I Have Chris Tomlin Fatigue

Kyle Reed // @kylereed

This post might make you smile. Or it might upset you. Or you might applaud after you read it because you agree.
Whatever your response, this is just my blunt opinion.

I will not buy a full Passion album for one reason…Chris Tomlin.

I have what you call Chris Tomlin fatigue. “Over saturation” and “over value” can only go on for so long and I cannot take much more. I appreciate what he does. His heart and passion is evident. I think he has a unique ability to lead others in worship that few posses and thousands connect with (which is why I think most will not agree with this post). His contribution to the worship music scene is vast (Can you believe it’s been 10 years already?). But I have to be honest: I cannot take much more.

Why? Mainly because I think his music has become uncreative, over produced, and just plain cheesy.

Here are a couple of reasons why I have Chris Tomlin Fatigue:

  • Uncreative: at some point you have to move past G C D. Sure he has written some powerful songs like How Great is our God, Indescribable, and Our God, but 90% of his songs are the same cord structure and word structure wrapped up and presented in different ways.
  • To Much Corporate Worship: An argument that I hear from people often is that Tomlin writes in a way that churches can sing his music. I guess that is okay. But if you have been paying attention to worship music lately, he is one of the only guys that is still doing that. Go and listen to Hillsong United’s latest album, or check out any song by the David Crowder *Band, or how about John Mark McMillan’s stuff about Skeleton Bones and Carbon Ribs, I do not hear very many churches defining these as “corporate worship”. Yes I agree churches need to have songs that they can sing, but we do not need mass produce songs that are easy, quick and make sure to follow the structure of verse chorus verse chorus chorus bridge chorus.
  • Is It About The Money or the Music: Make sure you read what I am saying here, I do not think Chris Tomlin is in it for the money, not at all. But I do wonder sometimes if he writes for Judy (that is what I like to call the christian soccer mom) that listens to christian music all day? That music is safe, it doesn’t push the bounds of lyrics, or use words like whore to describe the church (hey Derek). No that is more about providing music that your kids wont ask you questions about.
  • It Is Predictable: I know that every single passion album will have a plethora of Tomlin songs, cheesy strings, and moments where I just shake my head and hit the next button. I always hope that I will be surprised by something new, but it just seems to be a repackaged version of previous albums before with different words (usually stolen from king david) and a hook.

I say all of this to simply lay the challenge out there to everyone, are you filling people with fatigue?

The best part about music is that there is a ton of it to listen to. You do not have to just accept what I like, you can choose to listen to what you want to listen to. I am sure you can sit here and pick apart every little thing that I do and call me out. I understand that and do not want to be that guy that thinks he has it all figured out. But I do care about the church, about music, and about the message of the Gospel. This is a call to everyone to continue to push creativity, to look for new ways to express the love of God and to challenge the mundane.

Are you fatigued?

*kyle

if you would like to listen to the album you can do that here
if you would like to purchase the album you can do that here

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Kyle Reed

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I create websites, conversations, and ideas. Advocate for the 20 somethings. Looking to connect everyone to a mentor. Married to my best friend, Ginny. I like my coffee black and my dog Jack. I currently live in Nashville and work at Sony Music/Provident in Nashville
  • http://www.mustardseedyear.com Jason

    You’ve got guts standing up to Tomlin. He’s like the Christian Oprah.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      ha, well we will see. I mean he doesn’t have the same followers that drischoll or piper have. So I think I will be okay

  • http://tyhuze.wordpress.com Tyler

    I’m not the biggest Tomlin fan out there, but I like to use his songs as a buffer. When I try to do a Hillsong or Crowder tune that’s a little off the beaten path and a bit less predicable or singable, I like to stick it next to a Tomlin song so people don’t look so bewildered.

    If you’ve ever been leading worship and gone with a less structured and slightly obscure set list only to be met with blank stares and confused expressions you can really appreciate what Tomlin has been able to accomplish.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      the buffer makes sense.
      But don’t you think that people have been trained to want structure and predictability?
      I mean, it is almost expected to have that structure and if it is not followed then you might as well not sing along.

