Lorde’s Melodrama and Living Life as a Supercut

No longer the outsider peering down on the glitz and glamor of pop music—as she was on her hit single “Royals”—Lorde now critiques from the inside with her latest, Melodrama. The music itself reflects this change. Gone are the days of her raw, hip hop-inspired beats and simple melodies. She’s now finely tuned and produced, while her lyrics have taken on typical pop-music themes of love lost and partying. Overall the album feels complex, robust, and eclectic.

Though she’s converted to a stronger pop vibe, Lorde has retained some of her edge. “Hard Feelings/Loveless” opens with her soft, throaty voice leading to harder electronic screeches. Then there is an almost silent interlude before the song breaks down into a dance beat, as her voice turns brighter and lighter. The new album features people looking for lasting pleasure or happiness in romantic love, one-night stands, partying, and substance abuse. The transitory nature of life is referenced in certain phrases: “summer afternoon,” “overnight rush,” and “the games of the weekend.” Melodrama shows us we tend to look for lasting things in transitory moments. On “Sober,” Lorde tries to see this pop world for what it really is: “It’s time we danced with the truth … we’re sleeping through all the days … I know you’re feeling it too, can we keep up with the ruse? … What will we do when we’re sober?”

King Solomon, the likely author of Ecclesiastes, would have appreciated the restlessness of Melodrama. Like Lorde, he was on the inside of a luxurious life that offered much pleasure, yet he found it “meaningless.” Or, to borrow Lorde’s term, “melodrama.”

Read the rest at Think Christian >>

Bon Iver and the Sounds of Change

“Skinny Love” and “Re: Stacks” were some of my favorite Bon Iver songs in my early twenties. Back then I prided myself on knowing about a band before they went mainstream, and I hung out with a like-minded group of friends who were mainly interested in music, film, literature, and art. Recently I turned 30 and developed a growing nostalgia for the “cool me.” At home with a preschooler and toddler, art revolves around paper plates and popsicle sticks. And while I’m behind on my music game, I’m on point with Elmo, Daniel Tiger, and PAW Patrol.

My role as a wife and mom has changed me significantly, so I can relate to the significant change in Bon Iver’s sound on the new album, 22, A Million. I was a different person in my single, early twenties. Though parts of that person are still in me, I’ll never be able to completely recreate my old self, because change has progressively moved me forward. As we are entering the fall season, with leaves changing to yellow, red, and brown, I’m reminded that change brings a form of death to us. Christians see an echo of Jesus in the way the leaf must first die and fall before we get to the resurrected buds of spring. With 22, A Million, Bon Iver similarly shows us how change is a necessary progression forward.

Read the rest at Think Christian >>

The Avett Brothers and the World’s True Sadness

It was my first time seeing them in concert. The place was a box of a venue, smelling of wood and beer, with dim lighting. The X on the back of my hand, made with a Sharpie, told the bartenders, “Don’t serve this girl alcohol.” It didn’t matter. I wasn’t there for alcohol. I was there for two, stereotypical Jesus lookalikes whose voices cracked as they yelled and yodeled, then settled down into a peaceful croon. The Avett Brothers were raw, grungy folk artists with tender, lyrical rhymes. They could make you dance and make you cry.

The Avett Brothers have come far since they were underground and I was underage. They recently released their ninth album, titled True Sadness. Since gaining popularity, Scott and Seth Avett have polished their raw musical edges while maintaining their folk ballad lyrics. Many of the songs on True Sadness tell stories with similar themes: fear, disappointment, hardship and redemption. Whether it is set to an upbeat twang, like “Divorce Separation Blues,” or to the gentle strums of “No Hard Feelings,” the brokenness of this world is made clear. The lyrics sing truth about a perfect world gone wrong. Once, perfect peace filled our souls. Now we battle with fear and, as the Avett Brothers phrase it, “…this evil inside me. I step out my front door and I feel it surround me.”

