Who is your favorite Christian artist? That is what I asked the staff at GUG this week and a few asked a good question. What is a Christian artist? In short, if they have publicly declared themselves to be followers of Christ and their music does not show otherwise then they are a Christian artist. This ranges from Owl City to Switchfoot to Trip Lee. Any genre is in play here. Read who everyone chose then tell us your favorite artist in the comments.
Cooper Daniel Barham
Theoretically, providing an answer to this question should be easy. But of course it’s not, because I like making things difficult. For years and years, the answer to this question would be Skillet. And perhaps the answer still is Skillet. But it might also be Switchfoot. The latter has always been towards the top, but my perception of them as an artist has undergone recent developments. Allow me to explain as quickly and succinctly as possible. Skillet is a hard rock band who, in my opinion, peaked with their Comatose album in 2006, but has continued to produce worthwhile music with varying evolutions to their style. After experimenting with some electronic, remix material, all the while fluctuating up and down the hard rock spectrum, they’ve settled most recently on a grittier sound than their past works. Skillet has been my favorite because they create songs with punch, whether that’s sad and introspective, or frantically in-your-face. The lyrics have fluctuated in quality through the years, but thankfully they have leant more towards the esteemed than the mediocre. Skillet puts on increasingly more impressive live performances (I’ve seen them fourteen times…for whatever that is worth), which provide an adrenalized atmosphere for fans like myself to really dive into. The moshing, the dancing, the singing, the comradery, it’s all fantastic. Not to mention the memories and lessons I’ve taken from listening incessantly to their albums through the last decade of my life. What’s more, they demonstrate the Gospel in their lyrics in a number of ways, to touch a number of people, and always return the glory to God. John Cooper, the frontman of the band, has a great testimony and always makes a point to drive credit to where credit is due, whether it’s in day-to-day life, on the stage, or in an interview. The rest of the band stands with him on this, and together they work to continue making addicting, Godly music. So yeah, I like Skillet a lot. Here’s a link to their song “The Older I Get” (video below), which John wrote for his father, who he was afraid wouldn’t be a part of his grandchildren’s life.While there are many other songs I could recommend, I’ll start by just saying…you should take a gander at both the Collide and Comatose albums. Personal favorites.
Then we have Switchfoot. Switchfoot has a slightly crooked appreciation curve for me. Not because they’re bad in any way, but because I somehow couldn’t fully grasp what they were as an artist. While I’ve known and enjoyed Switchfoot for ten enduring years, I’m only recently getting into the heads and hearts of the band members, and seeing the wholesome persons within. Switchfoot is exceedingly devout and gentle in their faith, demonstrating characteristics of Christ both in and out of their professional living. The lyrics are clever and oftentimes strike a chord with that deeper part of the heart. The music flows with grace and groove, demonstrating the practiced and delicious musical form they’ve crafted over a long career, and it works together with the words to generate song after song for sticking in your head. But even after all of this, Skillet is probably still my favorite band. The kicker, the tipper of the precipice, is what Switchfoot represents to me. During one particular concert (I’ve seen them a few times as well), I felt a strange familial connection with them and the crowd I was with. A strange and surreal unity with people I would never know, bound together through upbeat and hopeful music. And that was the difference. Switchfoot represents a concept, and they make music to mirror that idea. Switchfoot sounds like hope. So, short and succinct might have been a lie, but there’s my answer. That’s why I struggle so much with choosing between the two…because I love them both so much, and that love with swing back and forth on practically a monthly basis. If you haven’t heard of either, check them out. That’s my two cents.
I would have to say Lecrae, but also anyone from Reach Records/116 Clique. Lecrae and all those under his record label inspire me to live a life that is unashamed of the gospel of Christ. Not just in what I say but in what I do, because many times Christians are “undercover” which is important sometimes, but then there are times where we need to stand up and declare who our God is in our life. Christ told us in Mark 8:38 that whoever is unashamed of Him before men, He will be ashamed of them before our Father in Heaven. That’s heavy!
I love hip hop, even before I was a Christian, and I used to listen to Tupac and a few others. I mainly enjoy listening to the story through the lyrics, and the beat doesn’t hurt either. Lecrae’s music has an amazing sound, and his lyrics come at you hard while breaking down why we need to live a holy and pure life before God. He doesn’t hold anything back, and he’s very real in everything he says. Hip hop has long been about violence, sex, degrading women and racking up cash. Lecrae brings a fresh, positive message, leading those in the hip hop genre to see that God has more for us than that, and that His purposes for our lives is life, and not death.
