I used to love Christmas music. I used to love it so much, in fact, that I convinced the rest of my family that it is acceptable to listen to Christmas music on November 1st (the previous acceptable time was exclusively post-Thanksgiving). However, I’ve found myself listening to less Christmas music with each passing year.
This year, as I’ve become more vested in the philosophy of aesthetics thanks to my involvement with the Nehemiah Foundation, I’ve been pondering why I have experienced this gradual divorce from holiday tunes. What I’ve found are some serious pitfalls within the genre and some solutions to renewing the arts that surround Christ’s birth.
You may have noticed that many talented Christian artists split with the church—either completely, like Pedro the Lion’s David Bazan—or partially on various issues, like Michael Gungor or Dan Haseltine. It seems that many “fringe” Christian artists feel disconnected from the church, or at least uncomfortable inside of it. This is actually a common experience, far more common than most people know.
Derek Webb, former member of Caedmon’s Call, had this to say in an interview with Richard Clark:
For hipsters and Indie-listeners everywhere (and other people too complicated to be labeled), the question is heavy in the Yuletide air: What the heck is going on in Sufjan’s massive new Christmas album? Heads still ringing from Age of Adz, many fans almost want to give up hope on their favorite banjo-strumming story-teller of the more simple times… before handlebar mustaches were cool again.
Well, friend, I feel your pain. Mostly in my ears. For the first two weeks of listening to the album, I hated it. I thought Sufjan had succumbed to the fate of many who receive sudden acclaim: his pride swelled, his standard became himself, and his music sucked forevermore. It’s like the emperor’s new clothes, but instead it’s Sufjan’s new disjointed guitar solos and miserably performed home recordings of songs too stupid to use words to describe.