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What's Wrong with Hit Music?

posted: May 21st, 2009 by Dave Trout

I haven't heard of many artists who don't have the desire to have a hit. A painter getting her work into a gallery showing. A filmmaker getting a movie into the top ten at the box office. Musicians getting that single on the radio and up the charts. It's all very natural.

I roll my eyes when a producer, songwriter, or artist says they have no interest in having a hit song. They carry an air of artistic piety about their music - obviously the masses are just too superficial to accept such fine work. I find this attitude more of an excuse than a mission. Common sense will tell you - a "hit" means (a) more people will hear your art and (b) you'll sell more records. Name me one musician who is opposed to either.

However, I do respect artists that say, "I'm not trying to write a hit." This is a distinct difference in worldview.  If one of their songs catches fire and storms up the charts, great! If not, that's okay also. Either way, the song will stand on its own two legs as a piece of art. After all, the Creator expects us to be creative beings, and so bringing a new song into the world is a success (even if it never spins on one radio station).

So do I have a problem with hit music? For the most part... NO. There's a long list of chart-topping songs that have moved or inspired me. Yet, one problem is when songwriters TRY to write a radio hit... and many times this is done in a short timeframe, is not connected to a heartfelt experience, and is made for a third party performer. Exhibit A is the massive commercialism of praise & worship music. Some churches are inadvertently writing songs with radio in mind, rather than their congregations. I'm concerned with this.

A second problem is how radio will play a song to death. For me, the very life of the song can get sucked out after I've heard it 50 times in one month. I have an equally long list of both worship and pop songs that no longer make we smile or sing along - but rather give me a queasiness that rivals gorging on two extra value meals. It's radio's quandary. The medium that gave that song wings to fly is the very thing that shoots it down and cooks it for dinner.

I'm very grateful (with thanks to cultured listeners) for finding and being blessed by a huge landscape of music that's just under the surface. As UTR celebrates our ½ birthday this week, we enjoy some of the best listener-requested songs over the last 6 months.

Comments (1)

I agree about the played to death. I’m going back thru the archives listening to old shows and the week you had both Brandon Heath and Francesca Batistelli’s overplayed songs, I cringed as the familiar first bar played.

But, it also made me listen to the songs carefully again, because they were new then. What did you see in them that eventually launched them into mind-numbing rotation? They are wonderful songs with thoughtful lyrics and honest stories to tell.

Do you think the Christian music industry will ever be able to step away from overplaying a few artists and dig a little deeper to give us more variety, more choice, and to spread the financial benefit to more deserving artists?

How did your meeting in Nashville with the GMA go?

emily b 06:44 PM Thu, Dec 05, 2013

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