The Pinnacle of Unoriginality

We’ve always known that Christian music (like Christian movies, books, bracelets, t-shirts, etc) tends to be highly derivative of whatever is hip or trailblazing in secular culture. On average there is a 3-5 year gap before Christian pop coopts secular pop (though I think Plus One came sooner than that on the heels of the Y2K-era boy band craze). This delayed reaction creates enough distance that the mimicry remains mostly unnoticeable for the average short-attention-span consumer. But when something like THIS comes along–something so shockingly, unabashedly copycat–absolutely no one is fooled.

Behold: Third Day’s latest album cover, a shamefully direct clone of Radiohead’s classic album cover for Hail to the Thief.

What is there to say? Did Third Day really never see the Radiohead album cover before? Or did they just not have a problem ripping it off so directly?

Either way, it’s a sad commentary on the state of Christian music, which already has the stigma of being completely unoriginal.


17 responses to “The Pinnacle of Unoriginality

  1. Pingback: Hail to the Thieves «

    i seriously have a unpublished post on my blog about this exact thing. entitled “THIRD DAY VS RADIOHEAD”
    when this came out i went mental.

  3. When I saw this in Borders I thought, “Seriously?” and then I sighed. Very loudly.

  4. Uh, can’t you see that they’re TOTALLY different? Third Day’s album cover has a cross and says “born again!” That’s TOTALLY original and creative and Christlike!*

    *Please note the tongue embedded in the cheek.

  5. There’s no doubt its a similar cover – but i’m not sure it was as intentional as you’re suggesting. I think they were going for a ‘salvation mountain’ type thing:

  6. Is it possible that Third Day’s cover is a response of sorts to the Radiohead cover? As in, they know its a copycat job, but that’s the point, or rather, their counterpoint to whatever Radiohead was trying to express with their’s? Does that even make sense?

  7. I’m going to have to back Dennis up on this one. I saw Third Day in concert about a month ago (free tickets, okay?), and the lead-in to the above reviled image was in fact extensive footage of Salvation Mountain. Call me a Third Day apologist, but doesn’t it seem a little far-fetched for them to intentionally knock off a well-known CD cover, and then procure a bunch of Salvation Mountain video to cover their tracks?

  8. If the idea was to copy Salvation Mountain, why not do it in a way that isn’t so “Hail to the Thief”-ish? I still think their album cover looks far closer to HTTT than to any image of Salvation Mountain that I’ve seen. Why not go with a photograph of Salvation Mountain or something more direct?
    And I don’t necessarily think they intentionally made a Radiohead knock-off, but conscious or not, it is still a little unseemly, no?

  9. Maybe it was their point to be Hail to Thief-ish in their rendition of Salvation Mountain.

    I imagine a planning meeting somewhere along these lines…

    Hey, that mountain thingy in California is pretty cool. Maybe that should be our album cover!

    You know, it is cool. All those words and shapes also kinda remind me of the cover to Hail to the Thief.

    That’s it! We’ll take the Hail to the Thief cover and turn it into Salvation Mountain.

    Totally. Taking cool secular things and making them kinda Christiany is what we Christian artists do best!

    Or something like that. :lol:

  10. I saw this comparison on another blog. And maybe Third Day aren’t Radiohead fans. I listen to Christian and secular music and because I don’t listen to Radiohead I would have never known. As the Bible says, there is nothing new under the sun.

  11. They are, undoubtedly, similar in composition. But the whole, forming-objects-out-of-meaningful-words thing isn’t a new idea. a display here at my college depicts a variety of images – an eye, a tree, a face, a building – using blocks with words that add to the theme or create deeper meaning.

    i just think its a little silly to assume that third day was copying radiohead when radiohead’s idea wasn’t altogether inspired in the first place.

  12. If Third Day doesn’t listen to Radiohead, then they have more problems than just cover plagiarism.

  13. Leah:
    There is a verse in scripture that admonishes us to “avoid all appearance of evil” (too lazy to look up chapter & verse now).

    If I may paraphrase–avoid all appearance of unoriginality. Someone should have caught this. It’s not like radiohead is an unknown band. If the band themselves didn’t, it’s shocking that their label and management missed it.

  14. I live in Nashville and have frequent interaction with the CCM industry. Whatever criticisms you raise, know that the industry carefully creates its product based on what its target market wants to buy. So, while it may not apply to you personally, in general, evangelical Christians want music that imitates the style of the ‘secular’ scene, just sanitized and “safe for the whole family!”

    From a purely marketplace perspective, CCM sells us what we want. You can only criticize to a point before you need to ask: why do we want copy-cat music?

  15. This topic has really made the rounds in the blogosphere! This is the third or fourth post I’ve seen. Kudos to Third Day for getting some unsolicited marketing out into the world. Maybe we can give the so called ‘christian’ music industry a little credit for slicing the rounds in the blog world. You never know maybe Thom York and Mac Powell swap artistic ideas over tea. At this point it would be good to weigh in with someone at Essential Records (a Sony sub label) to find out if there was any intentional artistic play here.

    I agree with LW on the point ” why do we want copy-cat music?” The Market will give us what we want and the Evangelical community, as we are all aware, is a rather persistent bugger and will push us all they can to a ‘christian’ cloned ‘secular’ lifestyle.

  16. Christians copying Christians, too. There’s a Christian author with a new book coming out that’s called “Blue Like Playdough.” Huh.

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