, God." I have mercifully forgotten the name. Boo.

9) The song that contemplates the awesome majesty of God, notes that his (the writer's) words should be few in the face of such transcendence, and then goes on for another five or six verses.

10) Any songs that contain the words "Ha-ha-ha-lelujah" or "Ho-ho-ho-sanna." Or "laughing." Or "laugh." It's the melancholy Jeremiah thing again. Don't make me do it. Also, Jesus is not Santa Claus.

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Hmm. Interesting. Keith and Kristen Getty were here in Boston yesterday, and they played a concert/worship service at Park Street Church. It was wonderful; I was actually thinking, after the service, about 'In Christ Alone', one of the songs I've heard the most in the past couple years. It felt brand new singing it last night in the service, but I do wonder (and I sincerely hope this won't be the case) if that song will also suffer from being overplayed. I think it would be a real tragedy, as it's one of the few worship songs I feel like I can sing with a good conscience and unhindered heart.

A good worship song for me is like a good expensive wine; you save it for special occasions, during which you really savor it. When you use it every Sunday, during the most emotional part of the service, it could potentially cheapen it, as for me it's harder to focus on the words and the strength of the song as worship to God when it's something I've sung over and over and over again. I think unfortunately, when it comes to praise songs, familiarity really does breed contempt.

I love the Getty's music, especially as they focus on writing music that has a strong theological bent to it; I wish more churches would dig deeper into the Getty's library of songs, instead of just replaying 'In Christ Alone', as there really is a treasure trove of beautiful hymns and worship songs there. This is my sentiment with most great "worship" songwriters, and the chuches who only grab onto the instant hits.

Oh, and in the interest of keepin' it light, there's always 'Shout to the Lord', the most brutally and relentlessly overplayed worship song in history. After hearing it a million and one times, it does make me want to shout, but perhaps not in a godly way.

Edited by Joel C

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Great list, Andy...

First of all, here is great story from Charles Colson, about "Draw Me Close". In short, songs that can easily be replaced as one's boyfriend/girlfriend are just plain icky to me. "Your Love is Extravagant", "The More I Seek You", "Wrap Me In Your Arms", "Sweep Me Away". I mean, yes, I get that we--the Church--are the bride of Christ, but I'm not ready to sing a honeymoon-suite song just yet.

Secondly, the book "Reaching Out without Dumbing Down" pinpoints songs which are clumsily written, without differentiation between the members of the Trinity. They used the example "Mighty Mighty Savior" as an example: "Father, Father, Father to me.... Let Your people sing, that You are a Mighty Mighty Savior..." Nope. The Son is the Savior. Another example is "Holy Spirit Thou Art Welcome".

Thirdly, I have a REAL pet peave for songs that sing God is merely "Holy Holy". The moment one understands the ancient-Jewish approach to writing phrases, writing an adjective in three's (Holy Holy Holy) is akin to saying "Perfectly Holy", or "As Holy as Holy Can Ever Be." Conversely, singing the adjective in two's (Holy Holy) is akin to saying "Very Holy", which, in God's terms, is simply not holy enough. Examples include "It Is You", "Be Unto Your Name", and "Agnus Dei" (by Michael W Smith).

Fourth, Agnus Dei by Michael W Smith (covered spectacularly by Third Day), is NOT the Agnus Dei, not even a translation, not even remotely close. Interestingly enough, the actual lyrics for the Agnus Dei (Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, misereri nobis/Dona Nobis Pacem), and its translation (Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us/grant us Your peace), easily superimpose themselves over the actual melody, and I, as a parody-writer, cannot resist...

Fifth, Jehovah/Yahweh. The former is a non-word (No "J"'s in the ancient Hebrew alphabet), the latter is a word we, out of due reverence, ought not to recite. In fact, the Pope, in the last year, has issued a decree to prevent all songs using the latter word in liturgical circles.

As for most overplayed/over-covered songs? Lord I Lift Your Name on High, Trading My Sorrows, You Alone Are Worthy of My Praise, Shout To the Lord, Blessed Be Your Name.

Hmm. Interesting. Keith and Kristen Getty were here in Boston yesterday, and they played a concert/worship service at Park Street Church.
How fortunate! I'm a real big fan of their "Speak O Lord". Here's hoping that song does not lose its power as its saturation point of over-familiarity increases.

Edited by Nick Alexander

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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I was talking about the concept of "self-soothing" the other day with a christian friend who has been thru great trauma and personal upheaval. It's a parenting approach that many experts encourage people to use with toddlers and small children... Ya know, this concept that it's ok to let the kid cry in his crib for a while, that you dont have to jump up and coddle them everytime they get fussy and that in the process of "self-soothing" in their distress, they become more emotionally sturdy and better equipped to deal with distress down the road.

