A Review of Derek Webb’s “Name”

This article continues our series on Derek Webb’s latest CD. We are reviewing every song from the The Ringing Bell. This post is written by Southern Seminary student Matthew Wireman from Off The Wire. Previous posts from this series can be found under the category Derek Webb.

I am entirely disappointed with this song; I will give a brief analysis of it rather than my typical verse-by-verse treatment. To be very honest, Webb could have left this song out. It does nothing for his cause – we already know that he does not like labels and does not want to label others.

It is true that too many people like to relegate someone or something to the periphery. Rather than be molded in conversation, being sharpened by others who disagree with us or have a different way of saying things, we call them a liberal or a fundamentalist – and by so ding silencing them. It would be nice if we would do less labeling and more listening, but it must be a defense mechanism so that we can stay crusty and unchanged.

This may even be a song to his wife Sandra McCracken (note the ‘darlin” in line one). This could be to anyone who is in the public square and is criticized for saying what he or she thinks that is not fluff. Webb was all right in most people’s eyes until he started pushing the status quo in religion and politics. Once he sought to move people from their comfortable sofas, people began to criticize him. When he was with Caedmon’s you just heard people praising his unique voice and turns of phrase. Unfortunately, since people do not like to be challenged, Webb has been critiqued and judged for not being mainstream enough.

I will say this, this song seems like a cry out of rebelhood. That is, Webb is acknowledging that he is a solitary in much of what he is singing about – at least in the Christian music scene. I hope that Webb is not glorying in this fact. Almost like the high schooler that said he liked such-and-such a group before they were popular. It is like saying, “I am prophetic listen to me. I take orders from no one…Try as you may to label me, you can’t.”

The Bridge of this song bothers me the most. It comes across as braggadocios. “You can’t figure me out, so don’t even try. I have a corner on the market of pithy-ness. Don’t even try to write me off like you know what I am about.”

Being label-less is not a virtue, regardless of what our individualistic culture may think. We all have labels. Perhaps the flint of Webb’s song has to do with labeling in order to ostracize. May we not give in to such tendencies.

If you don’t agree – take it to the comment section.

Lyrics:

oh my darlin’, you’ve must be a moving target just like me
they’ll call you right, they’ll call you left
they’ll call you names of all your friends
you never know
what you’ll have to do
baby don’t let ‘em
don’t let ‘em put a name on you

there’s no categories just long stories waiting to be heard
(if there’s love in your heart)
don’t be satisfied when someone sums you up with just one word
(if there?s love in your heart)

blindfold your heart
and feel for a clue
baby don’t let ‘em
don’t let ‘em put a name on you

[Bridge]
you say you wanna know the people I know
you say you wanna come in and crack my code, uh huh
catch me if you think you can
but count on me for nothing man, uh huh
it?s gonna take more than hearing you say the only words you think I know
the truth may be with you today but may be gone tomorrow

baby don’t let ‘em
don’t let ‘em put a name on you

Posted By Matthew Wireman

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3 Responses to A Review of Derek Webb’s “Name”

  1. elijah says:

    This song could have been on “She Must and Shall Go Free,” and Derek changes voice in the bridge. (He does this in many songs.) The voice in the verses and chorus is Christ’s. The voice in the bridge is the Church, Christ’s bride. Give the song another listen. It is really quite profound, maybe the best on the album. Don’t be fooled by all the rock and roll.

  2. Jack Brooks says:

    Hi, greetings from Georgetown, KY, just down I-64 from you. I came across your blog while googling Derek Webb.

    I hope you keep in mind that some of us (e.g., me) criticize Derek Webb because we flat-out disagree with him and feel he’s wrong in the actual substance of his opinions. Derek’s critics aren’t all motivated by culture-blindness, cowardliness, or lust for violence. I consider his political ideas naive at best, and clearly not rooted in Scripture. But it’s easy to look enlightened, if you set yourself up as a musical foe against some sort of Fundamentalist straw-man. And Derek fussing that people identify and classify his ideas — ideas that he took the initiative to put out there — is immature. If he doesn’t want to be criticized, then he shouldn’t climb into the arena.

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