  • http://www.anidolheart.com Grant Jenkins

    I disagree. I believe people like Tomlin also care about the church, music and the message of the Gospel. When you say words “usually stolen from King David”, do you mean lyrics based on the actual Bible? What’s the issue there? Everyone else you listed are great at what they do and do it uniquely well. He’s found his niche, does it well and his songs help people connect with God. It’s easy, but dangerous, to get so wrapped up in style and preference that we forget worship songs aren’t for us anyway.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      You are right there with the King David stuff. I guess what I am really referring to there is that it seems that it is just regurgitated stuff that is pulled from scripture. Like you said and I agree, there is nothing wrong with using scripture, but sometimes it seems like it is easy to just open the Bible and use its words. But I guess this is more grey in this area.

      And I agree, worship songs are not for us, my challenge is more that we continue to keep that in mind and that we do not continue to get caught up in the idea that we have to make songs singable which translates into safe.

      • ICorinth2.2

        Can you explain to me why a song being “singable” necessarily makes it “safe”.  I just would love for you to expand on that thought…Thanks.

      • Chris H. Borei

        I, personally, wish more Christian music was based directly from scripture, not less, and i disagree that it is “easy” to use the Word and do it correctly and creatively. I think Chris Tomlin does this well. Yes, a lot of his music is very similar, but not all artist choose to vary their styles a lot when creating music…..that is his creative choice. I agree with the poster that said if you are tired of Tomlin’s music then stop listening to it. If everyone that says they are “tired of” his music were to stop listening to it, and there were enough of people like that, then stations would stop playing and churches would stop singing it.

        I am unsure of the true point of your blog post. Are you trying to convince Tomlin to change his creative style? If so, I personally think you would be wrong for trying to tell someone that he is not using his God-given talent the way you think he should. If your point is that some churches are focusing on his music too much, then that is your right to have that opinion and there probably are some churches overusing it, but I know a lot of churches that mix his music with many other artists’ music. If that is your point, then I think your post has too much ficus on Tomlin and not enough focus on the churches and their choices. If neither of these is your point, please enlighten us as to what the actual point to this post is.

        Thanks you and God Bless.

  • http://www.jordantwatson.com Jordan Watson

    I completely agree here. Especially in regards to your words about how his songs do not push Christians deeper in their faith. Instead, I feel that his songs consistently warm and fluffy. Life is much more complicated than that. Following Christ is much more complex than warm and fluffy. Love his heart. Love how God uses his music to minister to so many. However, I appreciate your thoughts here because his music greatly influences the worship that takes place in churches. Has our worship become warm and fully and less dangerous? Thanks for sharing man.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      Great question, “Has our worship become warm and fully and less dangerous?”
      I think yes

      • ICorinth2.2

        My questions is this……have we forgotten what “Worship” music is supposed to be about?   Worship music is NOT supposed to be about us.  It is NOT supposed to be about the trials we are going through or the complexities of OUR lives (those these ideas can be included).  Worship supposed to be about GOD!!!!!   It is supposed to be about us lifting up our praises to Him.  It is supposed to be about us lifting our voices in adoration and awe of God.

        Now I am not saying ALL Christian music is supposed to be this, because not all Christian music is worship music.  I am just saying that worship is supposed to be about us giving praise to God…it is supposed to be all about Him.

  • http://shelbyisrad.wordpress.com Shelby

    I don’t have the CTF, i like his cheesy music. And I don’t know two things about chord progression so that doesn’t bother me any. I’m also though not the type to listen to the same things over and over (except NeedToBreathe of course) so If i get bored I just go on.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      And that is great. I know NTB is on repeat for you :) and I don’t think it is wrong that you enjoy Tomlins stuff, I just need to hear a little less of it :)

      • ICorinth2.2

        I hope I am not coming across as disagreeing with everything you say, because you do have some good points.  It does seem to me, though, that your problem is less with Chris Tomlin and more with the Christian Radio industry and the Churches that overplay his music.

  • http://creativetheology.com Sam Mahlstadt

    A couple thoughts.
    1. I agree with you, I’m suffering a bout of CTF as well.
    2. Good call on writing this blog post. If you are moving into a curator role with music, there will be times where you have to point out where you disagree. It doesn’t mean that you have to be mean, or even “right”, but it’s necessary to develop a taste.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      well said, there has to be some standards

      • http://creativetheology.com Sam Mahlstadt

        from Ben’s Wednesday Morning Rundown:
        ‘I’m not saying be divisive. But I believe in having passions that yield fierce loyalty to one cause over the competing options. If we like everything, we like nothing.”

