Friday, April 15, 2011

Replacing the Trash, Part 1:The best bands of Christian music

So many of my friends are addicted to just plain ole' evil music. They fill their minds with Lil' Wayne, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Kesha, Kayne West, Eminem, Black Eyed Peas, Katy Perry. I used to listen to that kind of music. I was hooked on the infectious tunes and catchy lyrics. I didn't care about sin. "I was only listening to the music." But once I slowly began to let God change me, He burdened me with a guilt when I listened to that music. I knew that I couldn't aim for purity and Godliness if I was listening to music with explicit lyrics and references to sex.

James 3:10-12 says,  "Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water." It's not possible for sin and God to flow into or out of the same heart. It has to be One, or the other. This carries over into every part of our lives, especially music. There's no way a Christian should listen to immoral music. (This is where I usually here the arguments). "All Christian music sounds the same." "Christian music stinks." "There's no good Christian rapper!" I know enough about Christian music to call all these bluffs. Christian music is so good, so diverse, so improved that there's no longer a excuse that holds any water.

(And just a head' up, this is a long post, so feel free to skim or skip to your preferred genre.)

You like Lil' Wayne, Eminem, Sean Kingston, Iyaz, Kanye West? There's some pretty good Christian rappers out there now. I admit, no one is quite as good musically as some of these secular artists; and no one is even half as fast and smooth as Eminem. The genre Christian rap genre has the most room to improve. But the powerful lyrics usually make up for it. Check out Flame, Lecrae, Tedashii, Shonlock, Pro, Trip Lee, or 116 Clique. You can even throw in the two white guys: John Reuben and KJ-52, although I'm not quite sure what genre they fall into. Lecrae is easy the big one to listen to. He's the most refined musically and gifted lyrically. Nobody's as good as Lecrae, especially his albums Rebel and Rehab.

Now what about Metallica, AC/DC, or Slipnot? Christian music has its share of awesome hard core metal bands. Try Demon Hunter, Gwen Stacy, Haste the Day, The Devil Wears Prada, Underoath, or August Burns Red. Demon Hunter and Underoath are the most popular, and very popular even amongst non-Christians. I personally love Gwen Stacy because of their guitars and screamer; and if you're curious, yes, they named themselves after the blonde girl in Spider-Man 3.

Since we're talking about rock, maybe you love hard rock, but not full-time screamo. Perhaps you like Linkin Park, Breaking Benjamin, Disturbed, etc. If so, check out Disciple, Fireflight, Flyleaf, the Letter Black, Red, Skillet, and Thousand Foot Krutch. Disciple's latest album, Horseshoes & Handgrenades, is very well done. Fireflight, Flyleaf, and the Letter Black are all led by female vocalists. Fireflight has a little bit of pop rock in their sound. Flyleaf is dark, edgy, and hardcore. Red is quickly amassing an enormous fan base, and are known to be dark and almost angry in their music. Skillet is easily the most popular, and for good reasons. But in my opinion, Thousand Foot Krutch (a.k.a., TFK) is the best. Lead singer Trevor McNevon is such an awesome vocalist, and writes and performs all the guitars on the albums. TFK has the best guitars of any band. Their music is compelling, pounding, addicting, catchy, and unlike any other band. The best part is they make great albums, not just great songs. The Flame in All of Us, Welcome to the Masquerade, and Phenomenon are incredibly great albums, from the first to last track.

Maybe pop rock is your thing. Christian music abounds in this. There some Christian pop rock artists that are just pure fun. Try FM Static, Hawk Nelson, Me in Motion, Philmont, and Stellar Kart. FM Static is comprised of two of the three members of TFK, including Trevor McNevon, so I love FM Static. Their music is fun, driven, catchy, sometimes bubbly, and just pure fun. Look up Definitely Maybe, Tonight, The Unavoidable Feeling of Being on the Inside, Take Me As I Am, The Voyage of Beliefs, Sometimes My Brain Says No But My Heart Says Yes, F.M.S.T.A.T.I.C., and Last Train Home. Hawk Nelson and Stellar Kart are very popular bands on Christian radio, but they've sort of lost their identity as bands. Stellar Kart used to be pop rock but have not gone mostly pop. Hawk Nelson would've been an amazing alternative punk band but have travled the road of wanna-be pop artists. Still, their older albums have some great tracks, and if you don't mind pop, they're new stuff is pretty good. Philmont definitely is a fun pop punk band with traces of bubbly techno. It's hard to sit still when listening to any of these bands.

