Christian artist Brandon Heath opening for Third Day on their "Revelation Tour," 2009. (source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Christian music industry has blown up in recent years, pumping out artists like it’s the way to win souls. Not that the Christian genre is in itself bad, but to some in our generation, it falls on deaf ears.

I grew up in a God-fearing home, went to a private school and now go to Asbury University, but I can’t stand listening to mainstream Christian music.

Why? Well, for one, it’s been stuffed down my throat my whole life. We sing the songs in Church, blast them on the radio on family road trips and receive them for Christmas in CD-form from well-meaning family members. And since we have become so saturated with it, we are now desensitized. “Open the Eyes of My Heart” just doesn’t move us like it did when we were children belting it out in Sunday School.

In some ways, the accessibility of Christian music has actually made it lose its meaning. It’s like that one pop song you used to like when it first came out until they played it on the radio for two months straight…except imagine that for your whole life.

Not only that, but most Christian music sounds the same, to be frank. Brandon Heath sounds like Aaron Shust who is indistinguishable from Chris Tomlin. Each song starts with a quiet, heartfelt intro, and then comes the acoustic guitar, which slowly crescendos into the chorus where the drums and electric guitar join the club. There’s a bridge, a key change, some high notes, at least one profound—but cliché—statement about life, and end.

Perhaps it’s the alternative culture we’ve found ourselves in, but for some reason, our generation tends to shy away from the conventional. Matthew West, who is often featured on local radio stations like K-Love and Air1, just doesn’t have that unique sound that Christian indie artists like Gungor or Asbury’s own Jenny & Tyler have.

I, personally, feel like my mother (bless her heart) when I listen to a Christian radio station, because that’s the kind of music that she listens to. So, perhaps in an attempt to be my own person and all that, I rebel, and instead escape to the less-familiar genres of indie-folk and synth-pop that have less childhood connotations. It is there that I have a chance to build my own musical tastes without the influence of my Church upbringing.

And honestly, our generation is tired. We’ve heard the same songs, messages and chord successions since we were in the cradle. It’s not that we’re opposed to the idea of worship music, but we long for a new approach to it. After all, doesn’t the Bible itself say in Psalms 61:7, “Sing a new song to the LORD!”? A new song. How interesting. It doesn’t say, “Sing the same songs you’ve known by heart since the third grade!”

Many of us are sincere in our faith, passionate about Christ and are eager to worship Him, but we need to find our own way to do it. And didn’t generations before us do the same thing? In fact, back in the time of Martin Luther (who wrote “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” by the way), even hymns were considered too creative and altogether scandalous. Then there came the charismatic hippies of the ‘60s who brought guitars and (no, it can’t be) dancing into the sacred house of God.

Maybe in 20 years the elder members of Church congregations will complain that the mandolins are too loud or that the music “just doesn’t speak to them the same way that Brandon Heath’s songs did.” But if the Church doesn’t make changes to ensure that it stays relevant in today’s culture, it will surely fall by the wayside.

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Boyce Avenue concert

Posted: March 19, 2012 by Shelby Weakley in Lexington and beyond

With two large black x’s on my hands, I waited outside Marathon Music Works in Nashville.  The cold, smoky air could not quench my excitement to see what I had been waiting for since Christmas. “When you reach the door, have your ID and tickets in hand,” yelled the gateman. It was time.

This past Christmas, my boyfriend gave me two concert tickets to a band that I knew very little about: Boyce Avenue. I had listened to a few of their covers before then, and didn’t realize that I had mentioned them to him.  But like with any music that I am introduced to, I did my research. Boyce Avenue is an up-and-coming band of three brothers that reaches their audience mainly through YouTube, and is gaining popularity with their unique, acoustic covers of popular songs. I fell in love with the songs, such as my favorite and popular pick, Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.”

When Jeremiah (my boyfriend) and I walked into the venue, I anxiously made my way to the stage. Ensuring that we were in a comfortable and close spot, we waited and stood while the show was getting started. The opening act was a band from Kansas, called The After Party, a pop/skater band whose band members were apart of the 2010 high school graduating class. They played cute, poppy songs that dealt with the same “boy-meets-girl” love and high school romance.  Secondhand Serenade followed, as one-man band man, John Vesely sang his set.

In between songs, Vesely would say non Asbury Appropriate words and even dared someone to bring him a beer, which was very entertaining to watch the toast happen on stage.  I was mildly amused, but was even more anxious to see the next and final act.

Then, the lights dimmed.  The first chords of the song “Daylight” were strummed, and I was in heaven.  Boyce Avenue came onto the stage and jumped right into their original music, songs including: “When the Lights Die,” “Every Breath,” and a big hit, “Find Me.” I was surprised at this action, thinking that they would perform covers rather than their personal set list.  Though this longing was fulfilled by covers of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” and Rihanna’s “We Found Love.”

Though I did not stay for the encore, I thoroughly enjoyed the concert, and can bet that I will be looking for another chance to see Boyce Avenue live. It was an experience that any music lover would crave to have. I can’t wait to have my moment, when a certain song comes on the radio, and I will be able to say “O Boyce Avenue? I saw them before they were mainstream.”

