And it's going to be about...... An extra chord?
Pretty much all popular music these days has it's roots firmly placed in the 3 chords of the blues. We've had jokes about the 3 chord bash and Status Quo, we've had to suffer U2 who tried to create a viable musical form that deliberately avoided the 3 chord pattern (and all the thousands of U2 sound-alikes that still suck the life out of worship music). It's been mutated through rhythmic patterns into reggae, funk, soul, rock, metal, pop and all kinds of stuff over the years.
Lately however - we're talking in relative terms of probably the last 20 years - there has been a development in this musical form. The fourth chord!
Sure it's been present as long as creative people have been writing music, but it seems to have become as ubiquitous now as the 3 chord pattern was to blues. Those who know more about music and psychology could probably talk about how it can be used to modulate emotions or somesuch stuff.
But it's not just pop music either: this appears through worship music too, since worship musicians usually end up copying what they hear on the radio, see on TV and enjoy listening to. When it comes to playing along to a typical current worship song, as long as I know the starting key, it feels like I can play almost any song now because it will use a variation of this progression, and it's usually easy to hear where the song is going.
This isn't a bad thing, but sometimes it feels like the same old stuff is being churned out again and again. I received Paul Baloche's new CD for Christmas (thanks Pete & Alison) called somewhat unfortunately The Same Song. The first time I played it through, listening to the title (first) track I found myself singing How Great Is The Love over the top of the chorus, and the 2 merged fairly painlessly. Paul isn't alone in having the 'problem' and listening to other artists, you can hear arrangements being pushed quite hard to try to distinguish between previous otherwise similar songs.
Worth bearing in mind that for congregational worship and singing we need songs that go to predictable places and have a natural flow, and trying to create songs that are 'clever' can destroy that, no matter how good the lyrics. This may partly explain the enduring nature of some hymns, because the tune is varied enough to be interesting, but remains predictable and easy to follow. But for those who lead worship, or indeed for those who write songs, we need to be careful about how we use this extra chord.