Tag Archives: jam of the moment

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Jam of the Moment: Blessed Be Your Name

 

 

(editor’s note: this post was originally written about a year ago, and I”m just now getting around to posting it.)

Artist: Ashmont Hill
Album: Ashmont Hill
Song: “Blessed Be Your Name

Despite being a worship leader (and thus, professional Christian) whose job includes assessing and incorporating popular praise-and-worship choruses into our weekly church music set, I don’t listen to much of that style of music at home.

There are many reasons for this, but most just have to do with the banality of most forms of evangelical church music. Much of it has sounded the same stylistically over the last decade: corporate pop-rock with other cultural expressions casually included in the fringes.

Also, because the ways that church musicians discover and implement music tends to be pretty self-contained and insular, many times it’s not just the same sound that you hear in churches all over, but the same actual songs.

There are many good reasons for this, actually, and I do not wish to elevate originality as the prime directive as to what makes for good worship music in churches. There is a lot to be said for helping people to feel comfortable, and few things are more comfortable than being able to sing a song that you know and like, particularly if you are in an unfamiliar or uncomfortable environment.

(Considering how generally unchurched the Pacific Northwest tends to be, I would guess that, in this region, many if not most people who find themselves in church on a Sunday morning consider church to be, to some degree, lacking in familiarity or comfort. Which is not such a bad thing, I guess… there are inherent dangers in churches becoming too much like coffee bars or health clubs. But I digress.)

Add to that the overarching trend of more popular Christian recording artists doing their own renditions of these songs, and my reasoning for not listening to much praise-and-worship at home becomes clearer. Because of overexposure and because of our heightened sense of musical appreciation, people in my position often come to regard certain popular praise-and-worship choruses with a certain level of disdain, which can range from bored disinterest to full-on visceral loathing.

(As a matter of fact, last summer I had the privilege of getting together with a group of similar musicians, praise-and-worship leaders at multiethnic churches. And one of the first icebreaker questions was something along the lines of, “what song do you hate the most right now?”)

All of this is necessary backstory for you to understand the significance of my choosing this song as my jam of the moment.

“Blessed Be Your Name,” by Matt Redman, is an insanely popular song in churches. Right now it’s listed at #3 of the Top 25 CCLI charts for the U.S., and it’s probably been somewhere in the top ten for the last five years or so.

Because of this, I’ve heard and sang this song many, many times.

But the first time I heard this recording from Ashmont Hill, the family quartet named for their Boston neighborhood origin, it was as if, forgive the cliche, I heard it again for the first time.

Anytime any artist covers an already enormously popular song, there is a dual challenge involved.

On the one hand, you want to make sure that you’re putting your own mark on the song. The last thing you want is to sound just like everyone else, especially the person who made the song famous. Otherwise, why would people want to listen to you? They can just listen to the original.

On the other hand, you don’t want to make it so different that the song is completely foreign and unrecognizable. You want to honor and pay respect to the songwriter by including some of the elements that made the song popular in the first place. You want the song to feel familiar, and yet distinctive all the same.

In Ashmont Hill’s cover of “Blessed Be Your Name,” this delicate balancing act is achieved in spades. It’s high-octane rock, but with a definite gospel feel to it; the perfect convergence of top shelf session players, textured chord structures, and electric vocal arrangements. Especially for people like me who appreciate gospel music and contemporary Christian music (which is the nicer way of saying Black church music and White church music), this recording is a great example of a bridge tune, something that can help draw people from disparate backgrounds together.

I’m not gonna lie… before I heard this arrangement two years ago, I was through with this song. Didn’t want to hear it, didn’t want to sing it.

But afterward, it came alive in me again. And considering the message of the song, that as Christians we have an opportunity and a responsibility to honor God despite our circumstances… I am grateful for its resurgence in my spiritual life.

Big ups to Matt Redman, and the brothers and sisters of Ashmont Hill, for bringing today’s jam of the moment.

Jam of the Moment

Jam of the Moment: So Free

Artist: DJ Maj
Album:
Speckled Goats II
Track:
So Free

DJ Maj, one of my favorite producers and personalities in music today, penned a great song in 2007 about relaxing, enjoying the ride and being free. And it’s still one of my favorites.

It’s great during the summer, of course, but also helpful in the dead of winter when you need to fantasize about being in warmer climates. Like most great hip-hop music, there are general hints of deeper thematic material, but it’s buried under a catchy hook, interesting production values, and a fun, carefree aural framework.

And, like many of my favorite jams of the interval, there’s a story that goes along with it.

Awhile back, I was doing some shopping at the grocery store with the hook from this song stuck in my head:

If you want it, you can get it, come get it, come get it
We gonna show you how to riiiide toniiiiiiiiiight
We chop it up from city to city to city
So free, like laaa-di-daaaaahhhhhhhh

So I’m doing my thing, being free, handling the produce, bagging up my canned goods, the whole nine. I finally make it back to the car, unload my stuff, and now I’m taking the cart back to the front of the parking lot where all the carts are stowed.