I don't for the life of me know why this concept is so foreign in pop christianity... So i guess this is my greatest pet peeve in P&W songs lately... I was in a church not long ago and every song in the service was a request for God to come, right here right now, comfort me pronto, get in this place, make me feel you're here, etc... Basically one long crying jag from the crib-- I'm sorry-- it bugs the shite out of me. Especially in light of the fact that a huge section of the world's population self-sooth in their abject poverty every night, and get by OK.


"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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I love my church. Really I do. I don't love my church's music. But I can't really say that to anyone face-to-face, because apparently I don't know how to say it in any other way than "This music really sucks," and then people get offended, and hurt, and I end up having to backpedal in the name of unity, and making everyone happy (then we all sing "The Happy Song"), etc. So I mostly shut up. Except here. B) God help me if anyone from my church ever reads this.

I struggle with the language of many contemporary worship songs. A lot. Not only are the songs weak theologically, but they are weak grammatically, and that may be a more serious offense in my corner of the universe. Is basic noun/verb agreement too much to ask? Is it okay to point out, on the overhead slides, that the word "kingdome" is not a real word unless one is referring to a former sports arena in Seattle that was blown up a few years back? Is it okay to cringe at the notion that "the angels are antheming?" Might I engage in migraining over such usage?

I don't know. I do know that these songs seem to "work" (in the sense that people seem quite capable of entering into authentic worship) for many people. But I find it hard to worship when I'm gnashing my teeth.

Edited by Andy Whitman

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This morning I find myself in a mood to say that we should stop covering any worship song that has words/lyrics. Ok, more realistic response.

Anything on a WOW worship CD, Open the eyes of my heart, anything that talks more about the worshipper, any anything that is evangelistic in purpose, Oh man, my spiritual blood is starting to boil thinking about this. (deep breath, deep breath)


...the kind of film criticism we do. We are talking about life, and more than that the possibility of abundant life." -M.Leary

"Dad, how does she move in mysterious ways?"" -- Jude (my 5-year-old, after listening to Mysterious Ways)

[once upon a time known here as asher]

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I agree with just about everything that has been said here. A couple of songs that really get on my nerves:

1) I don't even know the name of it, but the chorus is, "Yes, Lord! Yes, Lord! Yes, yes, Lord!" It makes me want to drive nails into my eyes.

2) I think the name of the song is "Above all." It has the spectacularly bad line that says "Like a rose trampled on the ground, You took the fall..." It takes the mystery and beauty of Christ's atoning sacrifice and dumbs it down to "taking the fall," which sounds like a line from The Sopranos.

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Hm. Couple of examples of bad worship lyrics:

You Are Worthy (Don Parsley):

"Intoxicated by your glory..."

Hey Don -- look up that word and its root word sometime. Intoxication results from consuming stuff that is BAD for you.

God with Us (MercyMe):

"Like hinges straining from the weight/My heart no longer can keep from singing..."

There's gotta be a better metaphor. Hinges are inanimate objects; they don't strain, and the only weight they bear is the weight of the door. And when people try to bust down doors, they generally don't do it by applying more weight to the hinges. But beyond that -- if I grant you your straining hinges, what do you suppose they would sound like? Mhm. Do you really want to compare your singing to that sound?

I don't know if these songs are overplayed or not. We don't do the first one in my church; we've done the second one but with any luck it'll flop.


Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

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1) I don't even know the name of it, but the chorus is, "Yes, Lord! Yes, Lord! Yes, yes, Lord!" It makes me want to drive nails into my eyes.
That's Trading My Sorrows, mentioned above.

Needless to say, I once heard a children's choir (6-8 year olds) sing this song, with hand-motions and everything, and the person I was viewing this asked me whether these children were too young to sing "I'm trading my sorrows, I'm trading my shame... sickness... pain...".

"Intoxicated by your glory..."
Good catch. Perhaps that's why the _Anima Christi_ (traditional prayer, also the text of two praise and worship songs I know) uses the phrase "Blood of Christ, inebriate me".


Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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Slightly off topic, since I don't have any particular songs to rant about, but still...

I can't quite remember the quote, but I once heard Chuck Swindoll complain that too many worship songs follow a tried and true formula (misquoting here, but you get the idea):

one verse

2 key changes

3 chords

4 lines

5 words

sung 6 times...

....or something to that effect.

(But lest I sound merely cynical, the Psalms often repeat the same ideas over and over. I'm not sure repetition is always a sign of simple-mindedness, though it can be.)


