Lightly Instrumented First Verse
BIG Sing Along Chorus
Second (and 3rd) verses get more anthmatic each time.
Key Change to Make Final Chorus Even Bigger
You could call this a template for the modern worship song. Pull out a live version of "How Great Is Our God" or "Mighty To Save" and you will easily find it. But the worship writers in Brentwood, Tennessee didn't figure this out first. It wasn't planned out at a design meeting for the Passion conferences. Louie Giglio and Chris Tomlin didn't dream it up during the early stages of One Day.
My friends....this template comes from New Jersey and was perfected (and somewhat invented) by Jon Bon Jovi. That's right, 1980's hair metal drives modern worship. I first thought about this a few years ago and brought it up to a few people. We couldn't find an earlier of example to describe what now is considered normal in worship songwriting.
If you couple this template with another HUGE 1980's influence, you can easily describe most worship that you find at big conferences and many churches. Here is my equation.
Bon Jovi (Livin On A Prayer) + U2 (Where the streets have no name)= Your Grace is Enough.
Culture drives how worship is delivered. Our bodies are tuned to accept and acknowledge certain types of music as appropriate to draw a response. "Pop" worship works just like pop music. It provides a vehicle that is accessible to a large amount of people. While I don't prefer this type of worship, I can worship through it. As much as I claimed to despise Bon Jovi in the early 90's (I was more of a Soundgarden guy), you will catch me rolling down the window to a few songs. It appeals to the senses.
The context of pop worship allows for it to be consumed by a cumulative mass of people. We can get into a discussion of if this is actually good, but we have to acknowledge the cultural appeal. You can theoretically enjoy Worship Music as a genre if you are not a Christian. Aesthetics matters in worship design, because the musical vehicle needs to make sense for who the worship is designed for. Consumption strategy is both a blessing and a curse.
These songs provide a place for human involvement. U2 nailed the songs that peoples spirits want to sing. It isn't an overindulgent rock star singing about women or substances, but a body of people acting out hope together. These songs were meant to get people singing.
When worship is designed for small specific groups of people or is used as an identifier by a specific culture of Christians we might see different forms of expression. The next few posts in this series will look at some more outsider perspectives.