10 Christian Rock Songs We Were Listening to While the '90s Happened

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Nirvana means absolutely nothing to me. I'm sorry to have to be so blunt, but that's the only way to put it; as much as I enjoy the songs, and as much as I can intellectually recognize the influence it had on the next decade of popular music, Kurt Cobain did not ever take up residence in my conscience, or my rock-star fantasy life, or my angsty teen self-identity, because I did not live in America. I lived in CCM America.

That's Contemporary Christian Music -- the genre in which Michael W. Smith, who is coming to town early next month, is unspeakably famous. And while the world was doing its best to convince itself that grunge was inherently more thoughtful and less disposable than hair metal, those of us who lived in the Christian Bookstore Alternate Universe had our own totally separate cultural touchstones. Here are 10 of them.


Michael W. Smith - "Place in This World" (1990)


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It's 1990, Charlie Brown
Amy Grant -- who was more or less the Elvis of CCM through the '80s -- had an enormous crossover hit with the unflinchingly secular (and suspiciously chaste, in hindsight) "Baby Baby." This worried CCM fans, who had long since taken to a kremlinology that involved counting mentions of the word Jesus to figure out which artists and bands were strong in the faith and which ones weren't.

"Place in This World" was also an enormous crossover hit -- No. 6 on Billboard's Hot 100--and was actually cowritten by Amy Grant. But because it's about "looking for a reason" and "needing your[-or-maybe-Your] light," and probably also because he never had another secular hit like it, Michael W. Smith soldiered on as a full-fledged member of the CCM alternate universe.

Those two songs basically form the central question of CCM in the '90s, one that artists would eventually ask over and over again in song: Do you go mainstream? Do you try to replace God with easily discernible pronouns? Or do you leave in the altar calls and work entirely within the Christian bookstore market?

Eventually this would get really, really tiresome.


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15 comments
Marco Cruz
Marco Cruz

This aint america, keep that christian shit out of aztlan!

justus.sams
justus.sams

My parents had that album on vinyl. It was terribly awesome like a horrible car accident. I at one point actually thought he was cool.. smh... #BRAINWASHEDYOUTH I was 10 ..... 


Gamphace™
Gamphace™

Trial set 1-13-14 Justice or Business? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyWeRsF1NGU The Private business is part of the C.S.A. 822 (c) (1)(2)(3) ,885(a)(1) 802(27) that allows the manufacture(growing warehousing,transporting,distribution). The Private business provides a Sch 1 controlled substance(Hemp cannabis Marijuana) for a private held membership, in our usual course of business, consistent with the code of federal regulations governing the statues. The business & it's members are exempt from all statues of alleged criminal activity by the closed regulatory system enforced by the DEA

Sarah Young
Sarah Young

Omg this awesome! Though this list is definitely missing Jennifer Knapp

Joe Downs
Joe Downs

How could I forget the rotating drum kit?!? And yes, Geoff Moore's Home Run album will always have a place in my heart. Listened to it a couple years back on a lark. It led to an intense rush of memories steeped in naive optimism and carefree happiness....it's nice to revisit that on occasion. :) To this day, I still use a quote I heard from him... paraphrasing, I'd rather have 10 people at my funeral, truly celebrating my life and mourning my loss, than 1,000 people checking their watches.

Bobbi Kochman
Bobbi Kochman

I literally just read this out loud to Matt who had pretty much no experience with Christian music before meeting me :) Remember Newsboys rotating drumset? Bahaha :) Also, I am fairly certain that our first conversation was about Geoff Moore and the Distance :)

Jason W. Ground
Jason W. Ground

I have only every heard of Jars of Clay... and I'm okay with that.

Troy Farah Faucet
Troy Farah Faucet

I like Nirvana. Sorry I don't mention it in my articles. I will be sure to do that next time.

Rebecca Jean Masterson
Rebecca Jean Masterson

My sister, who fancied herself very tough and street-wise in the sixth grade, was given an album by the group O.G.G. (Original Gospel Gangstaz). Though less well known, my mom thought is was a reasonable solution to her Tupac conundrum at the time.

Joe Downs
Joe Downs

As someone who grew up in that scene in the 90's...thank you. :) A few thoughts... 1) Rebecca St. James married a guy from Foster the People?!? Whaaaa?!?!? 2) Live Newsboys shows were awesome. Cheesy as hell, but awesome. Same goes for Audio Adrenaline. 3) Flood gets all the accolades, but Fade to Grey from Jars of Clay is their best song IMO. 4) Christian ska/punk was on par with the secular stuff, if not better. Thanks again for the trip down memory lane. :) Bobbi Kochman memories... :)

Karen Tataryn-Savio
Karen Tataryn-Savio

Okay, we get it. No one at New Times likes Nirvana, do you have to mention that in every single music related article?

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