Last time I wrote about bad church music I said there was another song I wanted to write about but I couldn’t remember what it was. I knew it wouldn’t take long before we sang it again, and sure enough, last week, there it was. I’m sorry, again this is a song that everyone else seems to love, for whatever reason. But I think it is AWFUL.
The tune is pretty, I’ll grant that. The sentiment is nice. But . . . but . . . everything else! It’s got the congregation singing as God, which every expert informs me is a big no no. But I can get past that, obviously, since I like some songs that are written that way. It’s the poetry, if you can call it that, that I cannot stand. Here again the composer bends the words to fit the music. The use of passive voice riles the English major in me: “Will you let my love be shown, will you let my name be known, will you let my life be grown?” Yuck yuck yuck! It sounds whiny and weak. If it were an essay it would have red pen all over it: Will you show my life, teach my name, plant my life? Well, that’s not a whole lot better, but at least it is stronger.
Here is a source for all the lyrics. I could go through every line and complain but I will resist. Just two more: “Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen?” My kids and I struggle not to laugh when we hear this line. Besides just conjuring up a gross mental picture, this line is an example of poetry bending. To stretch what should be “in secret” or “secretly” into “do such as this unseen” would have Professor Strunk rolling over in his grave, frothing at the mouth and yelling “Omit needless words!” And I don’t even know what to say about “Should your life attract or scare?” I can’t sing it with a straight face, and believe it or not I really do try to sing every song at Mass, no matter how awful.
My advice to Catholic songwriters? You are doing a lovely job with the tunes. Go back to the Glory and Praise days and look for your lyrics in the Scriptures. There’s no way you can go wrong with that.