Unfortunately, Christian music doesn't have an artist with the sound of Lady Gaga or Katy Perry or Brittany Spears. Nobody, their beat gets in your head and makes you dance. Britt Nicole comes closest. Britt's music is usually not quite as fast-paced, but it's catchy and fun and makes you feel good. Group 1 Crew has molded their sound after the Black Eyed Peas. They're not my style but pretty good.

A few good pop/light rock bands include Addison Road, Brandon Heath, The Afters, Sarah Reeves, Sidewalk Prophets, and Danya. Addison Road is a very good inspirational band; I definitely suggest them to anyone. Brandon Heath, well, pretty much everyone knows this guy from his hit song Give Me Your Eyes. His new album has a slight country flavor but mostly pop and is pretty decent, though I haven't heart much of it. The Afters are so very good. In spite of a clunker for latest album, their first two were very good. They've got some amazing harmonic beats and great choruses. Sarah Reeves is an upcoming artist who performs worship music with a pop sound. She's lead worship for my small youth group and has a phenomenally pure voice. And most people know Sidewalk Prophets from their many radio hits in the past year. They simply sing the Word and deliver it with an exciting and contagious passion. Haven't heard of Danya? I'm not surprised. They are a fun yet serious upcoming punk rock band. They're on iTunes and are working on a new EP now. They're definitely worth looking up. Do it!

It's time to discuss the giants of Christian music: tobyMac, Casting Crowns, MercyMe, Sanctus Real, and David Crowder Band. tobyMac started out nearly as a crunk-rapper. His first three albums were very fun and fast-paced with catchy rhymes and driving music. His latest album, however, is mostly pop. With a caribbean flair, I'm reminded of Sean Kingston, but at a much slower pace. Yet he remains one of the most, if not the most, popular Christian artist. Casting Crowns may very well be the most famous on the radio. They're all youth pastors, so their music is particularly reaching and passionate. They aren't my style of music, but they still are very good. MercyMe is known mostly for their insanely famous song I Can Only Imagine. But their album Coming Up To Breathe and The Generous Mr. Lovewell are both very good albums and both fun and serious, both dedicated to God through and through. Sanctus Real has gotten better with each album. I really like their vocals and feel-good guitars. David Crowder Band combimes worship with an insanely catchy techno/pop sound. Many comtemporary churches sing their songs in church. They're one of my favorite bands.

Now for the techno/punk-rock genre. The best two are Capital Lights and Eleventyseven. Fun, infectious, and bubbly, these two bands are so good at what they do. Unfortunately, Capital Lights made one great album but then broke up. That album, This is an Outrage!, was really, really good. My brother likes Mile Away, but I find it too pop-y. Let the Little Lady Talk, Outrage, and The Night of Your Life is When You'll Die are my favorite. Eleventyseven's last two albums are pretty good, and they have such a unique sound. They're known for Love in Your Arms, Evil Genius, and How It Feels (To Be With You). Check them out!

One of the most unique is crunk-rock. There's really only one band that fits here: Family Force 5. What more should I say? These five guys can rock. If you've never heard of these guys, check out Love Addict, Kountry Gentleman, Earthquake, Put Ur Hands Up, Dance or Die, Get Your Back Off the Wall, Fever, Wake the Dead, Radiator, Keep the Party Alive, and Whatcha Gonna Do With It. I beg of you to check Family Force 5 out. They're in their own genre!

With a somewhat similar sound to Family Force 5, Manafest combines rap, rock, and crunk to make a sometimes corny but usually awesome sound. Manafest's song So Beautiful is my favorite song of all-time, amassing nearly 400 plays in just over two years. Also look up 4321, Impossible, Bounce, Renegade, Every Time You Run, No Plan B (feat. Koie of Cross Faith), and Fire in the Kitchen.

