Last week, a quick interview clip of Billy Corgan hit the internet and cause quite a stir.
There’s a lot in this 2-minute clip but surprisingly, it wasn’t Corgan’s desire to write songs about God that got everybody talking. It was his “slam” of Christian rock music. Everybody loved that an couldn’t wait to repost is ASAP. Who knows what sharing a video on Facebook really accomplishes, but I doubt folks will still be talking about Corgan’s quote two weeks from now. Which is sad, because there’s some interesting stuff in this interview that Christians – and musicians – should be talking about.
1. HE’S UNINFORMED.
Corgan’s sentiment is a good one – bands shouldn’t work to be derivative just for the sake of commercial success. But before we all decide he’s gonna’ be our voice of reason, let’s break it down. If we’re being genre (or sub-genre) specific, Christian rock bands don’t sound like U2. Search Christian rock bands on iTunes and see how many of them sound like U2. Very few. I actually don’t think Corgan is being this specific; I think he’s speaking about Christian music in general. But even so – a quick scan of Billboard’s top 25 songs on the Christian charts revealed only 2 songs with U2 characteristics. If that were to hold true across the board, then that would mean 8% of all Christian music sounds like U2. I’m just having trouble exalting the wisdom of a guy who really is speaking out of school with regard to the landscape of Christian music.
2. HE’S PUTTING THE BLAME IN THE WRONG PLACE
This is surprising, considering Corgan’s copious remarks about the music industry over the years. Yes, there are absolutely conversations in the world of music about how to make songs more palatable, but I’m not sure those conversations are always band-driven. It’s odd that Corgan would place the blame on bands when there’s much evidence of late that record labels and publishers are often the ones who pressure bands to add proven – or “hit” – elements.
3. HONESTY IS MISSING
Maybe “wrong” is too strong an accusation. But what Billy Corgan is saying definitely suffers from being incomplete. So far, it seems like everybody is getting what Corgan is saying: be more creative. But that’s not all a musician is called to do.
Musicians are also supposed to be honest. What if a band actually creates U2-tinged music from a sincere place? Should they jettison what’s honest and natural in their music just for the sake of creativity? Do we want musicians sitting around hating what they’re creating simply because it isn’t causing enough of a “stir” in the art world? Sounds like pandering. Balance is important in music and we should be careful when somebody builds a platform on just one aspect of such a diverse thing as songwriting.
However, Corgan did hit a nerve with these statements. I know lots of Christians who are musicians who were retweeting and passing the link around. Simply as a fan of music, I feel his frustration. But do we believe that the music industry will listen to claims like this? I don’t want to waste my team trying to turn a music industry around. It’s hard enough to live well and love well and make good music. As far as I’m concerned, I trust the outcome to the Father.