The title of this post comes from Russ Bremeier’s weekly Music Connection Newsletter from Christianity Today. It’s a helpful way to keep up on what’s happening in the Christian music world. Here’s the introduction to one of his recent emails:
Have you ever noticed how an impression of a song or album can change with repeated listens? Thank goodness it doesn’t happen too often for me, but there are times when I’m nagged by the feeling that I got a review wrong because my opinion of the album has since changed. Depending on that change, I call it erosion or accumulation.
Erosion occurs when an album I initially love begins to wear on me—not within the first two or three spins, but maybe after five listens, or a year after an album’s release. I don’t want to give examples here, but I’m sorry to say that there are a few discs we’ve put on our annual Best Albums list that I’ve enjoyed less with time. I’ve also noticed from my own listening that erosion happens a lot with modern worship music—so many new songs remind me of great songs from five to ten years ago that I end up growing tired of both the new and the old.
Accumulation is the opposite of erosion, occurring when albums seem to get better with each listen. I typically notice this with dynamite songwriting, when a strong lyric suddenly resonates more because I hear it in a new way or it takes on deeper meaning after a new life experience has occurred since the last listen. It also happens with newfound musical nuance in the performance or some “hidden” layer to a textured production. Though I’m still only on my third listen, Brooke Fraser’s Albertine continues to connect with me more and more in both ways.
It’s only natural for our tastes to change with time and repetition. Sometimes it’s because of changing musical trends, sometimes we simply outgrow the music, and sometimes we hear music with new ears or a fresh perspective that causes us to reconsider it…It scares me sometimes that we become so obsessed with the new and the instantaneous that we miss out on deep and lasting truths by judging things as too simple or too subtle, based on things like an artist’s performance or a pastor’s presentation. After all, while some things lose meaning and erode with repetition, others take root and accumulate with time.
There are two reasons I appreciated what Russ says here. First, I think he’s identified a common tendency among Christians when it comes to the songs we sing and the music we listen to. If we don’t like it immediately, if it doesn’t affect us right away, if it seems too hard to sing or comprehend the first time through, we decide it’s a bad song or CD. It just might be bad, but not always. There are some songs that grow on you over time and become more meaningful and significant through repetition. The measure of a truly great song is not whether it affects me the first or second time, but whether it can affect me the 30th time. That’s why the most “singable” worship song isn’t always the best one to sing.
The second reason I referenced this post is because I’ve also been listening to Albertine by Brooke Fraser. Brooke is a pop star in New Zealand but also a part of the music team at Hillsong church in Sydney, Australia. When it comes to songs for corporate worship, I haven’t been a big Hillsong fan. Their songs can tend to be strong on the music side, weak on the lyrical side, and heavy on the subjective side. But Albertine is a collection of artist songs, not corporate worship songs. I’ve listened to it over a dozen times and enjoy it more with each listen.
Each song is creatively produced, tastefully arranged, thoughtfully and poetically written, and beautifully sung. “Shadowfeet,” the opening track, describes the transience of this life and declares that when “the world is falling out from under me I’ll be found in You, still standing.” “Love is Waiting” is a haunting and tender song about a woman’s commitment to withhold affection for the present because “love is waiting till we’re ready, till it’s right.” “Albertine” is the name of a girl Brooke met when she visited Rwanda. She wrote the song to tell the world about the need in that country, referencing James 2:17: Faith without deeds is dead. “C.S. Lewis Song” explores how if I never find anything in this life that satisfies me completely it must mean that “I was not made for here.” “Faithful” is a reminder to those who are enduring suffering that as I wait for God, “maybe I’m made more faithful.” The CD closes with a piece called “Hymn” where she sings that her solitary ambition is “to only dwell in Thee.”
I would love to see Brooke put out another artist CD like “Albertine” with some clearer references to the gospel, more specific pointers to the atoning death of Christ as the foundation, power, and hope of our lives. Maybe that’s for next time.
It’s still a great CD. And iTunes is offering it for $5.99 right now. Worth checking out.
UPDATE: The iTunes download is $9.99 again. Still a great deal.