A long time ago, Christian hymns and songs could get into the top 40 on the Billboard charts regularly. That time has long passed, but students at Greenville University are familiar with Christian bands making hits. Greenville’s very own Jars of Clay broke onto the scene with Flood, which peaked on the Hot 100 at number 37; this album later went multi-platnium. Jars of Clay’s experience alone shows Christian artists can produce hits.
Not too long ago, Skillet was the bridge between secular and Christian music. They drew in a crowd of secular music lovers by making relatable songs, and it clearly worked; Comatose went platinum and Awake went multi-platinum.
Whenever an artist that promotes the name of Jesus can bridge the musical gap, the Christian world should take note because these artists may be doing something right.
Now some artists, such as Chance the Rapper, do by incorporating gospel and praise music into their discography (or even just into their chorus) to appeal to some Christian listeners. This has been around for a long time, and while I do not doubt the sincerity of these artists who release this content, I do question why they continue to release morally questionable content while simultaneously releasing music that follows traditional Christian values. This seems contradictory.
In order to further avoid this contradiction, the focus will be on Twenty-One Pilots, NF, Lauren Daigle, Owl City, Tori Kelly, and Lecrae. All of these artists have found incredible success in secular circles, but they have not lost their Christian messaging (even if it sometimes buried deep within the lyrics).
What has been and always will be a discussion is the necessity of having crossover artists; should Christians make songs that are designed to have broad appeal? Should Christians who collaborate with morally questionable songwriters be under extra scrutiny? Is it okay for a Christian artist to not have a mention of Christ in their entire studio album?
Some of the artists in this article do not even need to bother answering some of those questions, but most do. Lauren Daigle and Tori Kelly are by far the most “devout” Christians when looking at their discography. From the artists they choose to work with to the actual lyrics and message, they do not stray very far from their Christ focus. NF and Owl City have both released albums with no imagery pointing to God or Christ. Twenty-One Pilots sprinkle in Christian symbolism into each of their albums, and Lecrae is “unashamed” of his faith, even if he sometimes features artists that have a history of controversy.
What these artists do for the culture is invaluable. One cannot accurately measure their impact. The reach of Lauren Daigle’s song You Say has put Christian thoughts into a ton of young minds. Owl City’s soft pop hits roped people into discovering his more Christ-centered songs. Lecrae’s ability to flaunt around the hip-hop community has most assuredly introduced Christianity to individuals that have either never experienced it or ignored it their whole lives. Twenty-One Pilots and NF have undoubtedly made listeners think deeper about subjects and emotions in their heads that start the conversation of Christ.
Nearly all of the artists listed have a platinum hit song, so they truly do all reach massive audiences. These artists are the future of growing the faith and must be seen as innovators for the faith. Hopefully, as time goes on, more Christian artists will find their way to mainstream success so that positive music can be received by the masses.
Media by Joshua Heller.