March music madness

Posted: February 28, 2012 by Leslie Ferrell in Lexington and beyond

With March right around the corner, there are some great concerts coming up in Lexington and close by in Louisville, Cincinnati and Nashville that you will not want to miss.

The Black Keys

Friday, March 2

U.S. Bank Arena – Cincinnati

The Black Keys will be on tour with their latest album “El Camino” featuring songs including “Lonely Boy.”

Brad Paisley

Saturday, March 3

Rupp Arena – Lexington

Brad Paisley will be in Lexington with The Band Perry. With these two very popular and loved names in country music, it is sure to be a great show.

Boyce Avenue with Secondhand Serenade

Sunday, March 4

Marathon Music Works – Nashville

Known especially for their cover songs, including “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry, Boyce Avenue will be in concert with Secondhand Serenade, most popularly known for their song “Fall for You.”

Winter Jam

Saturday, March 10

Rupp Arena – Lexington

Who would want to miss several popular Christian artists all in one place for only $10? This year Winter Jam will be hosted by Newsong and will feature Skillet and Sanctus Real among many other popular names in Christian music.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Tuesday, March 20

Rupp Arena – Lexington

Trans-Siberian Orchestra continues to be well known for their amazing Christmas orchestrations. They are sure to give a performance complete with amazing lights and loud music.

Miranda Lambert

Saturday, March 24

KFC Yum! Center – Louisville

Miranda Lambert was just in Lexington this past weekend, and in March she will be playing in Louisville along with special guests Chris Young and Jerrod Niemann, all of whom are sure to give a show that all country fans will enjoy.

Daughtry

Saturday, March 31

Louisville Palace – Louisville

Daughtry will be on tour with their new album that released this past November, “Break the Spell.” This album includes the single “Crawling Back to You” which released in September.

Asbury features…Joshua Bracken

Posted: February 28, 2012 by Shelby Weakley in Asbury features

When we hear the organ play in chapel, some may think it’s a lost art. Others, such as Joshua Bracken, deem it his calling.

Bracken began to play the organ when he was a junior in high school. He was first introduced to the organ when the organist at his church went to Paris, France (but he is originally from Tennessee.) With no previous experience with the organ, much less the piano, Bracken began to familiarize himself. “I started to mess around and I found it came easy to me,” said Bracken. “Well my parents invested in lessons for me and I took off.” Since then he has practiced and succeeded. After five years of playing and lessons, he has gotten a lot farther even without piano lessons, which the norm is for most people to have skill in piano first before organ.

Besides having fun, Bracken has said that the organ has taught him many things. “The main thing the organ has taught me is discipline. I have to manage my time very carefully so I can have time to practice and time for school.” Bracken usually practices 12 hours a week to keep his skills sharp and in tune. He has also learned a bit about friendships as well. “Since I spend my time alone, I have learned to really value my friendships outside of practice time.”

The skill and art of organ playing has taken Josh on many adventures. He has played in churches, some even across the world! “It gives me the opportunity to play many different organs and many different rooms. I think the coolest organ I have played on is in Austria.”  This experience has been a highlight of Bracken’s organist career. “I had the privilege to play an 111 year old organ!” Bracken has also played in Cincinnati, Chicago, Czech Republic and various other places.

Bracken has many goals about where playing the organ will take him in his future. “My goals, thus far, are to go to grad school in Wisconsin to get a Masters in church Music and [I’m] planning to be a minister of music,” he said. He also has a goal to play a very specific organ in the future. “One of my goals is to play the organ in Westminster Abbey in London, England,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite organs and by far my most favorite church building!”

Who’s on Hezekiah’s iPod?

Posted: February 27, 2012 by Laura Richards in Who's on whose iPod?

Hezekiah Crocker is not a name that goes unknown on this campus. As a proud member of the Nerd hall, Hezekiah is probably one of the most friendly, quirky people I have ever known. He is his own person and I admire that so much about him. He has killer taste in music and not many people know that. I listened to some of the songs on this list, and they blew me away. There is so much to learn from Hezekiah, so let’s take a look at what is on this cool kid’s iPod!

10. “Song for No One” – Miike Snow

“Euro-electronica with emotional filled vocals framed within a chill drum and bass core that brings you along for the smooth ride.”

9. “The Look” – Metronomy

“Smooth, clean and minimalistic. A very intriguing mix of electronic and acoustic instruments give an amazing but restrained sense of cool.”

8. “To Kingdom Come” – Passion Pit

“Unpredictable arrangements of saxophones, keyboards and drums form the pages of the heartbroken lyrics. The hooks shimmer with a celebratory electro-indie ballad.”

7. “Radar Detector” – Darwin Deez

“This song is infectious and minimalistic.  In the world of pop, this song takes a little charm and goes a long way with it. Its unique and tangy guitar melodies and super catchy chorus will have you humming all day.  This song aims directly at your heart.”

6. “Daylight” – Matt & Kim

“Daylight” is a 2009 song by indie pop duo Matt & Kim. Popularity of the song is partially due to its debut on a Bacardi commercial.  The piano melodies tie this whole song together as the bass drives almost a celebratory feeling into your mind.”

