A common tactic in SG music songwriting and production is to insert a portion of one song into another similarly-themed song. For example, in “Calvary Came Through,” written by Terry and Barbi Franklin and recorded first by Gold City in 1994, a chorus of “I Will Glory In The Cross” is inserted towards the end of the song as a final coda/tag. Ernie Haase & Signature Sound did something similar with “It Is Done,” where the chorus of “It Is Finished” is worked into the ending of the song. When done correctly, it’s not only effective for an emotional response, but also feeds on nostalgia of the audience.
In P&W music, there is a similar trend, but instead of inserting an old chorus into a new song, they’re inserting a new chorus into an old song. The most notorious culprit of this is Chris Tomlin, who has made a good chunk of his career out of taking older hymns and adding modern choruses (such as “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” or “Crown Him With Many Crowns (Majesty)”). Other artists who have done this are Todd Agnew (who did his own take on “Amazing Grace” with the song “Grace Like Rain”) and Casting Crowns, who re-wrote “Glorious Day” with a new bridge and a modified chorus, on top of a whole new melody (I once was taken to task by an older congregation member who said that I’d ruined her favorite hymn when introducing Casting Crowns’ version).
More recently, CCM artist are taking a cue from SG music and inserting well-known songs into modern compositions, but instead of just dropping in a chorus, they’re using the original titles to write new songs, then dropping in a chorus of the original, as if to say, “Yes, we know this has been done before.” The most blatant example of this is Matt Maher’s “Because He Lives (Amen),” which drops the classic Bill & Gloria Gaither composition into a new song with the same title. One could argue that Maher did something similar with “What A Friend We Have In Jesus,” only this time, it is an entirely different song with no reference to the original hymn.
Triumphant actually turned this concept on its side a bit when they adapted a modern praise and worship song, “I Will Rise,” into a SG arrangement, and replaced the existing bridge with a chorus from the Gaithers’ “Going Home.” The fact that the original song was co-written and performed by Chris Tomlin only makes it even more amusing (one has to wonder how Tomlin feels about having a song he wrote re-done with different pieces).
What are your thoughts? Does adding pieces from other songs show signs of creativity, or is it just a lazy crutch when a song can’t stand on its own (or perhaps a little of both)? What about artists who adapt (or entirely re-write) existing songs and passing them off as “new”?