July 25, 2013 by Erin
Positive, Encouraging, Kitsch
I have a love-hate relationship with “Christian” music. I put that word in annoying non-quoting quotes because I don’t actually think music can be Christian. In fact, I don’t like the term applied to anything but people. If we believe God created the world, and all truth comes from and points to Him, then it’s all His—Not just certain art or bookstores. But, I digress.
Alas, there is a genre of music labeled as Christian, with which, as I mentioned, I have a complicated relationship. Though I am in many ways a product of the 90s Evangelical subculture, I grew up in a home where we were virtually forbidden to like bad music (Thanks, Mom and Dad). So while I knew a lot of the most popular CCM tunes (“Big Big House” anyone?) from children’s church and carpooling to school, Point of Grace was not a thing in my life. Come middle school, I was way to cool for Plus One.
I would love to call myself too cool for it now. I mean, seriously: an entire musical genre, bearing the name of the glorious Church, known primarily for slipshod songwriting and predictable sentimentality. It’s frustrating, disappointing, or worse. I actually can’t listen to more than three seconds of Casting Crowns without getting angry. (I also have this reaction to Phillips, Craig, and Dean. FOR THE LOVE, PLEASE WRITE YOUR OWN SONG JUST ONCE.)
There are a few notable exceptions to this stunning mediocrity, Christian artists who are just out there writing good music, not necessarily as part of the CCM Industry. John Mark McMillan, Andrew Peterson (and his whole Rabbit Room crew), Gungor, and Jon Foreman come to mind, though there are others.
However, and I’m just slightly ashamed to admit it, I harbor a secret love for four artists who fall squarely within the parameters of “Christian Music” and all it entails. The cheese, the predictability, the K-Love air time — there’s no getting around it, disguising it, or excusing it. But I can’t help it; I just like them. (Anyone who remembers my guest post about Taylor Swift on Cory’s blog last year is questioning my taste at this point. Will it make you feel better if I tell you I had The Avett Brothers on all day today?)
So here they are, in no particular order. The CCM bands/artists I can’t help but like:
As much as I’m not into cheesy CCM, I’m also not into much hip hop. So why I love cheesy Christian hip hop sung by a 45-year-old white guy is a grand mystery. I saw TobyMac live when I was 16, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Favorite song: “Irene,” of course.
For some reason it was really cool in my youth group to hate on Chris Rice. So I did until I actually listened to his songs. Then I loved him. If I could describe his music in one word, it would be “whimsy.” I really enjoy how he sees the world.
Steven Curtis Chapman
This is not the first time I’ve confessed my love for SCC in print. After my most popular Asbury Collegian column ever, I learned I was not alone in my appreciation for Christian music’s poster boy. I could gush for pages about why I love him so, but I will spare you.
Favorite song: This is tough. I’m not kidding when I say I love Steven Curtis Chapman. But I think I have to go with the song that started it all for me: “God is God.”
I don’t have any good rationale for this one. All I can say is if I’m ever scanning through radio stations and hear something on K-Love that makes me think, “Oh shoot, I actually like this,” it’s usually theirs. (Disclaimer: I would be fine if I never heard “I Can Only Imagine” again.)
Favorite song: “Spoken For”
You should also know that I become an Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith fan around November. Best. Christmas albums. Ever.