Friday, February 27, 2009

Emergent Idol Begins (the search for the "Official" band of Emergent)

Thanks to all for your opinions on the "official band of emergent," and its nominees. Today I am going to start running through the list of worthy candidates and over the next few days (weekends off) discuss why each of them can be considered or should not be considered mantle holders.

First, as always, here are some caveats or disclaimers.
  • This is all in good fun. A few people on this blog and over at Tony's take life, themselves and blogs too seriously. They are probably taking their favorite band too seriously too (I am sure they are -sneer- Coldplay fans). Hey Coldplay fans- Gwyneth is not even a Coldplay fan. She is a Radiohead fan. Chris Martin loves Radiohead and U2, plus he thinks The Arcade Fire is the best band on the planet. Coldplay understands Coldplay's stature in the rock world. Follow their lead. Don't take it seriously
  • In keeping with the above, I have created a new title for myself within the Emergent church world. I am still the National Music Coordinator (self designated). I am now announcing myself as Court Jester also.
  • There is no Official band of Emergent. This is merely an exercise to look at the music and ethos of specific bands that share something in common with those considering themselves Emergent. It is a way to think about bands we have not considered and become introduced to new music that we may like.
  • I did not include The Cobalt Season for 1 reason only. Ryan, a close friend, is already in the conversation. The idea of this to take bands that are out there and bring them in here. If we take the analogy of Guinness beer as official beer of Emergent, then a beer brewed by Emergent Village home brewers would not be the official beer, even if it really is. Got it? Clear as Guinness? TCS is the homebrewer that created a fine craft brew that everyone wants, so he travels around and sells his superior product to friends and families and they share it with others.
  • In doing this exercise, I tried to consider a number of things. Adapting my ground rules for what makes good music to this conversation a few things may come into focus as to why certain bands are worthy of the title, while others are not. Here is a bit of the formula for good music, adapted to this setting:
  1. Lyrics- are the lyrics fitting within the ethos and expressions that we consider emerging Christianity. I am looking at lyrics which express emerging principles on a global scale and spiritual scale (so, Radiohead works on the idea of emerging or postmodern ideals, but does not talk about spirituality often and Sigur Ros is a mostly instrumental band- so they move down a notch on this alone). Are they story tellers? Are they questioning assumptions? are they longing for something better than what we have? Are they prophetic? This is a biggie. It keeps the fires burning for VOL.
  2. Sound- Is the music innovative? The problem most critics have with Emergent and the Emerging church is centered around its "innovation and change" to the norms. So, does a musician change the rules musically? Are they pushing the limits? This hurts a band like VOL and helps a band like The Arcade Fire (and Sufjan Stevens). All white folk guys are hurt by this. Does it sound like everyone else (musically)?
  3. Passion- Does the band express "emergence" in their personal ethic? Some of these bands are quite involved in social justice, or are multi-cultural in make up. Some of the bands are expressing ideas in interviews, writing and lifestyles that are models for the rest of us.
  4. Do I like it? Sorry. That is important.
There it is. While many that have expressed their opinions regarding the "official" band have focused primarily upon the lyrics, I am choosing to go beyond that limit. You are probably getting the idea of where I am going with this.

Here is the list again, with 2 additions (some will be dismissed easily).

1. Sufjan Stevens
2. Radiohead
3. The 77s
4. Johnny Cash
5. Beck
6. Bill Mallonee and Vigilantes of Love
7. Arcade Fire
8. Rich Mullins
9. Waterdeep
10. U2

11. Over the Rhine
12. David bazan (Pedro the Lion)


Michael said...

did ben harper get consideration?

Mike Murrow said...

none of these bands are pretentious and or hipster-tool-ish to be emergent.


Matt Wilson said...

Ben Harper is surely not white enough to be the band of emergent.

My suggestions- Rage Against the Machine

Anonymous said...

no conor oberst?

kristi said...

what about Cold War Kids?

g13 said...

i think the mountain goats would be an interesting choice.

DJ Word said...

Ben Harper should have gotten some love.

Murrow- so should the Strokes be the official band?

RATM is the prophetic official band of Sojo