Light the sky up change your bio
Live for something more than things you buy up
Serve and save learn and change
Trust in the king who can turn this thang
Yeah they ain’t every seen a shine like this
Look up they never see the sky like this
I’m on and this little light I got
Imma let it shine til the day I drop
Heart quit pumping only way I stop
Til then I’m a light post on your block
If you’re a believer reading this, I encourage you to live out your faith with no fear. God has given us a spirit of power, love and a sound mind, not one of fear. Who cares what people will think of you when you speak His name, spread His gospel or live for His kingdom, the end, we are called to live unashamed as Christ did on the Earth and not be afraid of what the world thinks of us!
My favorite Christian band would have to be Theocracy. With a blend of power and progressive metal influences (along with probably some other sub-genres that my lack of music savviness doesn’t pick up) and the soaring vocals of lead singer Matt Smith, the band simply brings everything to the table that I like in my music. While I certainly enjoy some of the “harsher” metal with the screams and growls, I think I have always preferred “clean” vocals. Another ball in Thoecracy’s court is that their lyrics seem to be quite theologically sound. Now, a disclaimer here: I don’t get into my music to the point that I analyze and scrutinize the lyrics for anything I might disagree with before listening to it. While some Christians may listen to Christian music with the intent and purpose of getting something out of it, I tend to listen to music as entertainment, and if a song has a message that happens to hook me or move me, then all the better. Christian metal affords me the benefit of listening to what is arguably my favorite genre of music without having to ponder if every song is anti-Christian or not.
Anyway, back to Theocracy, a common complaint leveled at Christian rock and metal is that it lacks originality. I’ve heard it said that many Christian bands are just Christian versions of secular bands, and of course we can’t ignore the (over) abundance of metalcore acts within the Christian scene. This makes Theocracy quite the breath of fresh air in the Christian metal scene, as they certainly don’t sound like the norm within the genre. Are they the most unique, original band out there? Probably not, but they’re at least original enough to where I don’t find myself saying, “Oh, this song sounds like band x and that one sounds like band y.” I like them enough that, if you ask me to pick a favorite song, I think I’d be hard pressed. Also, that opinion tends to change for me, no matter the band, so instead I will give you my favorites from each album:
Theocracy: Mountain, The Healing Hand, Sinner
Mirror of Souls: On Eagles’ Wings, Laying the Demon to Rest, Bethlehem, Absolution Day, The Writing in the Sand, Mirror of Souls, Wages of Sin (bonus track)
As the World Bleeds: I AM, The Master Storyteller, Nailed, Hide in the Fairytale, Drown
For the curious, below is a video of I AM. I would have really liked to include The Healing Hand, but there is no official upload of it, and for a while I have tried to avoid listening to music on YouTube that was not uploaded by an official source (band, label, etc.):
When people try to answer the question “what is your favorite Christian band?” you tend to get answers of music from bands and artists the likes of Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, or Hillsong United. I love to challenge people’s perceptions of “christian” music by throwing out names like Thrice, For Today, War of Ages, and Underoath. I’ve had people try and debate with me that it cannot be “Christian” if they are screaming. I simple bring up the lyrics and show them that bands like Demon Hunter employ powerful “Christian” themed lyrics such as:
I could live my life for the void inside
To the vacant rise surrender mine
But I know
How the rest will go
And the line
That I live behind
Everything I am
Is what I’m not
Personally I’ve gone through many different phases when it comes to my “Christian” music preferences. The current phase I am in is best exemplified by the band Beartooth. In a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) held by the band in December 2013 the members of Beartooth had this to say regarding their faith and their music:
“We are Christians who just so happen to play music. When Caleb writes this music he uses his life as inspiration so obviously that’s going to come through but “Christian” isn’t a genre. Madonna isn’t considered Buddhist Pop haha.”
Go be the voice of god
Go live the life putting death to shame
I wasn’t force fed what I think
And I don’t care if you think I’m brainwashed for what I believe,
but it sure wasn’t from people reminding me that I’m still a
failure every Sunday morning
I completely agree with them in that “Christian” music isn’t a genre but rather a frame of mind, a thematic principle infused into the lyrics. What energy or emotion conveyed in the actual music doesn’t matter. Using Hardcore music to convey a deeper spiritual meaning is simply a tool to better reach the lost youth of that scene.
If you’d like to hear more there is a subreddit designated for the spread of hardcore music with “Christian” themes, Christian Hardcore if you will. http://www.reddit.com/r/christcore
I will leave you not with the most “Christian” of Beartooth songs, but rather with my favorite, Enjoy!
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