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Dr. Mike Tapper and Lisa Corbin Collaborate in a Study on Popular Song Trends

Dr. Mike Tapper and Lisa Corbin Collaborate in a Study on Popular Song Trends

    04.22.22 | Academics Religion by Stephanie Fox

    CENTRAL, S.C. – For more than two years Dr. Mike Tapper, chair of the Division of Religion at Southern Wesleyan University, and Lisa Corbin, research director at SWU, have collaborated in a study to verify the life curves of the most popular songs in North American churches over the last 30 years. D. W. Daniel High School math teacher, Charldon Dennis, as well as west-coast songwriter, Andrea Hunter and Canadian pastor, Marc Jolicoeur, collaborated on the endeavor.

    Charldon Dennis, Lisa Corbin, Dr. Mike Tapper

    “The life-cycle of worship songs” is featured as the recent cover story in Faith Today, and an article is set to be released via Worship Leader Magazine as well this week. The research team will be podcast guests this week on three Christian podcasts including Worship Artistry, The Antidote, and The Worship Review. Their findings were also published by Christianity Today in December 2021.

    Tapper comments on the group effort saying, “Lisa, Charldon, Marc, and Andrea made this project so satisfying for me. We were such an assorted collection of people and it worked!” When asked what sparked her interest in the project, Corbin says, “When invited to participate in this project, I was intrigued by the eclectic skillset at the table. While I don’t have a background related to music, it was refreshing to see such diverse minds collaborate and seek truth in such a passionate topic.”

    Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) has collected song data from licensed churches since its inception in 1988. Today, the number of regularly audited churches has grown to approximately 10,000 churches per year. In this study, 64 bi-annual Top 100 CCLI lists dating back to CCLI’s beginning were retrieved. The Top 100 songs were then organized in five year increments to optimize the identification of important trends. Timespans were determined and anomalies discarded, isolating 199 songs possessing clear start dates, rises, peaks, and falls. The research verified songs are publishing faster and rising and falling much quicker in our churches than just a few decades ago.

    The study concludes by stating, “Today, we have instantaneous access to songs about almost anything, in virtually any style imaginable, written and modeled by diverse voices. We also have resources to help us sift through the rising tide to identify the particular songs that seem to be resonating across the country and across the world. Perhaps a way forward is to explore ways to ensure these resources remain tools we use, not tools that use us. The Church will always want to join the psalmist in singing those ‘new songs,’ even while ensuring its worship is as firm, grounded, and familiar as the psalter itself.”

    Southern Wesleyan University is a Christ-centered, student-focused, faith-filled community that offers inventive learning experiences. The university endeavors to prepare its students to be dedicated scholars and servant-leaders who impact the world for Christ. For details about degree programs, go online to swu.edu.

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