        Bam.

        • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

          ya he stole that for me :)

  • http://www.jasonvana.com Jason Vana

    I agree with you – I am burnt out on the cookie cutter worship songs. I’m not a musician at all, and I know little to nothing about chords and music structure and all that. So if someone like me notices that every song is pretty much the same structure and sound as the next, that’s saying something.

    I just think it shows the world that our God is cheesy, unimaginative and very uncreative when Christian artists mass produce uncreative music/art/books/movies or, worse yet, when they take popular “secular” songs and remake them into “Christian” songs (even though Christian was never meant to be an adjective).

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      mass production doesn’t make things unique.

  • http://andyunnerstall.com The Armadillo

    I can’t say that I have Chris Tomlin Fatigue in particular–it’s more like mass-produced Christian music fatigue. For me, I think it’s mostly the production–every single element is so polished and “airbrushed” that all of the heart and soul is produced right out of it. The same songs that I hate on the radio I end up loving when we play them at church, so I’m fairly certain it’s not the song writing.

    But I did just buy a best of Motorhead album today, so all of my opinions might just be related to my musical tastes.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      there is nothing polished and over produced about you Andy, that is why you are great.

  • http://manofdepravity.com Tyler

    I’m all for not buying a whole album. If we’re honest most albums have 2 songs that are worth owning. And I agree Tomlin has a bit of his own formula, but in the past Hillsong has had their own “formula” for what works well for them. So I agree with you to a certain degree. However, I think Waiting Here For You and All My Fountains are truly wonderful songs. I wouldn’t buy the album to learn the songs, but they’re worth listening to.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      yes, and I wish they would make it a little easier to buy just a couple of songs or for that matter allow people to listen before they buy. It just seems like you have to buy Tomlins stuff to hear the other things.

      And Hillsong has really gotten away from that formula, at least that are challenging some things

  • shellie (baylormum)

    Funny thing just happened. As I opened up this post, “How Great is Our God” was playing on KLove. And with that being said, I believe KLove (I love their message dearly) is part of the problem. If you look back at the Shaun Groves post from last week about the CCM industry and Christian radio, it makes so much sense to me now!! KLove is guilty of overplaying, not just songs, but artists. I heard 3 Chris songs in about 2 hours yesterday. THAT gives me CTF!!
    When I go to church, I do want the familiar. I want to be able to sing along (not too loudly) with a chorus. There is such a large generational population to please. Sure some churches do a contemporary and a traditional service. My dad, at 81, loves the contemporary!! He likes “that they have a band & show the words up on a big screen”!!! It cracks me up!
    So many POV’s!! Glad we can agree to disagree on musical taste!
    Oh, and Chris didn’t write “Indescribable”. Laura Story did.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      which is another problem I have with Chris, he doesn’t write any of his stuff :)

      • ICorinth2.2

        How can you honestly say Chris Tomlin doesnt write “any of his stuff”?

  • http://www.Nikomas.com Nikomas

    I’m more of a Darrell Evans, Trading My Sorrows, kinda guy. Who’s this new Chris Tomlin that you speak of?

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      hahaha, what about celebrate Jesus?

  • http://www.chrisfromcanada.com Chris

    I don’t disagree with you. Not one bit. Here’s my response to your points –

    1. Chris isn’t the sole writer on any of those songs – actually he didn’t even write Indescribable. So if the writing is boring, blame the committee :)

    2. Sorry, but my church couldn’t care less what Crowder or John Mark McMillan are doing – actually they couldn’t care less about what Tomlin is doing. All they care about is being given an opportunity to belt their guts out for Jesus – more often than not, Tomlin’s songs let them do that.

    3. I wonder the same thing. I guess at the end of the day, someone’s going to get paid – might as well be the guys who are writing songs my church loves to sing.

