Apr 2, 2010

Delirious' bid for number one: the rock delusion?

Delirious? are a Christian rock band that had a string of top 40 hits at about the time the Millennium Prayer was stripping the charts of all that is good and holy.

This Sunday, the band's 13-year-old anthemic worship song History Maker will make a bid for the UK number one position following a Facebook campaign akin to the sucessful Rage Against The Machine campaign three months ago.

Those who lack a religious persuasion or aren't in anyway mired in the odd underworld of Christianity are scratching their heads. Who the hell is this band? Do they really have fans? And why does the campaign matter?


Christian music subculture is massive. There are record labels, shops, radio stations, thousands of bands and plenty of eager followers. Fair play to 'em if they want to poke the charts with a stick and see what happens.

But I'm not a happy Easter bunny. My objection to Delirious’ assault on the charts (I am dispensing with that irritating question mark) is based on two elements: the music and the message.

The music is my first objection. I never minded Delirious back in the ‘90s when I was entrenched in Christian culture. I even sold t-shirts on their tour. But I was never fond of History Maker: it was too simple, too sub-U2. They had better songs, like Obsession. I don’t believe such a badly-dated track has a place in the modern music charts.

Which brings me to the lyrics and the second of my objections: the message. The whole point of the campaign is to have something Christian as the Easter number one, as if a measure of financial success is important in this weekend of all weekends.


You don’t have to look far to find Christians in the charts. Joe McElderry’s X Factor song was rooted in American Christianity, while Owl City had the longest-serving number one single of 2010 so far: his connections to the Christian rock scene are well documented.

And do you need Christian lyrics to find a connection to the ‘other’? Of course not. Delirious are not filling a Godless void.

The lyrics of History Maker remind me of a time when I was young, naive and spoke almost entirely in absolutes. The song speaks of people being raised from the dead, the blind seeing and the fire of God bringing about miracles.

For many people I know, their Christian faith is a quiet faith, one that speaks of humility and of comfort in suffering. And yet, History Maker boasts:
“Cloudless skies will break, Kings and queens will shake... I'm gonna be a history maker in this land, I'm gonna be a speaker of truth to all mankind.”

Evangelical Christianity at its worst churns out worship songs that are all “me, me, me”, and this is exactly that. It espouses a pre-enlightenment, black-white vision of “truth” that has little place in my own faith.

I admit I’m biased. As I post this, my ‘replacement’ is broadcasting on Refresh FM, so I’m not exactly a natural friend to the evangelical world. But it is a world I know well. I don’t think it’s all bad, most of the people in that world are, quite frankly, ace - and as someone who sold Christian music for nine years, I believe my views on Delirious to be reasoned.

Having said that, if they make number one, I'm chainsawing my underpants off and sitting in a bath of woodlice and vinegar.


History Maker will raise money for charity, but it will not achieve its main purpose. It’s a poor advert for Christianity, the music ain’t so hot, and it sustains an inwardly-focussed Christian subculture that often separates itself from the world it seems determined on saving.

And yet, it’s working. The midweek position of number six in the charts may well underestimate Delirious’ impending success in the final chart this Sunday evening. It is still riding high in the Amazon mp3 chart and I don’t think a top five spot is out of the question.

It's just a shame they'll be trounced by the godawful Scouting For Girls. That's like being beaten up by scouts and girls, all at the same time. Even Delirious don't deserve that.

If you want Christian rock music, start with Starflyer 59: they mention Jesus and everything. As for this Sunday's chart, I fear it may go down as an embarrassing footnote in yet another misguided attempt to propogate a form of Christianity that simply doesn't work any more.


steve said...

Sounds mighty scary and mighty lame. Never heard of it, or them at all thankfully. The closest thing I ever, or will ever get to any music remotely Christian is U2, and at least they've got Eno and Lanois on their side.

Fat Roland said...

I happen to know Squarepusher is a member of the Mothers' Union and does the flower rota down my local Anglican church.

Anonymous said...

I agree it's not their best song, and it is a bit me me me. But I like the democracy of music these days. Back when delirious? were doing it using the traditional music industry, I think they got to 12 or something. Still quite an achievement for a band with no airplay, but I like how these days, bands that don't have favour in that scene can still make a dent. I think the charts could do with being more representative of the country as a whole and not just 13 year old girls or people with a complete ignorance of good music! The old, dying, music industry only focused on what sold. These days, the charts are getting to be more grassroots and about what the public at large want to promote. That can only be a positive thing.


Method Promotion said...

I think some Christians feel like this is 'their' music, and that they should follow it because it's aimed at them.

Religion coming into music seems so strange to me - It's just noise at the end of the day, innit?

Fat Roland said...

Dan - The advent of mp3s has thrown in some very exciting changes in the charts and - notwithstanding a disappointing 2010 so far - has revitalised sales. I just hope the Digital Economy Bill doesn't screw things up.

MP - I have it on good authority that the devil has all the best music.

Anonymous said...

my brain files christian rock in the same section as ringtones and that awkward dance/rock hybrid you get in films like the matrix.
it's the evangelical side of it that puts be off, smirk smirk.