Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Good Critique of Mumford and Sons

Nathan Chang writes a compelling piece on Mumford and Sons and their latest album Babel. Personally, I have enjoyed their past two albums, both for their passion and energy and for their spiritually thoughtful lyrics, but Chang provides some convicting food for thought.

Talking about Mumford's quotable lyrics, he says:
Reading the lyrics from a Mumford & Sons song is a daunting task, not because they’re challenging, but because they’re incoherent. Mumford seems afraid of writing thoughts that are longer than two or three short lines, not that this matters when your main audience is looking for a style, catchiness and a hook rather than challenging lyrics. Songs don’t have to be philosophical treatises, but a good song—like a good poem—marries truth and efficiency of language through subtlety and the suggestive power of the unspoken. Creative Writing 101: “Show, Don’t Tell.” Someone missed the memo or doesn’t have enough faith in writing or audience or some combination of the above. This is of course what makes Mumford & Sons so quotable (especially on Twitter and on Sundays). Attention deficit results in a failure to tackle the difficult questions; the songs feign to wrestle with anything approaching thoroughness or even a serious effort.
Later in the article he draws a comparison between Mumford's lyrics and contemporary Christian praise music:
It is the unimaginative, manufactured earnestness that ultimately makes Mumford & Sons as emotionally unfulfilling as a lot of contemporary Christian praise music. They have perfected a songwriting formula lifted straight out of the Hillsong playbook: Take any deficiencies or failings of the lyrics to elicit emotion and add accompaniment with sufficient volume, then take a few lines and repeat them again and again with feeling and honesty. Surely if the drums come in at the right time and we throw in a key change, the song will be really emotional. It’s a problem in church, and it’s a problem on the radio.
Even though I still will enjoy Mumford & Sons after this article, I appreciate the ways in which I have been challenged by Chang. The world we live in is full of 140 character bits of decontextualized truth. If that is all we are getting, I believe our hearts and minds will suffer for it.

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