Thursday, November 13, 2014

#99 AWAKEN by Natalie Grant

As I mentioned in my last post, Days of Elijah, the first two songs on the list illustrate two of the main problems in creating this list. Days of Elijah is problematic because I'm pretty sure I don't have the song rated as highly as most others would. Awaken, by Natalie Grant, is also a little iffy, since I'm pretty sure that most people wouldn't have it on their list at all or maybe even consider it a worship song.

Awaken falls into a rapidly growing sub-category of worship music that I like to call 'pop worship'. Pop worship is just what it sounds like: it's a song that sort of sounds like a pop song, but it also sort of sounds like a worship song. I'm thinking that years ago Chris Tomlin accidentally invented the pop worship category, but there are plenty of other artists who are blurring the lines today, including, most notably, Robin Thicke.**

** That is my obligatory pop culture reference for this post. I include it so that the kids reading think that I'm hip, and cool, and relevant, you know, like The Fonz.****
 **** You see, kids, The Fonz was this --- eh, you know what, never mind.

Other contemporary artists who have songs that blur the lines between pop music and worship are Mercy Me, Casting Crowns, Meredith Andrews, and Dexy's Midnight Runners. In my mind, the poster child for this genre blurring is Jaime Jamgochian, who has taken it to an art form. Perhaps at some time in the future I'll do a whole post on the best worship songs that sound like pop songs, but for now I'll just let you know that there are very few, if any, of these types of songs on the Top 100 List - lest anyone think that this song is the norm - Andy knows his audience.

Since this song is probably one of the least known songs on this entire list, maybe I'd better break form and let those of you who aren't familiar with it take a listen. My blog analytics shows that less than 3% of all visitors who click on a post of mine can actually make it all the way to the end of the post, where I usually post the video. (84.7% of those cited nausea as the main reason). Word of warning: If you don't know this song, it's gonna sound like a typical WGRC pop song. As you are listening, pay special attention to the lyrics and ask yourself if it would work for you during worship. I'll discuss the song more after the video:

Ok, now I want you to do me a favor: Please disregard everything I've said so far (I know there's someone reading this thinking: "Way ahead of you, chief. I've been disregarding everything you say for better than a decade").

So, here's the deal - I really have no frame of reference for what I've written so far. Back in the day, when I was at GCC and a newbie in the worship music scene, I didn't really have a good idea as to what constituted worship music. When I came to Juniata County in 1999, I hadn't been exposed to modern worship music at all, so I had no idea what I was supposed to do - even though I was immediately expected to pick some songs for worship at least a couple of times a week.

Fortunately for me, several people were there to help. I quickly amassed a bunch of worship music from those at GCC, and I started buying my own. But even though those people were there to tell me which songs everyone was using, if I encountered something new, I didn't know enough to know if what I had discovered officially qualified as a 'worship song'. I needed help, enter.....
A big thanks to Alvin and Heinie Porter**

Alvin and Heinie Porter!!! (yes, OF COURSE I know it's Alan and Heidi Potter, but that's part of the bit. Ok, allow me to explain - you see, it's funny because I'm pretending that I've forgotten their names. And it's doubly funny because any time you can say 'Heinie, that's funny. This is comedy gold here, I'm telling ya. Eh, what do you kids know?). For awhile there, I was able to go to Alan and Heidi whenever I had found something I thought would be good for worship. Also, early on I was still going to Alan's Middleburg club, so that was also a great source for what was new in the worship scene.

** Ok, is it just me, or does anyone else see 'Proud Father Sending His Daughter To College' when they look at the picture above. Or at the very least, much older brother. Seriously, Alan looks like he's getting older just like the rest of us, while Heidi looks like she has that Benjamin Button disease and she's turning 19 next week.  

At that time, I was VERY conscious of what music I was doing for the kids. It became important for me that the kids liked what I was doing. I'm pretty sure that this is a common trait amongst those who lead worship - that is, taking into consideration how the audience will respond to what songs we select. I'm not sure if it's a good thing, but there it is.

So, the point, the belabored, tortured point, is that while I was in Juniata County I had a pretty good system to determine what good worship music was, and whether a particular song or artist qualified. But now, I don't really have that, nor do I really care. Back then, I cared a lot about how the songs would 'work' for the kids, now I only really care if they work FOR ME.

I like this song. By the way, the song is called Awaken, and it's by Natalie Grant. Seems like about an hour since I've even mentioned the song I'm supposed to be reviewing here. Eh, but what are you gonna do, ask for your money back? Now where was I? Oh yea, I like this song. When I go into my little room and put on my earbuds for my own worship time, I like to use this song. It works FOR ME.**

** I think one of the reasons it works for me is that near the end of the song, In my head I picture a church choir with large, black women in purple robes coming in and singing along. I don't really know why they have to be black women, or overweight, but that's what I see in my head, and believe me, I'm as scared of going in there as you are. I DO know why I see the purple robes - it's because that's the picture I found to illustrate my point:  
These ladies come in at about 2:36 in the song. Listen again, you'll see what I mean.
I've never been to a church that uses this song for morning worship, and I couldn't even find a youtube video where Natalie Grant was doing it in a worship setting. So I honestly don't know if it counts as a worship song. To me it does, and that's sort of the only thing that matters.          

NOTE: I believe I unintentionally downgraded the silly quotient on this one. I think I just ran out of time with my chronic need to over explain stuff. But, to my loyal readers (really, Andy, should that be plural?), I promise to get right back on the horse next time. Heck, next time there might even be an actual horse, I'll try to work that in. But just know that genuine, thoughtful examination will be the exception rather than the rule, and my next post will get right back to the time-traveling porcupines.          

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