why most CCM sucks: an example.

So, I don’t listen to a lot of CCM. I have a few worship bands I enjoy like Hillsong United or David Crowder Band but that’s pretty much it as far as what’s in the regular rotation at K-LOVE. But we’ve been listening to K-LOVE in the car (and by ‘we’ I mean Sam and myself) because while K-LOVE can be cloyingly positive and encouraging, at least the DJs and the music isn’t crass or vulgar, and with an 18-month old who doesn’t. miss. a. single. thing, I figure super annoying is a better choice than vulgar, at least until I can get a auxillary jack for my mp3 player in my new car (in my old Subaru, we could play mp3s through the tape adapter, but my new car only has a 6-disc CD changer, and who even has CDs anymore? I have some, but they are all scratched, because all the music from them has been ripped to my mp3 player, where they belong).


So I’ve been exposing myself to a bit more CCM than is in my standard diet. Most of it is just there — it’s not good, but it’s not bad, and it’s not original or overly ambitious, it just exists as some “music” that some record producer figured out will sell records to …who knows. People without the same taste in music as me.

One song in particular comes to mind as being particularly obnoxious. I don’t really have a problem with the over-earnestness that seems to haunt CCM music, or even the lackluster passionless studio musicians who play the songs. No, what tends to bother me more than anything is lyrics that are stupid and cliche.

And the song “Undone” by FFH is a perfect example of that.  Let’s take a look at the lyrics, shall we?

Open up wide, swallow down deep
No spoon full of sugar could make it sweet
The cancer inside stealing my sleep
Night after night it keeps haunting me

Wait, we’re swallowing cancer? Typically, no, sugar won’t make cancer any sweeter. Or are we talking about something else? The cancer is stealing your sleep? Wait, what’s haunting you? Cancer? Is it a ghost? A sweet cancer ghost. Oh. Gotcha.

So the sweet cancer ghost….

The secrets I keep
Are tearing me up inside
I try to hide and then I wonder why

Why I’m still running when I know there’s no escaping

No escaping from the saccharine incubus of cancer? Or from your secrets?

Come undone, surrender is stronger
I don’t need to be the hero tonight
We all want love we all want honor
Nobody wants to pay the asking price

Who are we talking to again? Yourself? The Sweet Cancer Ghost? The asking price for what? I’m confused…

Fall on my knees, fall on my pride
I’m tripping over all the times I’ve lied
I’m asking please, but I can see in your eyes
You don’t need tears for alibis
It’s true what they say
Love must be blind
It’s why You’re still standing by this sinner’s side

Ohhhhh we’re talking to Jesus! I get it now!! So why were we asking Him to surrender and come undone earlier? Oh we weren’t talking to Him then? We switched who we were talking to halfway through the song so that everyone in your community college intro to creative writing class could circle that on your working first draft as really confusing and —

You’re still by my side when all the things I’ve done have left you bleeding


I don’t think I can drive it home tonight
I don’t think I wanna be alone tonight

Are you drunk? Is the sweet cancer ghost an adult beverage? I mean, it says earlier you’re tripping over all the times you lied, so really…are you drunk? Also: theological point of contention: Love isn’t blind. God doesn’t just choose to ignore your sin. No, a penalty had to be paid for it. And Jesus paid the price. Now, God looks at us and sees Christ’s righteousness covering us, but at no point is it a blind, unseeing love. That’s the beauty of the gospel — despite knowing the very depths of our sin, even more than we know of our own sin,  God sent His Son to die in our place. And now our sin has been erased.

Anyway, just a small point of contention, and with a train wreck like that song I wouldn’t really expect theological soundness.

Every time I hear that song it makes me want to rip my hair out. I mean, come on. This is like freshman creative writing level stuff — metaphors that are not only cliche, but mixed and confusing, changing who the text is addressing, etc. Shouldn’t we at least try to write lyrics that don’t suck? I know, I know, but their hearts were in the right place when they wrote that song and that’s what really matters, blah blah blah, and I’m a mean person. But whatever. Write songs that don’t suck. Thanks.


4 responses to “why most CCM sucks: an example.

  1. The first time I listened to this song I couldn’t listen through it’s entirety. Even now when it comes on a station I can’t reach over and change the button fast enough.

    My reasons for not liking it are a little different than what you have written out in this post. To be quite blunt and honest with you, the first line in the song sounds extremely vulgar and flat out gross. It is not a song that I can honestly listen to and worship the Lord. You made some excellent points with your analysis, but I didn’t even give it that much benefit of the doubt.

