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Friday, February 05, 2010

How Video Games Saved Church Music

There has never been a greater, happier, more fulfilling, more fun period of time in my 20+ years of being a musician in the church as this very moment. By “moment” I am referring to the period of time that began sometime in 2004 and stretches to the present—The age of Guitar Hero.

2004 saw the invention of Guitar Hero. God’s gift to the church musician. On its heels, RockBand came along in 2007 and the angels sang once again.

Not exaggerating.

Church musicians and church personalities come in all shapes and sizes but, if you are in church that is missional in any way (use your favorite descriptive word like seeker targeted, seeker sensitive, relevant, whatever), you are always seeking for songs that are winners. Songs that create moments. Songs that relate. Songs that people dig. As many people as possible.

Talk about livin' on a prayer.

Unless your church is predominantly one demographic, you swing the pendulum knowing every song is not going to hit everyone the same way but you hope it hits some. Few of us have a church full of 35 year olds who crave a Pearl Jam or Nirvana song every week.

Variety is key. But . . .

Something has changed and we owe a great deal of gratitude to the folks at Guitar Hero. They introduced Classic Rock to a generation who used to think it was dad’s old crappy music. Not only Classic rock but a variety of songs that were popular in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s not to mention current hits. Then, with RockBand’s introduction of Beatles RockBand in 2009, some of the greatest music of all time was introduced for the first time to the young masses. Happiness is a warm game.

For the first time in history, when parents are yelling, “turn that down!” there is a good chance it is the exact same song their parents’ told them to turn down . . . or, grandparents told their parents.

What does this mean for church musicians? It means your grab bag of songs should start with these catalogs.

But, the great thing is, it’s not only specific to these catalogs. All of a sudden, Classic Rock is cool across the board. And, all those 30 and 40-something’s who are coming back to church after years of hiding are bringing their kids who already know the words to what dad was listening to in the 80’s and 90’s. Outside of the game playing, younger crowds are listening to Classic Rock and 90’s RADIO because, if it’s cool for the game, it has to be cool. A Kansas song can show up on a game and kids go to iTunes and download the whole album.

Take a trip to Kohl’s or even Hot Topic and look at the clothing. Vintage rock tees such as AC/DC, The Doors, Van Halen and Rolling Stones have trickled down to the stores that cater to teens and they are buying them up faster than dad can say, "radical (or boss, or cool, or awesome)!"

In the last few months at Westwinds, I have run a little experiment. I incorporated Beatles tunes into worship medleys, played songs by The Who, Rolling Stones, REO Speedwagon and others with incredible feedback. By everyone.

The kids, college young adults, parents, and the older folks are all high-fiving us on the same tunes. One older lady who often comments about volume recently thanked me for playing The Who’s “Christmas” that hints at the Tommy lyrics. She is in her mid sixties. “That really spoke to me” she said. “Thank you for playing the music I love. You always do a good job.” (P.S. it was the loudest we have played in a long time).

It is also interesting that worship music heroes like David Crowder have embraced their inner classic rock and, in so doing, have made it okay for the more conservative Christian kids to listen to. After all, Ted Nugent played a guest spot on Crowder's 2007 album, "Remedy."

The planets have aligned. Thank you God. And, thank you video games.

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