PSWCDT – Way Beyond Sunday: Christian Music by Jay Maxwell

May 26, 2007 by Jay Maxwell

Positive, danceable party sounds can be found in today’s faith-based music

There are three trees in my backyard. When my wife and I moved into our home thirteen years ago, the trees were so small that we were afraid that someone would not see them when mowing the yard and accidentally cut them down. Another concern we had was that our Doberman, whose favorite pastime was gnawing on bricks, would either pull up a tree or would bite into one and literally chomp the tree in half. At times, the urge would come upon me to take a running start and jump over the smallest tree, just so I could claim that I was nimble and agile enough to leap over trees – not quite the same as Superman and his tall buildings – but a challenge just the same. To fend off all these possible threats to these young saplings, we erected a small fence around each tree in hopes of facilitating its growth. As the years passed, the trees grew taller and increased in girth. Today, the early threats no longer exist and I do not have the slightest inkling to don a cape and become a superhero and attempt to vault over a tree.
Each spring as I see how the trees have grown, I reflect on the growth in areas of my own life, including the growth of my business. The trees, like my business, must continue to grow if they want to exist and flourish in an ever changing environment. Even after a tree is mature, it must grow new bark and new leaves or it will cease to be a living entity. Though my company is proudly celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, we continue to grow by seeking ways to enhance our services to meet our client’s needs. One new area of growth for us is to offer Christian dance music in the song list booklet we give to our clients.

Positive Demand
It has always been our mission to have a keen ear available and earnestly listen to the desires of those we serve. Recently, many of our clients, including brides and grooms, sponsors of Girl Scout Father-Daughter dances, and several schools have requested that some Christian music be played at their event. When one first thinks about Christian music, songs such as “Amazing Grace,” “Rock of Ages” or “Jesus Loves Me” might come to mind-along with some serious doubts about anyone being able to party to these tunes. These worship standards would indeed be useless for firing up a dance floor and are probably best suited for the Sunday morning service.
While many of today’s praise and worship songs have embraced a modern feel so that worshipers can better express their spirituality in the sanctuary, even these songs are not going to generate a desire to move the body to the beat at an event such as a wedding reception. Initially, the few Christian songs that were requested were wedding favorites by Michael W. Smith (“Love of My Life” or “I Will Be Here for You”) or Steven Curtis Chapman (“I Will Be Here”). These tunes were typically requested for the bride and groom’s first dance so we included them in the Wedding category. Some artists had crossover hits, so groups such as Jars of Clay and DC Talk would be placed with modern rock songs and Jump5 or Amy Grant normally placed side by side with secular artists in a dance/pop category. By carefully listening to our client’s increasing requests for Christian music and tracking the success of each song, we have recently added a separate category in our song list booklet that we make available to our clients. We have also continued to expand our offering of Contemporary Christian music that will actually have people up on the dance floor.
After tracking the Christian music requests of our clients and researching the popular “danceable” Christian music we now offer a variety of genres of Christian music. This growth in our play list is meant to satisfy those whose primary interest lies in dancing to a beat normally found in Hip-Hop, Dance, or Rock. With the songs of Toby Mac, Kirk Franklin and Group 1 Crew mixed in with the usual tunes that actually have a positive (or at least a non-negative) message, you can circumvent the need to play music that advocates drug use, illicit relations, or any other inappropriate language or content. The majority of our clients indeed wish to get down and party to a solid beat and have good clean fun without the worry that something offensive will be blared from our speakers into the ears of their guests. As popular “top 40” music has continued to contain lyrics that must be edited in order to receive airplay, people are becoming more cautious when they hire a DJ to entertain at their event. Recently, before we even played the first song at a school dance, the principal told us, “Don’t play anything that you wouldn’t want your grandmother to hear.” That statement stuck with me and has become the litmus test for what is appropriate to play at an event.
Keep in mind that I am writing this primarily from a growth perspective for my business. That is, my business has grown by offering this additional service of a large selection of Christian music to satisfy my client’s tastes. However, as a Christian myself, I also see this growth as a way to integrate my own faith with my business. Every aspect of how my company operates is based on Biblical principals, but the end product of what music is offered and played has at times been in contrast to that philosophy.

Positive, Not Preachy
Last month one of my closest DJ friends said he was ready to hang up his headphones after nearly 30 years as one of the areas best known DJs for school events because the music available for today’s youth had nothing positive to offer. On the surface there was truth in his statement, but on a closer look, I told him there are alternatives to quitting the business. One alternative is to find music that blends a danceable beat with decent lyrics. The message does not necessarily have to be “preachy,” but at least search for music that is encouraging a positive way of thinking and living.
This issue’s music list would be an excellent way to begin to discover new music to play to enhance your business. Begin your own research in ways to grow your business in such a way that your clients will be assured that you have the expertise to play songs that will be in accordance with their desire to entertain their guests without offending anyone. Instead of feeling embarrassed when you play songs with the lyrics “bleeped out” or the content isn’t what you would want to personally quote on the microphone, try to imagine people dancing to songs where the lyrics express making positive choices in life. We have done more that just imagine people dancing to uplifting music; we have witnessed it happening-after someone shouts, “Play something we can dance to!”

Righteous Party Beats

1 ACTIVATE STELLAR KART
2 ALWAYS BE YOUR BABY NATALIE GRANT
3 BE MY ESCAPE RELIANT K
4 BEAUTIFUL NAME ZOEGIRL
5 BEAUTIFUL ONE BY THE TREE
6 BIG HOUSE AUDIO ADRENALINE
7 BOUNCE MANAFEST
8 BURN FOR YOU TOBYMAC
9 CAN’T GO ON GROUP 1 CREW
10 CHANGE YOUR MIND NIFTY
11 CHOICES TRU LIFE
12 CRY NO MORE CROSS MOVEMENT
13 DEAD SERIOUS ZOEGIRL
14 DEVIL IS BAD Ws
15 DIVERSE CITY TOBYMAC
16 DO YA THANG 4-GOD
17 DON’T LOOK AT ME STACIE ORRICO
18 DREAMS 4-GOD
19 EVERYBODYS GOT A SONG TO SING GROUP 1 CREW
20 EVERYTHING CHANGES KATHY TROCCOLI

For the rest of the song list, get a copy of Mobile Beat’s May 2007 issue!

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Jay Maxwell Jay Maxwell (29 Posts)

Mobile Beat’s resident musicologist since 1992 (issue #11), Jay Maxwell runs the multi-talent entertainment company, Jay Maxwell’s Music by Request, LLC, in Charleston, South Carolina. He is also a professor of Business at Charleston Southern University. His passion for detail and continuous research of clients’ requests can be found not only in this column, but also in his annually updated music guide, Play Something We Can Dance To.


Filed Under: Issues from 2007, Music