A friend of mine recently asked my thoughts on the song, “Start Somewhere,” from the album Tonight, by TobyMac. This was a difficult question for me to answer—painful, even—because it meant that I had to actually go and listen to it. I do write about mainstream Christian “art” from time to time, but mostly just to call it out for the gutless, spineless, brainless drivel that it often is.
Nonetheless, having listened to waaaay too much of TobyMac’s music as a teenager back when he was with the hip-hop-ish band DC Talk, I was a little curious to see what the dude has been up to recently, so I caved in and listened to the song, and it was as painful as I had expected.
It proves something, though. It proves you can be in music professionally for over 20 years and not learn much about music. It proves you can spend a LOT of money on top-end production value and still make something that sounds exactly like what everybody else has already done—only worse.
It may just be because I personally seriously dislike the sort of pop schlock this song tries to emulate (which is, I realize, something of a personal preference). But, I really don’t know what he could have done to make a song that sounded more like an emasculated version of “Livin’ La Vida Loca” by Ricky Martin (which, consequently, came out OVER 10 YEARS ago). While I’m no Martin fan, his song at least was fun to listen to, and made me want to dance.
I found TobyMac’s version to be painful … like a hammer to my forehead. And the lyrics? Well, while he seemed to be trying to be profound (not something that weds well with this style of music), a lot of it sounds like the sort of song lyrics I might have written in junior high school—full of overblown sentimentality and metaphors that strain the bounds of credibility.
Case in point: “I can see it like a world premiere/When did my objective lose all objectiveness?” Clunky, vague and pointless, to say the least.
Or how about: “If I could turn my words around, you wouldn’t hear a sound.”
I’ve said it before and I will say it again: I do not care if people make crappy music. Creativity of all kinds ought to be encouraged. But when you have a subculture that so enthusiastically endorses and rewards sub-standard songwriting, you get situations like this, where a guy who works as a professional musician for 20 years actually gets WORSE at his profession.
That’s hard to do. So, uh, cheers for that.