Does Your Worship Music Resemble Cruise Ship Karaoke?

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KaraokeA cruise ship karaoke singer is provided with a microphone, sound system and projected text for the purpose of imitating a familiar song originally recorded by a popular artist. Karaoke singers are even judged on how well (or poorly) they impersonate the original artist and mimic his or her song.

If the only version of worship songs you ever lead or your congregation ever expects must be exactly like the original artist’s rendition (including: genre, key, tempo, instrumentation, vocal timbre, volume, attitude and even attire) doesn’t your worship music also resemble cruise ship karaoke?

Note: impersonation can appear in the form of a choir, french cuffs, sequined dresses and coiffed hair; as well as a band, jeans, shirttails and unkempt hair.

Worship impersonation is borrowing credibility from another congregation or artist without even considering the culture and context of your own congregants, leaders, players, singers and their stories.

Obviously, not all congregations are gifted with musicians who create original songs and therefore must borrow the songs of others. The difference between borrowing songs and borrowing credibility, however, is taking the time to interpret those songs while giving consideration to the uniqueness of your own congregation instead of just attempting to make those songs sound as close as possible to the original rendition.

Impersonation is about style. Interpretation is about content. Impersonation is based on observation and replication. Interpretation is based on observation and explication. Impersonation minimizes God’s limitless creativity in multiple contexts. Interpretation embraces God’s limitless creativity in your context.

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4 Responses to “Does Your Worship Music Resemble Cruise Ship Karaoke?”

  • Alexander Says:

    Thank you very much! No need to re-invent the wheel now. This has just been re-blogged, where I hope it will make some of my brethren think a little. Keep ’em coming!

  • Does Your Worship Music Resemble Cruise Ship Karaoke? « Theomusicology Blog Says:

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  • Scott Sarnes Says:

    Great thoughts David, if your target as a worship team is to sound just like the CD, you should just go ahead and play the CD because it will always sound better than you. The goal we try for is to take ownership of our version of a song. Use the people that God has brought to your team and believe that God put them there for a reason. Let them express their heart though their musical gifts, not try to be someone else. A worship team member should not be so focused on getting their part exactly like the original that they can’t worship. One of my favorite comments we get is when someone says that they like our version of a song better than the one on the radio, not that we played it better, it’s just that it is our version.

  • Brett Yohn Says:

    The saddest thing is when they are not good in their impersonation. Part of the problem is that the consumers drive this too. They want to sing to the same sound and sequence of instruments that they have on their iPods.

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