"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »

Quoted on Canada's $20 bill; from Gabrielle Roy's novel La montagne secrète. The English translation, The Hidden Mountain, is by Harry L. Binsse.

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You can't think of any? Matt, you're British! I spent only five weeks in your country back in 1994 and I couldn't go ANYWHERE without hearing 'Shine Jesus Shine'. :)
Thankfully at about the same time that you were here, it was already dying. I haven't heard it played anywhere for a long long time (even playing it ironically has died a death).

But then perhaps the reason for that, and my not posting any suggestions of my own) is that it's been a long time since I experienced worship anywhere except my own congregation. There's plenty that winds me up there but is that the case elsewhere?

Matt

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One that has always bugged me "God Of Wonders" particularly the line "God of wonders beyond our galaxy," which for whatever reason, makes me think of the opening to a particular sci-fi movie franchise.

When I was in college, I got really burned out on "I Believe".

And I can't take "Unto The King" seriously -- it sounds like a pirate praise song. My friends and I couldn't but swing imaginary tankards along with the melody.


"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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I think I may have just vomited.

Yes, I really did.

Twice.

Thanks for the good times, ya'all.


In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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As a (sometime) worship leader, it's good for me to look over these grievances and take inventory. Yes, many, many worship leaders repeat too much--I know for myself that I try to temper this with creative medleying techniques, jumping from familiar-song to familiar-song, so as to keep the momentum going, without becoming overly repetitious. I know for myself that strong lyrics take precedence over everything else, but in a manner which finds the right tone (conveyed by tempo, key, time signature, and creative arrangements) that both bring out the best in those lyrics, while also proving to be easily embraced by the community-at-large.

It's also not all hard to figure out how to figure out which songs are worth using. Christian Copyright Licensing, Inc (http://www.ccli.com), which most church worship leaders should be members of (those who rely upon overhead projection or songsheets, as opposed to those who rely upon purchased songbooks/hymnals), puts out a TOP list every six months. And by TOP, I mean Top 25, Top 100, Top 500, and Top 2000 lists.

What are the most overplayed songs? Those songs which remain near the top of the latest list, but have a copyright date that is older than the rest. Eyeballing the current (top 25) list, this means:

=============================

TITLE AUTHOR

Blessed Be Your Name --Redman, Beth/Redman, Matt

Here I Am To Worship --Hughes, Tim

Open The Eyes Of My Heart --Baloche, Paul

Shout To The Lord --Zschech, Darlene

Forever --Tomlin, Chris

Come Now Is The Time To Worship --Doerksen, Brian

Lord I Lift Your Name On High --Founds, Rick

You Are My King --Foote, Billy

God Of Wonders --Byrd, Marc/Hindalong, Steve

The Heart Of Worship --Redman, Matt

Beautiful One --Hughes, Tim

We Fall Down --Tomlin, Chris

Trading My Sorrows --Evans, Darrell

You Are My All In All --Jernigan, Dennis

In Christ Alone --Townend, Stuart/Getty, Keith

Breathe --Barnett, Marie

Days Of Elijah --Mark, Robin

How Great Thou Art --Hine, Stuart Wesley Keene

You're Worthy Of My Praise --Ruis, David

================================

Expanding it to Top 60, you see even more criminal over-players:

TITLE AUTHOR

Better Is One Day --Redman, Matt

I Give You My Heart --Morgan, Reuben

Lord Reign In Me --Brown, Brenton

Draw Me Close --Carpenter, Kelly

Above All --LeBlanc, Lenny/Baloche, Paul

You Are Holy (Prince Of Peace) --Imboden, Marc/Rhoton, Tammi

I Love You Lord --Klein, Laurie

I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever --Smith, Martin

Great Is Thy Faithfulness --Chisholm, Thomas Obediah/Runyan, William Marion

Awesome God --Mullins, Rich

Give Us Clean Hands --Hall, Charlie

As The Deer --Nystrom, Martin

Let It Rise --Davis, Holland

He Is Exalted --Paris, Twila

Shine Jesus Shine --Kendrick, Graham

Majesty --Hayford, Jack

Interestingly enough, the top song on this list, Chris Tomlin's "How Great Is Our God", has not been mentioned on this board just yet (it's only five years old), although most of those mentioned appeared on this list.

Conversely, similar techniques are employed to find those songs which are gaining traction, becoming familiar by the day, but are not yet over-saturated. This approach is following the rankings of Top 2000 lists, and taking note of the "bulletted" songs--newer songs that have arisen in great popularity between lists.