    4. This is the major sticking point for me with Tomlin et al. Most songs follow a fairly predictable course – quiet intro, verse 1 melody nice and low, little pre-chorus that starts to build, anthem-y chorus that everyone can sing, little musical break, verse 2 with a switch up the octave halfway through, back to the prechorus and chorus really belting it out, hit a lights out bridge that just goes crazy before hanging on the IV chord to bring it back down to a mellow chorus and playing out the ending. Sound familiar? :)

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      I am glad you weighed in Chris. I was hoping some more worship guys would.

      I will respond to each of your points as well

      1. One of my biggest problems, he sings a lot of songs that are not his and then gets credit for them. Holy is the lord, God of this city, indescribable, and many many more.

      2. Another point with Tomlin, he makes it easy to mail it in each week and take the easy songs. Instead of producing content and material that is relevant to their community. I agree with you, people are looking to belt their guts out to Jesus.

      4. Yes way to familiar. You just described 80% of songs sung on Sundays

  • http://www.messiahmom.wordpress.com kristinherdy

    I like to hear/sing a combination of songs that allow me to follow or to feel at times – too much of anything leads to taking that thing for granted. I don’t want to do that with worship.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      well said

  • http://jordanwiseman.com Jordan Wiseman

    Funny you wrote this post today, I’m actually going to a Chris Tomlin concert tonight. (Hey, it was my mom’s idea.)

    I agree with a lot of what you said. Especially the Judy the soccer mom thing. It makes me wonder when Christian artists like Tomlin write their lyrics if they’re for God or for Christians. BIG difference there. I think we miss that a lot.

    But all in all I don’t mind the guy. He creates music that helps people connect with God, whether or not it’s extremely creative/composed.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      interesting point, write for God or for Christians, that is a tough one

  • http://www.unfetteredbloke.com Nathan

    Dude, now this post, I totally agree with you on! ;) I’ve been tired of Chris Tomlin for years now. Loved him 5+ years ago, but now I just can’t stand his voice. Admire his talent, love singing his songs in church, but I cannot buy one of his CD’s again. I think Christian radio massacred him for me… along with Casting Crowns. Sorry, I know I’m speaking blasphemy to some people.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      well glad we can agree on everything said here

  • Melaina

    Before I say anything, let me be clear and state that I admire the love and passion that Chris Tomlin has but there has to be another way people! I just stumbled upon this post after a friend and I joked last night that Chris Tomlin’s music must be played every 1/2 hour on K-love or he will call in and ask ” Why aren’t you playing my songs?!!!” We are suffering from major CTF. At this point, I would rather go back to traditional Vinyard-ish church choruses because I have to agree, a lot of his songs are very predictable and unfortunately filled with generic analogies and feel good idioms. I do not hate him and would certainly like to listen to/sing his songs occasionally but please, let’s mix it up a bit. On a side note, I had to crack up at the ‘Celebrate Jesus’ comment. Shout to the Lord, anyone…?

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      haha, ya I think if A Tomlin song is not played in 1 out of every 3 churches across America every Sunday and Kitten is killed or something like that.

      I do not think it is his fault either, more of an over saturation of the market and the desire to get more listeners. People are lazy, and want easy music that is delivered to them.

      • Chris H. Borei

        I am sorry, but just because some people DO enjoy his music a lot, does NOT make them lazy. Just because these people have a different view on worship music than you, does not make them wrong and you right.

  • TiredOfTomlin

    Thanks for saying what needed to be said, bud. I am irked when I hear Tomlin getting 3-4 spins an hour on my local Christian station… As a musician, I concur with your statements about his music being safe, overproduced, and cookie-cutter. (BTW, I enjoy Webb, so thanks for the shout out! He’s got some juevos.) Keep saying what needs to be said, sir!

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      Webb=awesomeness.
      I’m a big fan

    • Chris H. Borei

      Sounds like that an issue to take up with your local radio station, NOT Chris Tomlin.

  • http://lifeandmotion.tumblr.com Seth Rowoldt

    Hey man, great site! Started visiting a few months ago and now added it to my google reader!
    I LOVE this Chris Tomlin post! You are so spot on! He could write a song about the color green or the shirt he’s wearing and people would buy it and then sing about it! Yes some of his stuff is great…but most of it has to be redone so other’s can sing it!

    Love everything to you say about it…
    Unfortunately I’ve seen others sides of him and lets just say I hope I caught him on a bad day. But I worked at the church he started at in Texas, so who knows!