This particular grocery chain has a system whereby you stick a quarter in to release your cart and then when you put it back, you get your quarter back. Their way of cutting down on cart shrinkage, I guess.

Well, as I’m walking back to the front of the parking lot getting ready to redeem my quarter, I’m yellin’ out the first line of the song, (“if you want it, you can get it…”), loudly and to no one in particular, and this lady walks up to me and says, “oh, okay,” grabs my cart, hands me her quarter, and leaves me standing there dumbfounded.

That wasn’t what I meant, but… uh… okay, sure.

Maybe you’re not really into hip-hop, or maybe you’re like me and you love hip-hop but aren’t that enchanted with what gets played on the radio and on TV. If so, this song could be to you what it was to me in that moment — a pleasant surprise. “So Free” — today’s jam of the moment.

Jam of the Moment

Jam of the Moment: Pizza Party

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Put away your money, I’ll buy you a slice / you ain’t gotta worry how high is the price / don’t dine with this world, you’ll die on their diet / they’re like, “sit down, eat your slice of pizza, and be quiet”

Put away your money, I’ll buy you a slice / Who you think we  with? Christ / He gives peace without worry, joy with no regret, wealth that won’t fade, life beyond death


Sick lyrics from an emcee consumed with mental and spiritual health, this is the chorus from “Pizza Party” by Phanatik, from his 2010 album, “Party Over Here.”

This tune draws fundamentally  from the Biblical text of Isaiah 55:1-2, where the reader is asked, rhetorically, why spend money on things that won’t satisfy?

That, of course, is the purely scholarly and/or theological reason why if you’re a Christ follower and a fan of hip-hop, you should be feelin this song.

But if Scriptural references were the only qualifications for good music, then emcees would trade their rhyming dictionaries for Strong’s Concordances. What really makes the song work is the combination of the urgent orchestral sounds and the boom-bap ringing out.

That, and the fact that despite a serious subject matter (faith in Christ) it’s not super serious. Like, the way he says “sit down, eat your slice of ‘pizzer’ and be quiet.” What is he, some Philly cabdriver channeling Coach Z from Homestar Runner? It’s a little odd.

But I dig a little odd. And I like pizza. And I like hip-hop. And I love God.

So there you go… today’s Jam of the Moment.

 

 

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Jam of the Moment: I Feel For You


Artist: Chaka Khan
Album: I Feel For You
Song: I Feel For You

This song make me giddy.

Yes, absolutely giddy. I love everything about “I Feel For You.”

I love the staccato sample intro of Grandmaster Melle Mel’s voice saying, “Cha-Cha-Ch-Ch-Chaka Khan.” As an 8-year-old budding rapper, I probably repeated this phrase incessantly. (Perhaps my sister Camille can weigh in on this.)

I love the fact that the song is, let’s be honest, mostly much about sex (or at least sex appeal), and yet there is a delightfully innocent quality about them, especially compared to the over-the-top, leave-nothing-to-the-imagination lyrics from today’s R&B balladeers.

(Yes, R. Kelly. I’m talking to you.)

I love the fact that it’s so unabashedly a relic of its time, the mid-80s, when hair was big, drum machines were just becoming popular, and rapping and break dancing were these newfangled fads showing up on MTV and eventually VH1 and seen in films like “Krush Groove” and “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.”

I love imagining that, as the song found rotation on radio stations across America and hip-hop culture began slowly penetrating the consciousness of middle class America, legions of White parents began wondering exactly who Chaka Khan is and why their children would want to rock her, whatever that means.

I love the harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder.

I love the synthesizer rhythms, and the piped-in crowd noise (which was state-of-the-art audio post-production back then).

I love the fact that the song was actually written and recorded by Prince, long before it became a chart smash, and if you listen to the original you’ll see hints of the greatness that would later emerge.

I don’t even mind it on karaoke night, as long as whoever’s up there is having fun and tries not to slaughter it too badly.

As I finish this one, I’m sitting next to the one to whom this song applies for me, and she’s awesome. I feel for her… all the time.

So for that reason, Chaka Khan’s signature 80s hit is today’s jam of the moment.

Jam of the Moment, Music

Introducing: Jam Of The Moment

So I decided my site needs a regular feature besides the longer-form stuff that I do either for UrbanFaith or for sermon adaptations.

Once upon a time, I fancied myself a blogger extraordinaire when I started my last blog, Mixing It Up. But I never quite figured out how to do shorter posts. Even when trying to do something less epic than my normal thing, I still ended up banging out 500 words before I even figured out my major themes or anything.

So I decided to go back to my roots, so to speak, and get back to doing what I did when I first started writing on the internet — yakking about music.

(For the record, I wrote that sentence using Swype on my Android phone, and it converted “talking” to “yakking” automatically. That time was no big deal, but I’m afraid one of these days, it’s gonna get all Freudian on me.)

So yeah, this time, I’m just going to keep it simple. No album reviews or artist interviews. I’m simply going to take a song that I’m loving at the moment, for whatever reason, and talk about it.