Read the rest at Think Christian >>

Christ & Culture Series: Juggling Artistry, Business, and Theology

I’m kicking off a new series about how our life in Christ connects to culture. We can’t hide ourselves from our culture; we are fully immersed in the good, the bad, and the ugly. We are free to take pleasure in certain God-given areas of culture and many are important and even beneficial to the Christian life. I hope you join in on the dialogue with each post in this series. 

What better way to start than with an interview of my husband? Joshua Wann wears many hats (literally and figuratively), can do many things, but above all he desires to honor God daily with the way he engages the culture.

One of Josh’s first ‘hats’ (have I mentioned he has a lot of hats?) started in 2003 to give those in Christian hip-hop a platform for releasing music without having to deal with the business side. His record label was dubbed Lamp Mode Recordings and was intended to make music primarily for the edification and teaching of the Church.

Josh’s second ‘hat’ is Scouts Honor, which started in 2012. It began as a combination graphic design, branding, and video production company, but has since focused solely on video production. It exists to bring higher quality production value to mid-sized companies and musicians.


What was your purpose and desire in starting Lamp Mode?

At the time, just out of college, it was really just a hobby that turned into a career. I waned to create a record label that did away with a lot of the “industry” and business politics that tend to squelch artist autonomy. Lamp Mode had a philosophy of giving artist’s creative control with financial backing. In addition, there was the theological thread of all the artists. At that time there wasn’t an iTunes, or digital market that exists today. Because of that, it was hard for an artist to be independently successful. I wanted to create something that bridged the gap between a commercial model and an independent artist model.

What was the approach you took in making music and in the creative direction of Lamp Mode?

The approach was to let the artist be the focal point, not the music business. Most commercial models of a record label are focused on profits and market value. I wanted a record label that focused on highlighting the artist as artist, even if that meant not having commercial success. If creating profit is the end goal for any art, then the art is diminished and relegated to only a select few. In the end, that’s a short-sighted way to run a company or even an industry. It doesn’t create good music, but only creates a product.

The balance is that Lamp Mode needs to be mindful of the business and commercial viability of its artists, but not in a way in which it trumps everything else. We always had to juggle artistry, business and theology. All three are necessary components of the brand.

Was the business affected by your Christian beliefs? If so, how?

The only part of the label that was affected by my Christianity would be the theological component. Before becoming a Christian and being involved in the music industry, I had the same philosophy of letting the artist reign supreme, even at the expense of the business side of things. So the philosophy came from wanting to see the artist have full creative control, but the Christian convictions fueled the content of the music and the artists that we chose to work with.

How do you feel God was glorified in the process and end product of your musical and art endeavors?

On the horizontal level, I feel that he was glorified in treating our artists more fair than any other record label that I know of. I don’t know of any other record label that has treated their artist’s the way that we have, which also includes the deals we made with them financially. I believe this comes down to just doing good business. Doing things ethically, treating people right and having integrity. In our industry, we still have a good name and reputation.

On the more vertical side of things, I believe that he was glorified by the nature of the content of the music. Most of the music is focused on the character of God, the message of the Bible, and communicating the gospel.

How does God’s Word speak to all this?

From creation man is called to work. The way in which he works reflects the image of God. As a worker, there is opportunity to do good or to do harm. I believe we did good work most of the time and that it honored him. Also, in the Bible it speaks of doing everything to the glory of God. In secular work that looks like having integrity. In work of a more religious nature that means representing him accurately. Those are the things that bring him glory.

How do you think our culture views art and music?

Without trying to be exhaustive, I think one example is what I would call the “passive consumer”. They fall victim to what the machine feeds them. The machine is the totality of the industry. The executives of the record labels and people in charge of the distribution channels. They determine what gets most visibility, and in turn, the consumer is programmed. The consumer doesn’t make a decision about what they like or what is good. They just get fed by the industry, by what they hear on the radio, and by what they see on TV.

I think all people should be able to step back from the machine of the industry and be able to think for themselves. They should be able to determine what they like, regardless of what is popular and what isn’t. They are not the only victims. Unfortunately, many artists lives are disrupted by the pursuit of the dream. They might share relative success for a year or two, only to be abandoned by the next artist of the day.

How should art and music be a unique and different view for the Christian? And how can we share common ground with our culture?

