As I’ve worked in Christian music and been heavily involved in church culture it hasn’t been uncommon to hear Coldplay played in soundcheck or comments such as “That part sounds just like Coldplay, I love it,” or “Coldplay is life,” throughout the week.
My guess is that if you are a worship musician reading this, there is a good chance that you like Coldplay…and you should because they are a great band. I don’t think many people can disagree that they have made an incredibly profound mark in the history of music.
So, what’s the problem here, Jordan?
Well, with Coldplay, abso-freaking-lutely nothing. All they have done is make honest true to themselves and continue evolving with each record.
Our perspective and digestion? That’s a different story.
Developing a well-rounded diet
If you develop a habit of eating the same exact foods every day, your health and what you produce will be limited. Variation and change are needed to make sure your body is getting what it needs.
Likewise, creatives produce what they consume. We are all a product of our inspirations. If we have limited inspirations, our creativity will be limited.
Coldplay isn’t our only habitual meal. We all know that U2 is highly favored, One Republic gets our attention when we’re feeling a bit more poppy, and The 1975 (usually their old sound from their 1st album) is referenced if we want to be “progressive.”
Again, there is nothing wrong with these artists. I have listened to them in certain seasons, and there’s a reason why they are massive. The issue at hand is that we obviously sound like those artists because it’s all we tend to digest and reference. If our diet consisted of many artists of different types, it’s near impossible to not produce something unique.
Innovation over imitation.
I believe that if any of us talked to The Edge, he’d encourage us to take our own paths. He did.
I actually heard an interesting story about a successful Christian musician in Nashville who got to talk to Chris Martin backstage. The musician was quite eager to tell Chris how much of a reference he was for countless Christian producers in the industry and thank him for what he did for our music. Chris’ response wasn’t as enthusiastic – “I guess I should probably do something different then.”
What if Christians were the ones creating something so beautiful and powerful that we were inspiring the world around us?
Comfort is the greatest inhibitor to progress
Liking Coldplay isn’t a problem. The problem is birthed as we take a good thing and camp out with it, marry it and nurture it. This leads to comfortability in our worship. When we do the same things over and over again, even the same dotted 8th delays and swells, the same “Fix You” beats, we limit the territory we take in the spiritual realm.
When I read the Bible I see lives built on progress, moving to promised lands, picking up a cross, winning battles, serving others, growing from revelation to revelation, and new seasons with new stories. Staying comfortable rarely goes hand in hand with these concepts. The Israelites were comfortable in Egypt, but in order to see the land of milk and honey, they needed to go through the wilderness with a change of diet.
To grow in your relationship with God you have to change something. You can’t stick to the same daily routine. In the same way, you can’t practice the same blues scale for the rest of your life and expect to be a proficient guitarist. You also can’t listen to the same 5 bands and expect to create the best music.
God wants us to move forward and take new territory. Our worship is one of our greatest weapons for doing so and our sound matters. 2 decades of referencing the same tricks and sounds only keeps us standing still.
Where is our standard set?
“That’s great for ‘Christian’ music…That’s good production for a ‘Christian’ film…That’s quality ‘Christian’ design and branding…”
Isn’t it strange that we have become so accustomed to Christians being known for a lesser version of a secular product that we say or think things like these?
Why is current Christian culture the set bar for excellence? We were never meant to simply be Christian versions of Jonny Buckland, The Edge, The 1975, etc… We need to believe in ourselves and think prophetically as cultural leaders.
The purpose is for the world.
But Jordan, it seems like you’re ranting because you’re judgmental, want to be cool and just don’t like Coldplay. Where’s the benefit for the Kingdom?
Changing anything just for the sake of change or being cool is pointless. There has to be selfless, Kingdom purpose in everything we do. I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t believe there wasn’t purpose in it for the greater good of the world and leading people to God.
Pushing boundaries (being creative rather than imitating), and not just settling for what has worked in the past, represents Jesus to the world with power. We are reflecting the greatest creative of all time. We owe it to the world to bring about refreshing beauty through our music.
Our music isn’t just “for the Church” – it’s for the world. The world is looking at everything we do and it needs to reflect God’s best.
I wouldn’t be a good leader if I wasn’t humble enough to admit that I am guilty of everything in this article. I have fallen captive to what’s comfortable. I have been guilty of setting the bar low for excellence as well as thinking little of what I can actually accomplish. I have resorted to emulating rather than innovating because it’s easy and comfortable. I’m preaching to myself here. But, I want you to know that I’m trying to stretch myself and am willing to leave Egypt behind, so to speak. There’s a promised land ahead if we’re willing to get uncomfortable.
How do you push the limits of your creativity? How can we as Christians set a new bar for creative standards? Tell us in the comments below!