  2. I can see your point about the clichés. Some do get used and together make this jumbled mass that, when read together, doesn’t really make much sense.
    However, I myself and a writer, and while I can understand the case you are making about confusing points of view and freshman-level metaphor usage, your attitude about this whole thing completely negates the criticism.

    I don’t think you’re a mean person, but I do think this is a distraction from the Truth. There comes a time when a line has to be drawn between making constructive remarks or just hammering out negative comments.
    Half-way through reading this I wondered if you were a Christian. To be honest, I was almost completely convinced you weren’t until you started talking about the Lord specifically and arguing about one line of the song.

    I was intrigued that you made such a stance against the fact that God does not choose to ignore our sins, for it brought to mind a verse my dad and I had recently talked about: “…for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” Jeremiah 31:34.
    It wasn’t so much your stance was so against this fact, as I guess it was that you interpreted one line to such a great length. Because of this verse, I think of it as God chooses to forget our sins. Yes Jesus died so that we would be free of them, but in God’s infinite love, I believe he chooses to forget them. In a way, I guess I would think of it as “a love that chooses to be blind”. It was surprising that one line could cause such a debate, considering it’s potential to be interpreted the two ways in which we both have.

    I’m not writing this to blind-side you, or to attack you, but I would say, as a Christian, this saddens me. We all have our own taste in music, but a song for the Lord is a song for the Lord, and worship is a beautiful thing. I’m sure this song has caught many hearts (like my own, as right now I relate to this very well while I battle with my own pride), and this blog is a distraction from that.
    Personally, I’ve realized that the devil uses many things to trip us up and get us caught in ideas and situations that don’t even matter. We even get so caught up in our faith that we forget about the faith part.
    So, I wouldn’t ask so much why this song sucks, but I would ask you why you -think- it sucks so much. Is it that atrocious?
    I fight a daily battle to keep my head afloat in the secular tide, and when trying to find lyrics to a song that helps me do just that (find support from fellow Christians battling the same thing) I get this: a Christian heart with a secular way of thinking.
    It is not only something we should do as Christians to find beauty and heart in everything around us, but our duty, because Jesus would have done it, and he did.
    I don’t know how much of your life you look at in this way, but I wish you could look at this area differently.
    There are songs I find issues with, and some that do annoy me, but I always see good in them, because what doesn’t unite us will separate us.
    God bless you, and I hope I have said something that would help you to see differently.

    • Tim and Alissa Birkel

      Hey. Um. It was kind of a joke? Like…I think perhaps you’re taking the whole thing entirely too seriously. Especially if, in a random look-through f my blog, you can question my salvation. That makes me think you’re mayyyybe over-reacting juuuust a little. I don’t think I agree with your assessment that because this song is “a song for the Lord’ that therefore it’s allowed to be a poorly written, mediocre song. Or, that I am not allowed to have a negative (even if mostly joking) opinion of it. Art is art, whether it’s “for the Lord” or not, and some “art” that is produced, is terrible. This is one example.

      Sorry my blog ruined your day. You don’t have to read it.

      I’m human and clearly haven’t reached your level of sanctification yet. Maybe someday I’ll be able to question the salvation of random mommy bloggers based on one blog post.

  3. Just stumbled across this blog… as a word of encouragement, I think most CCM is of poor quality, too. I’m not sure what frustrates me more–that the artists think they can get away with it, or that Christians — who are supposed to be discerning — eat the stuff up. I don’t question your salvation, and probably Kaitlin doesn’t either. We can all grow in our attempts to be gracious in our criticism.

    To address Kaitlin’s point from scripture, God seems to be very particular about excellence in his crafting of the temple and in finding musicians for temple worship. He specifies “skilled” craftsmen and instrumentalists–not just some random Joe who can embroider or pluck at the harp. Not every church or individual will have the same gifting/experience, but at the level of FFH, who receive national radio airtime, it’s reasonable to set the bar high.

    Not sure if you’re familiar with them, but Sovereign Grace Music is *usually* pretty intentional about the precision of their lyrics. Bob Kauflin also has a blog (worshipmatters.com) that addresses some of these very issues. I also like Matt Redman, Andrew Peterson, Sarah Groves, and Stephen Curtis Chapman. By and large I find these artists to marry solid lyrics with quality musicianship, even if they don’t often top the charts of CCM. And of course, any hymn that’s still sung today is probably coherent enough to listen to. Hmm… think I’m going to go listen to some of this stuff now. 🙂

    God bless!

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