5. “Cigarettes in the Theatre” – Two Door Cinema Club

“I’m not a huge fan of pop but Two Door Cinema Club is more than just your average pop band. Their songs are peppy and upbeat without ever being cheesy, their lyrics are simple without being dumb, and the vocals are catchy. They’re the kind of band who could appeal to the masses without being annoying, and that’s a huge accomplishment in itself.”

4. “Maps” – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

“If you’ve listened to their album, this is where the album peaks. In the song “Maps”, Chase’s rhythmic beats, Zinner’s quick guitar playing and Karen’s sensitive voice are assembled into an emotionally charged, rip-your-heart-out, cry-yourself-to-sleep, punk-pop masterpiece. Layer after layer of chiming and melodic guitar rifts come together in overlapping harmonies. Karen sings lyrics that are simple yet soulful portraying a picture of unadulterated love in her sensitive singing.”

3. “The Wolf” – Miniature Tigers

“Rhythmic acoustic guitar and simple but edgy drums co-exist with lyrical metaphors and gritty observations on love chased, gained, brooded on and abandoned.  The catchy chorus hits you directly in that part of your brain that never forgets a tune or rhythm.”

2. “Such Great Heights” – Postal Service

“What do you get when a fantastic writer crosses an electronic genius? Surprise! Fantastically written electronic music. Ben Gibbard, of Death Cab for Cutie and Dntel’s Jimmy Tamborello sandwich a superb song between a reverberative ambient keyboard line. Distorted bass snyths, keyboard blips with the simple drum beat are the stage for Ben’s poetic lyrics about the relationship he is currently in, and how everything looks perfect from far away but it really isn’t. When the chorus finally bursts in Gibbard’s voice jumps a few notes up and sings that melody that has been stuck in my head for quite some time now.”

1. “Gangsta” – tUnE-YaRdS

“Children playing, police sirens and alarms cut in and out. This is the anthem of a violent neighborhood. Loud, dysfunctional, and disjointed, “Gangsta” is a literal, audible representation of what it’s like to moving into a big city: It can make your head hurt, and it’s dissonant sounds may feel unfamiliar. But eventually, those sounds come together in a rhythm, of wild drums and explosive horns.  Turning into a strange and creative pop song, “Gangsta” becomes a full-blown dance song.”

Sean O’Connor plays J. S. Bach, Suite No. 1 in G Major, Mvt. 1

Posted: February 24, 2012 by Sarah Swanson in Videos
[vimeo http://vimeo.com/37334136]
Because the notes of a cello touch a place in our hearts no other instrument can reach, you are full of curiosity about the musician who commands this instrument.  Read Shelby’s feature on Sean to satisfy your wonder.
This beautiful recording was done by Nate Allen, recording and mixing engineer.

54th annual GRAMMY Awards

Posted: February 21, 2012 by Leslie Ferrell in Lexington and beyond

Last Sunday night, Feb. 12, the 54th annual GRAMMY Awards were held in Los Angeles at the Staples Center. Following the sudden death of Whitney Houston, an icon in the music industry, the show had a few more somber, reflective moments than usual, but it was still a great night that has had people talking.

As always, many of today’s most popular artists appeared on the red carpet dressed to impress at Sunday night’sceremony. Music of all genres came together with some of the biggest names, both old and new, including Taylor Swift, Diana Ross, Mumford and Sons, The Beach Boys, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney and Nicki Minaj. Hosted by LL Cool J, the show did not disappoint.

Adele was the biggest winner of the night. She won all six of her nominations, including album of the year with “21” and song of the year with “Rolling in the Deep,” which she also performed at the show, a much anticipated performance as it was her first since having throat surgery. The Foo Fighters were right behind her winning five out of their six nominations, including best rock song with “Walk.” Other winners included the Civil Wars winning folk album with “Barton Hollow,” Lady Antebellum winning country album with “We Own the Night,” Chris Brown winning R&B album with “F.A.M.E.,” and Bon Iver winning best new artist.

There were also many momentous performances. Jennifer Hudson performed Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” in memory of the artist. On a different note, Nicki Minaj’s dramatic performance of her upcoming single “Roman Holiday” was one that left people talking. Bruno Mars and Katy Perry performed, as well as Taylor Swift who played the banjo during her performance of her song “Mean,” which also won in the category for best country song.

There were also some combined performances with Rihanna and Coldplay, who performed their new song “Princess of China” from Coldplay’s newest album, “Mylo Xyloto.” Maroon 5 and the up-and-coming Foster the People both played in tribute to the Beach Boys, celebrating their 50th anniversary. The Beach Boys then took the stage to play their song, “Good Vibrations.” Adam Levine, lead singer of Maroon 5, and Mark Foster, lead singer of Foster the People, joined the group to finish out the performance.

Overall, this year’s GRAMMY Awards were filled with big winners, many memorable and entertaining performances, and appearances from amazing and esteemed artists, both old and new. It was a music-filled night that only the GRAMMYs can provide.