It was this approach that allowed me to discover "Speak O Lord", which, to me, is an example of superior craftsmanship in modern worship songwriting--beautiful, appropriate words that are complemented by an easy, congregational-friendly, but appropos, melody. It's still not in the Top 200 yet.

Other exceptional songs I've discovered through this approach:

I Have a Hope --Tommy Walker

Alive, Forever, Amen --Integrity Hosanna!

Saviour King --Hillsongs

Hosanna --Brooke Frasier (Hillsongs)

Revelation Song --Jennie Lee Riddle

New Doxology --Gateway Worship

By His Wounds --Mac Powell (Third Day)

All I Have --Vineyard

Holy God --Brian Doerksen

I hope that other worship leaders take note; overplaying a great song is to render it obsolete. Continually stretching your craft and the congregation's tastes (balancing it with familar--non-overplayed--material), will provide a tremendous opportunity to not over-saturate one's worship experience.

One last thing: once a song has become over-saturated in a congregation, it's a welcome opportunity to deploy parts of that song spontaneously, in the middle of other songs, so long as the lyrical content complements that of the jumping off point.

Case in point: we all probably know the song "Give Thanks". Quick question: what is the one thing lacking in the song "Give Thanks"?

Answer: Any lyric that actually, um, gives thanks.

This, I remedied, by medleying from the first verse [...Give Thanks for He's given, Jesus Christ, His Son...] to a fast and quick old-time "Thanks" song, [Thank You Jesus, for loving us [4x]...setting us free... being here...], and then medleying it back to the original [And NOW... let the weak say I am strong...]. Because there is a logic in the approach to the lyrics, and because both songs were familiar to the congregation, it allowed for greater meaning to encompass the worship, and the breaking of the "formula" kept the over-familiarity of a song to be a stumbling block.

Not sure if this post helped anybody here, but that's what's on my mind, nowadays...

Nick

Edited by Nick Alexander

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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Thanks for the perspective, Nick.

When I was in my college group, I served on the worship team (behind the scenes, that is, not actually on stage), and I saw the difficulties in trying to put together a list of worship songs that would resonate with the message being taught that day, be engaging for the congregation, and, you know, actually help people to worship -- and all of the little details that entailed (e.g., putting together the right medleys).

Sometimes, people just wanted to sing the fun, upbeat numbers they knew -- those always got the biggest response. Which, of course, isn't the same as actually worshiping.

Eventually, I left that church, in part because of the worship. While all of the planning was necessary, seeing "behind the scenes" effectively killed worship for me. I knew how much of it was calculated and planned, which at the time effectively killed any actual desire to worship for me.

The next church I attended was quite a balm for me; by blending some fairly contemporary praise and worship with older hymns and creeds, the church countered the trend that I'd been experiencing. And I found myself able to worship again (which sounds somewhat self-indulgent, but I can't think of a better way to say it). That being said, I do hope we start cracking open the hymnals from time to time.

And now, I'm involved in a church plant that is somewhere between the two. We're primarily doing more contemporary stuff, but because we're still a fairly small group, and our worship team is pretty stripped down -- vocals, guitar, minimal percussion, and occasionally piano -- there's still an intimate, raw feel to it that I appreciate.


"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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Thanks for the perspective, Nick.

Right back atcha, Opus.

When I was in my college group, ...[snip]....Eventually, I left that church, in part because of the worship.
I would hope you left the college group because of graduation, but who am I to complain? I hung out at my college group for a full year after my graduation. (Or was this college group also a separate church?)

While all of the planning was necessary, seeing "behind the scenes" effectively killed worship for me. I knew how much of it was calculated and planned, which at the time effectively killed any actual desire to worship for me.
Seeing the strings. I can understand that. And yet when I led a praise team for a young adult fellowship, some time later, we practiced with a set routine, till we got all the moments just right. And that is the trade-off, oftentimes, for having a volunteer praise team, instead of running things solo. With a praise team, every key change, every transition, every repetition needs to be foreseen and hammered out in advance. Not unlike Bill Murray's encounters with the snowball-throwing kids in _Groundhog Day_.

A solid team is able to roll with the changes, and knows the entire songbook, and are open to following the worship leader, right there, in the moment. And that is trick-y.

That said, a ton of contemporary praise and worship are borrowing from classic hymns of our not-so-distant past. One of the best albums in this regard was Passion's Hymns project, which in itself was a follow-up to the smashing success of Tomlin's "The Wonderful Cross", also a hymn-cover. And note I heartily endorse "New Doxology", which takes the "Old 100th" melody into a strong, positive new direction.

And yes, I'm enjoying it thoroughly now; I'm officially dreading when that becomes passe.


Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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