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Jun 18 2014

Repeat After Me:

So you’ve got a new ambition—it’s to write a gospel song—
They will play it on the radio, and maybe sing along
But your knowledge of the bible isn’t really all that strong
If you’re thinking that’s a problem, I can tell you that you’re wrong!
You can write it with a single verse—not even one that rhymes,
Cos the trick is, you’ll repeat it several times!
You can write it with a single verse—not even one that rhymes,
Cos the trick is, you’ll repeat it several times!

Yes, you’ll write it with a single verse—not even one that rhymes,
Add some power chords and cymbals, and the feigned excitement climbs—
With your keyboard synthesizer you can make-believe it’s chimes
And repeat it, and repeat it, and repeat it many times
If it all gets too depressing, pick your chin up off the floor
And repeat the line you’ve written six times more!
If it all gets too depressing, pick your chin up off the floor
And repeat the line you’ve written six times more!

When you’re out of ammunition, take this little tip from me:
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Yes you’re out of ammunition, so this little tip from me:
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition
Repetition, repetition is the key!

You can throw in “hallelujah!”; you can throw in “blessed be!”
(Hey, with just those words, you’ve got a verse—or maybe two or three!)
And for extra points, be sure to use a random “thou” or “thee”
And you’re ready for the radio, as far as I can see.
You’ll be ready for the big time—Christian love and Christian fame
No one cares if all your verses are the same!
You’ll be ready for the big time—Christian love and Christian fame
No one cares if all your verses are the same!

When you’re out of ammunition, take this little tip from me:
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Yes you’re out of ammunition, so this little tip from me:
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition
Repetition, repetition is the key!

When you’re out of ammunition, take this little tip from me:
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Yes you’re out of ammunition, so this little tip from me:
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition
Repetition, repetition is the key!

As I said, I’ve been listening to Christian radio. I found it offensive–not because of my atheism, but because of my aesthetic commitment to proper rhyming verse. Again and again, song after song, lazy songwriting! Maybe one song in a dozen would start off with a passable verse, but as if the effort had exhausted the songwriter, the remainder of the song would be the repetition of one phrase (say, “he is mighty” or “blessed be” or “certum est, quia impossibile“–ok, that last one is my own, I cheated), and perhaps a repetition of the first (and thus, only) verse. The rest of the songs were repetitious pablum dressed up in power chords and saccharine synthesizer riffs.

See, and I’m even a moderate fan of old-time gospel music and older, more serious, hymns. Done well, there can be beautiful music there. But, I suppose, done poorly takes much less time, and has to be that much more profitable.

16 comments

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  1. 1
    richardelguru

    So …um… what do you think the key is?…..

  2. 2
    busterggi

    “Blessed be”?

    Are you sure you weren’t hearing some Wiccan music somewhere?

  3. 3
    Trebuchet

    Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back!
    Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back!
    Welcome back, Cuttlefish, welcome back!
    Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back!

    (Did I do it right?)

  4. 4
    Johnny Vector

    I’m rather fond of “Church” by Lyle Lovett. It does have a bit too much of the ol’ repetition at the end, but it’s a fun story.

  5. 5
    dukeofomnium

    In all fairness, secular songwriters don’t know how to write actual rhymes, either (example: making a “rhyme” from “crazy” and “maybe” in Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe).

  6. 6
    richardelguru

    dukeofomnium:

    or the old:
    “What do you get when you kiss a guy?
    You get enough germs to catch pneumonia
    After you do, he’ll never phone ya”
                           —I’ll never fall in love again

  7. 7
    stever

    Most music is forgettable. The oldies are the goodies because we remember the rare good bits, thankfully forgetting the torrent of crud that came with them. It isn’t just Christian music. There’s hip-hop, and cryin’-in-yer-beer country, and tone-deaf metal. But once in a while, there’s a song that gets to you.

  8. 8
    Kevin Kehres

    @1: The key of D. Maybe D-sharp.

  9. 9
    Kevin Kehres

    I have a very simple rule — if a restaurant is playing Christian rock, they don’t get me as a repeat customer. Once, yeah, but that’s only because I’m hungry and it’s time to eat.

    We have a few fast-food franchisees down here in Billy Graham territory that have the 10Cs posted and air that drek over their loudspeakers. I might go there once — but never twice. Life’s too short to have your digestion ruined in that way.

    I have noticed in a general “won’t come back here” kind of way that the fast-food franchises that do specialize in that kind of music are also the low-quality units. There’s a “Christian” Wendy’s near me — dried up, not hot-and-juicy, heat-lamped burgers and the perpetual smell like there was just a grease fire — just awful. I go way out of my way to the “other” Wendy’s if I have to have that peculiar fix.

    (And I know the joke — Can a man make it big in the burger business? Yes, if he calls the grease “juice”.)

  10. 10
    memehunter

    On those long drives through open country, the only stations that come in loud and clear are the Christians. They seem to have figured out that’s the way to get and keep listeners. It may be useful to hear how the other side thinks and talks, but I cannot take it for long, and when steam starts coming out of my ears, it’s time for silence and Red Bull.

    Welcome home, Cuttlefish!

  11. 11
    rikitiki

    Can I get a halleluiah, and a side of Jesus-fries?
    ’cause ole Cuttlefish is back and still alive
    Still alive and thriving after such a loathsome drive
    Spittin’ out the Christian pablum and the jive

  12. 12
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    You left out the dotted eighth notes. Crap Christian music isn’t complete without U2-style delay and a crap-ton of cheesy chorus effects on the guitars.

  13. 13
    Schusterfleck

    As a professional musician who earns a substantial part of my income playing this kind of music for church services (every week), I can only sigh and nod in agreement.

    I do get a kick out of the many unintentional double entendres, though.

  14. 14
    shari

    ugh – you forgot the martial beats!

    I am on the fence about half of the praise music we have in church. On the one hand, we have a musical director who shoots us a side of Coldplay, Joe Cocker, Simon and Garfunkel, and Aerosmith from time to time. The praise music repetition that gets so offensive, I think, comes from a lot of the lyrics being bible-mined – which is sensible, if you are trying to work in more chapter-verse memorization which I totally suck at anyway, and a lot of it doesn’t ‘scan’ so, repetition!

    Sara (hm, Groves?) is a songrwriter that seems to know her craft better than most, writes from the personal, feminine point of view (“Pictures of Egypt” comes to mind, about the Exodus) and illuminates the struggles of doubt.

    Naturally, I have never heard her on Christian Radio at the in-laws…..thanks, patriarchy!

  15. 15
    grumpyoldfart

    Stewart Lee has a routine on the subject:

  16. 16
    Aquarians Love To Cuddle

    Rather frightening I should think.
    I posted the link below earlier today before discovering your site and this post entitled, Repeat After Me:.
    I can’t be arsed to code for a live link, so here ya go.

    http://aquarianslovetofuck.blogspot.ca/2014/06/semitic-satiation.html

  1. 17
    The Reading List, 6/25/2014 » Almost Diamonds

    […] Repeat After Me–”As I said, I’ve been listening to Christian radio. I found it offensive–not because of my atheism, but because of my aesthetic commitment to proper rhyming verse.” […]

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