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.

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.

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.

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.



  1. Brad Wofford (@bradthedesigner)

    Nice topic Todd! If I may chime in, the most interesting thing to me about Billy’s sentiments weren’t really what he said but what he didn’t say. He didn’t use the moment he was asked about Christian music to bash the music, write it off, harp on Christianity’s “exclusiveness” … he just encouraged Christians to make better music. I loved it.

    • toddwright

      That’s a very good point. I guess if he’s writing about God these days, he’s at least more sensitive to others who are essentially doing the same.

  2. Lance Burch (@lanceburch)

    I was mostly just excited to hear someone say that he wants to write about God. It is the last rebellion… the last taboo. To abandon our cultures mores and embrace the transcendent. Wouldn’t that be ironic and wonderful and just like God… using people like Corgan to scratch the itch for the knowledge of the divine?

    • toddwright

      I was excited to hear that, too, but it concerns me that Christians get so excited about stuff like this. That’s great if Corgan can get people thinking about God, but there’s a huge gap in modern Christianity when it comes to Gospel proclamation.

      In fact, I think we’re in the vicious wake of a 90’s era – “preach at all times/use words if necessary” movement that removed sharing the Gospel…with words…from our collective mindset.

      Maybe it makes me a cynic, but I doubt anyone will come to know Christ through his music. Will it put them on the path? Maybe, but the local church has to be ready to help people on that very path toward a Savior.

      What’s most strange is that I haven’t heard one Christian celebrate these statements with regard to Corgan’s own faith. I haven’t heard anybody rejoicing that maybe Corgan himself is coming to faith in Christ. Instead, it seems like we’re all just so pumped that one of the cool kids mentioned our clique. It’s the same thing Christians have done with Bono.

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