“John the Rap-tist”: Just don’t.

The Voices as One compilation from WLP is not top-notch. One of my parishes draws heavily from it, and I’m afraid it hasn’t been a pleasure to play out of it. Too much syncopation, too many unsingable melodies, too much of a mess. (Think the first edition of Spirit and Song, then keep going.) It’s not a surprise that the third-biggest liturgical music publisher is kind of in a tough spot when it comes to coming up with contemporary music without having to pay for the better stuff OCP (and even GIA) can have.

But this is simply inexcusable.

I try to be as charitable as possible when I come across bad church music, and David Yackley’s “Prepare Ye the Way (John the Rap-tist)” certainly qualifies, if the subtitle to the song didn’t make it obvious off the bat. I try not to be overly negative, because it’s only by the grace of God that I don’t have some terrible day that someone calls me out on. Still, the sheer number of failures here makes it really tough and is such that it simply needs to be listed out and called out, because we can, we must do better. So here we go.

1. It’s rap. Obviously, what’s acceptable and appropriate for Mass is largely a matter of taste. But somewhere around 100% of us should agree that rap really isn’t. This is a rap song.

2. The lyrics. Seriously. With lyrics like “The buzz is the Cuz is the one to anoint,” it smacks of a terrible trying-to-hard-to-relate-to-kidsism. But wait. That was one line of verse 1. Here’s a chunk of verse 2:

But I’m a pinch hitter for the one who breathes fire

When I’m speakin’, don’t be freakin’

Be seekin’ the things you can be tweakin’

Plus, there are a couple statements that “Jesus is the man.” Also, the statement that John the Baptist is a “pinch hitter” is, well, completely wrong. He, uh, wasn’t. So there’s that.

3. 50 seconds of improvisational keyboarding at the end. Oh, come on. It’s a three-and-a-half-minute song, and the keyboarding doesn’t go anywhere. Just torturous.

So the question is: why does this happen? Look, bad songs are written all the time. The composer invariably thinks they’ve written a good song. But a good editor can figure out whether the song needs to be rejected in its entirety or can be saved with a few tweaks. So it’s incumbent on whoever edits Voices as One to figure out that this is not a good song.

So no, the responsibility here doesn’t really fall on David Yackley. If an editor figures out this song isn’t any good, he saves everyone time and trouble and gives Yackley valuable feedback toward writing a better song. But if an editor fails, we have a mess like this that serves no one well.

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