Does it speak highly of my upbringing that I hesitate before speaking ill of Contemporary Christian music? Despite my current lack of interest in organized religion, the fact that I was born and raised in a reasonably devout Catholic household still informs much of what I do.
But I gotta say it: most CCM music sucks.
It’s like the worst adult contemporary music with all the soul sucked out of it. Any good music (whether spiritual or secular) should cause some movement inside you. Listen to Mavis Staples or Aretha Franklin, and you feel it. Listen to U2, you feel it. There’s nothing antiseptic about it.
I don’t find myself in a position where I hear much CCM music-most of my exposure to the genre to the subgenre came through the songs and artists that crossed over to pop radio in the Nineties: Michael W. Smith, DC Talk, Jars of Clay (whose “Flood” is actually a really good song) and the title track from an album that made it all the way to the top of the pop charts-Bob Carlisle’s Butterfly Kisses.
This song, released in spring 1997, peaked in the Top Ten of Billboard’s airplay chart, and wound up winning Carlisle a Grammy award for Best Country Song. It briefly made Carlisle as big a star as…hey, who was popular in 1997? The Spice Girls?
The song itself doesn’t directly address Jesus (although there’s plenty of religious imagery in the lyrics,) but is instead a song about a father watching his daughter grow up. Pretty sentimental-sounding fare, yeah? Well, at some point this song turns right on sentimental and veers sharply into creepy-land. I’m not sure if that has to do with the song’s gauzy arrangement, or Carlisle’s sub-Bolton chesty vocals, or the lyrics. Perhaps the most egregious:
You know how much I love you daddy
But if you don’t mind
I’m only gonna kiss you on the cheek this time
Call me a creeper, but if you’re kissing a kid-your own or someone else’s-anywhere other than on the cheek by the time they’re sixteen, then something is wrong. Unless you’re sixteen yourself, in which case, I suppose, all bets are off.
I’m sure this song caught the hearts of a lot of weepy dads out there (and probably just as many weepy moms,) but this song comes off as the aural version of a bad rom-com. Some pieces of art are capable of touching your heart and setting off the waterworks without being obvious. Some may be a little more blatant in their play, but are well-crafted enough that you don’t feel too guilty about getting sentimental. “Butterfly Kisses,” though? Bob Carlisle (I assume) tries hard to craft a touching song and wound up crafting perhaps the single most mawkish song of the past fifteen years. And as soon as those weepy dads dried their tears, they headed over to the used CD store, where copies of Butterfly Kisses can now be found in abundance for 99 cents.
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