Now for alternative. Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Yellowcard, and 30 Seconds to Mars fans, you'll love The Almost, the Classic Crime, House of Heroes, Relient K, and Search the City. The Almost, man, what a band! They're latest album is so good. Check out Hands, Monster Monster, No I Don't, Books and Books, and Souls on Ten, Say this Sooner, Southern Weather, and their cover of Free Fallin'. The Classic Crime: not my favorite band, by any means. But many friends like them a lot. House of Heroes is an awesome band with three awesome albums. With a sound sort of like Queen mixed with punk rock, these musical geniuses rock out with In the Valley of the Dying Sun, Lose Control, God Save Us Foolish Kings, Relentless, Love is For the Middle Class, Independence Day For A Petty Thief, She Mighty Mighty, Serial Sleepers, and Buckets for Bullet Wounds. Relient K. Almost everyone knows these guys. I can't fit a list of their best songs on here. Just look them up on iTunes. Search the City is a little-known band who made an almost perfect album, but then broke up. On their only album, A Fire So Big the Heavens Can See It, the best songs are Son of a Gun, To the Moon For All I Care, Detroit Was Built on Secrets, Ambulance Chasers, The Rescue, Bigger Scars Make Better Stories, In This Scene You're Just An Extra, and Clocks and Time Pieces. If you can't tell, it's best to just but the whole album. It's worth every penny!

What about music that isn't Christian? Hmm. I've often wondered about this. I like to listen to A Day to Remember, Story of the Year, and Yellowcard. Neither band is Christian, and I have to make sure each song has clean lyrics, but these three guys are so great. My belief is that if the individual song is okay, then it's okay to listen to that song. Don't shun every song because the band themselves or majority of songs are bad. I judge each song by each song. If a song cusses, is about sex or drugs, if a band only sings about parties and girls (like Forever the Sickest Kids), or if it makes me want something I know I shouldn't have (like Taylor Swift making me want to fall in love) I generally won't listen. That's my personal boundary. 

So there you have it. The first post of Replacing the Trash. This was certainly longer than I expected but it's my hope that someone will read this and check these bands out and finally give up bad music. It's my prayer that you will have read this with an open mind, willing to try out new music. Just know that simply switching to Christian music won't help unless it's a heart change, too. You shouldn't switch to look cooler at church, to fit in with your Christian friends, or for any reason other than a change of heart. But if you do have a heart change and surrender your music to God, I guarantee you won't be disappointed with Christian music.


Ashley said...

Very nice! :D

Jennifer said...

I admit, I skimmed. This is a huge list!! How long did this take you to write? :) I listen to Christian music mainly, and, like you mentioned, go song by song for others. My only problem with Christian music is that, just because it is "Christian," doesn't mean it is right. I have heard Christian songs that had messed up theology.

LoVizzle said...

I've heard some messed up songs, too. But I just as easily remove those from my iTunes library as I do any songs that cuss or are about sex or etc. For example, The Almost. Lead singer Aaron Gillespie, former drumer and vocalist for Underoath, uses God's name in vain a few times in Monster Monster, their last album. I'll use the song Lonely Wheel as the prime example. Aaron sings, "I know it's good to you, God, I know it's good to you." Except he isn't talking to God. Now unfortunately, Aaron Gillespie is a Christian, and even has a a brand new worship band side project (which is awesome!). But fact is he cusses when using God's name like that. I just have to avoid those three songs. Also, House of Heroes. On their first album, my favorite song has the line "there are no churches, only prisons". Now whether that means what I think it does, it still pricks my conscience and I don't like listening to that song, even though it's my favorite and as such catchy guitars. You just have to apply your own personal filter to each song.

Ashley said...

Wow. Great first post. Very detailed. I didn't read the whole thing, because I haven't struggled with ungodly music, but I'm def impressed by the amount of work in this. Thanks!

Daniel G said...

wow looks like I’m the first to comment after reading the whole post lol, great list, although i dont really know all the artests, and Britt Nicole is pretty close to Katy parry, but in my opinion Britt is way better. I found this cool vid where like a radio show was compairing Britt with Gaga, and Britt blew Gaga out of the water.