The Christian should be able to think holistically about these things. One way to think about this is: a person’s art should not be exploited for profit. This is really an exploiting of the artist. We should care enough about justice and fairness that we reject industries that don’t treat people fairly. This is part of loving our neighbor. Any time profit is the ultimate goal, people will be hurt. We should be able to step back from the machine that the word propagates and see it for what it is. See it from God’s perspective. In turn, that can help us to also not be influenced by it.

Sharing common ground with the culture is one of those things that can be terribly misunderstood. It is not a bad thing, in fact it is unavoidable. I think the first thing is to acknowledge that we already share a great deal in common. It is as simple as the language we speak, to the way we make music, the equipment we use, the way we distribute music, use of the internet, etc. There is undeniable overlap. It’s in this overlap in which we can develop relationships and foster conversations.

Series Part 2 : Education >>

Something Scarier than Miley Cyrus

It’s a scary world out there. Our poor children.  What about the next generation? It’s just going to get worse for them. Advertisers selling sex, more girls like Miley Cyrus shaking their booty on stage, gay marriage will probably be legalized everywhere, and oh yea, that Lady Gaga might still be around.

If you can’t tell yet…I’m being facetious. I’m just echoing the concerns of Christian FBers, Christian bloggers, Christian parents, and pretty much just Christians. I’m a Christian as well, but just not as concerned with what’s ‘out there.’ I’m more concerned with what’s in here, inside my heart.

Pointing Fingers

As Christians we are really good at pointing fingers at everything else but ourselves. There is something wrong and evil about everything out in the world. We point fingers at television, movies, entertainers, musicians, politics, and the gay community. We have an invisible force field of Christian prayer up around us, because the world is a scary place. I wish Christians today could go back to ancient Rome and take a walk with Paul. Ancient Rome makes the United States look like an innocent baby. Trust me, the world isn’t getting worse, it’s just been consistent.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t use discernment when it comes to our entertainment choices or what we choose to expose our children to. We definitely need discernment and wisdom in this world. I just want to make sure we’re fearing the right thing. How do you think the world got so evil and scary?

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Romans 5:12

The Blame Game

That’s right. It’s not television’s fault, or Miley Cyrus’ fault, or all those nasty billboards, or all those homosexuals  wanting gay rights — it’s our fault. Society is messed up, because we are messed up. The real terror lies inside all of us. We should be more afraid of what’s in our hearts than what is out in the world, simply because our sinful hearts are the root of all evil we see in the world. Miley Cyrus is just a reflection of all of our hearts.

You heard me right. We as Christians share in this evil. Isaiah understood this very well. When he encountered the Holy presence of God Isaiah only pointed the finger at himself, and he didn’t separate the evil he found in the world from the evil in his heart.

“And I said, ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Isaiah 6:5

Isaiah identified himself with the evil he saw in the world. If we truly understood how disgustingly depraved our own sinful hearts are, we would never be shocked by what’s ‘out there.’ Yes, the world is full of temptations for us, but the temptations are a secondary issue pointing to a much deeper issue in us. Temptations wouldn’t exist apart from the sin in us. Temptations are just our sinful response to external stimuli; they just bring out what’s already there.

What are You Afraid of?

You don’t have to see a Victoria’s Secret commercial to experience lust. You don’t need to have a lot of money to feel greed. You don’t need to see Miley Cyrus dance on stage at the VMA’s to know there is something wrong in this world. It’s vanity to point fingers at the external issues and try to run and hide from the world. This is why so many Christians become legalistic and are so devoid of love. We’re trying so hard to fix everything out there and protect ourselves from what’s in the world, instead of spending our energy fixing ourselves and seeking protection from the enemy within us.

I know  I want to be more afraid of my own sin. I want to teach my son to not fear the world, but to fear the evil in his own heart, and then teach him that grace is greater than the sin he finds within himself. We can’t fight every evil in the world, but we can fight the evil in our own hearts. This world is wasting away, but inside we can be renewed through Christ’s righteousness given to us through his death on the cross.

“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous…But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness, leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:18-21