    Anyhow, great post and I completely agree with you! We need better more real music! I’m a classically trained musician who also leads worship as a career and am constantly trying to find real music to sing! Like you said the new United album is great…and they are able to continually come up with new and interesting songs/lyrics! But we need more!

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      Thanks man.

      I think John Mark McMillan and Daniel Bashta and even the band Ascend the Hill are starting to give us a fresh take on some worship music…which is great.

    • Chris H. Borei

      Just because you do not care for his musical style, does not make it any less “real music” than the music that you write and/or sing.

  • http://www.robstill.com Rob Still

    Hey Kyle – courageous post! I think CTF is not so much CT’s fault. He writes in a way that the masses respond to, and that “success” begets more writing for mass appeal. I doubt he needs the money, although the infrastructure around him probably needs to keep the machine running.

    As a worship leader, there is a big upside on his songs because, for me, there’s about 6 or so that are so powerful and effective that using them makes it easy for the average person to worship. This is especially true when we’re leading in a context that is not so familiar, like a conference or event outside of a regular church service.

    A bigger problem is all the derivatives – either songs, leaders or churches – chasing the CT sound and formula. This is not just about CT, it’s about being imitators instead of originators.

    I think David wrote plenty of songs where he was raw, real, imaginative and God centered. But – it’s hard to do, that’s the art of it all.

    I would guess any worship brand – like CT, Passion, Hillsongs, whoever – has an expectation from their market to deliver something “expected”. And thus, you get CTF. Cool post dude.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      great point, and that is probably the problem…writing for expectations not because of inspiration.

      • ICorinth2.2

        The thing is that you cannot claim to know Chris Tomlin’s heart.  You do not know that he is not writing out of inspiration.  This may be the style he is continually inspired by God to write.   How can suggest that he is writing “for expectations”, unless you have personally spoken with him and he has said that he no longer seeks God’s inspiration for his music and ministry?

  • http://www.calebgordon.com Caleb Gordon

    I personally don’t like Chris Tomlin. I like a couple of his songs, but I don’t him. I met him back when he was “not as big” just doing local camps in OKLA and TX and went up to him and said “Hi man, i really appreiacate you leading us in worship, I just bought your CD…I’m really enjoying it. (i DID NOT ASK FOR AN AUTOGRAPH) He looks at me and says (i’m 17) and says look kid, I really don’t have time for you…please leave me alone.

    I burned his cd at camp! in fact the whole cabin (this camp has 8,000 kids a week my cabin had about 100 students in it. ) burned his cd’s…it felt like we were at a Bill Gothard conference.

    I don’t like Tomlin, I tried a few years ago to buy one of his cds, and I just got made and threw it away!

    I have a friend who did the lights/sound on one of his tours…and he confirmed that he is a massive JERK!

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      sorry to hear that Caleb. Never good to not have a positive experience.

    • ICorinth2.2

      I have meet Chris Tomlin personally, have worked many of his concerts and have even been in a couple of Bible studies with Him.  He IS human like all of us are, and may have bad days sometimes (not that that is an excuse), but he is a Godly man who seems, to me to be trying to do all he can to spread the gospel and Love of God to as many people as he can.  I, personally, have never seen him have a harsh word towards anyone and after working a total of 6 concerts with him, have never heard him be rude to a fan,  and using words like “JERK” are not sharing God’s love.  

      Even if we were to accept that your story were true, it calls for Godly rebuke in love, NOT name-calling and back-biting….that is not of God.  If we are to be critical of a fellow brother in Christ, then we have to be sure we are doing it in Godly love, calling someone a JERK and/or burning their CD’s is not dealing with the problem in a Godly manner.

    • Chris H. Borei

      I am not sure what happened at that concert. Maybe Chris had a bad day (we all do, sometimes) and reacted in a human, but less than Godly manner, but your friend calling him a jerk and you burning his CDs is just as unGodly of a reaction as what you describe from him.

      Personally, I have met Chris Tomlin, worked several of his concerts and have had the opportunity to be in a bible study with him. He is a Godly man who loves the Lord and desires nothing more than to share that love with the entire world. Yes, he is human, and he admits that he makes mistakes. You should chose to forgive and love him anyway, instead of continuing to carry a grudge that is hurting you more than it is him.