In my last post I ripped apart Christian music, in essence, for it’s lack of creativity. This rant is nothing new to people who enjoy good music. Most people who see the problems I see within the Christian music industry usually just rip it apart and then will not acknowledge who is at least doing the best they can. This is where I desire to be different from that crowd. Here is the deal with Christian radio: The people who support these radio stations (since they are generally listener supported rather than advertisement-based) are white, evangelicals in the age bracket of 35-65. What does this result in? A top 40 list of songs that all say the same thing we’ve been saying in Christian music for 20 years to a tune that sounds the same. Most people that are younger than that don’t listen to Christian radio because of differences in taste. I understand that the radio has to play what the listeners are looking for in order to be able to survive financially. So, at the end of the day, I understand the beast that you cannot please everyone, but my challenge to occasionally get out of the box to Christian listeners/radio stands.
With that, I take time out to list out some songs/artists who I think are doing the best they can to worship God. For purposes of this post, I will define worship music as music that can be sung corporately to or about our Creator. Personally, I worship to all kinds of music, whether or not the person is a follower of Christ or not. When I listen to the creativity of Radiohead, a sweet jazz guitar lick to a John Mayer song, or the incredible vocals in Over the Rhine’s music, I can’t help but turn my eyes in thanksgiving to God. However, as an expression in a corporate gathering, it would not make sense to just sing a random song just because it has great music. Great music along with crying out/praising God is the worship I am talking about here (ps – insert my pet peeve of having to define worship every time one uses the word “worship” since it is now a “lifestyle” rather than just music. Good concept, annoying double meaning).
I compiled a quick list of worship songs I think are worth listening and a brief reason why. Most of these are not typical songs you hear on Christian radio or in your typical Evangelical church (although some definitely are). My goal is that we continue to grow in what makes for good worship so that my generation will not cringe every time we hear that word, but instead can be excited.
Here is a link to the 20+ songs I think are worth worshiping to. I know it’s a lot, but check out some of the songs and you might find some artists you like:
1) Jars of Clay “Worlds Apart”. My favorite worship song of all time. The richness of the lyrics cannot be understated. Unbelievable.
2) David Crowder “Never Let Go”. The best worship leader of our generation writes a simple (and somewhat repetitive) song with a great reminder of the pillars of my faith: God will not lose grip of his children.
3) Lifehouse “Everything”. If there were ever an epic worship song, this would be it. Great lyrics meet a growing musical song that is moving emotionally.
4) Red “Pieces”. Ok. I put the two epic songs back to back in this list. “I come to you in pieces, so you can make me whole.” I could sing this phrase to Jesus everyday of my broken life.
5) The Glorious Unseen “Tonight The Stars Speak”. I love the sound from TGU (yes…I like the whining sound). Lyrically they do not blow me away, but their sound is a breath of fresh air in an industry of lame pop. Relaxing and introspective.
6) Anathallo “It is Well”. Anathallo writes great indie music, but their sound will be too abstract for most listeners. I, however, love it and think you should download the “Hymns” EP if you dig indie music.
7) Jared Anderson “Amazed”. This is a pretty straightforward song, but the simple truth that it is amazing the painter of the Universe would also choose to love us individually is indeed amazing. Also, note I have seen most of these (and other) worship leaders live and think Jared does a great job of engaging others yet not drawing attention to himself.
8) Pillar “Simply”. Pillar is not a normal worship group (they are straight rock), but if this song could be replicated would be a fantastic song to sing to God. It would be difficult to pull off with most churches and their pop-only acceptance.
9) Relient K “For the Moments I Feel Faint”. Known to most as “Never Underestimate My Jesus”, this is Relient K’s only overtly “worship” song and they nail it. This is also the first song I learned to play on guitar (I don’t count, “Lord I Life Your Name on High” haha).
10) Chris Tomlin “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)”. The best added chorus to a hymn that I’ve ever heard. You may be sick of it by now, but it is fantastic.
11) Jason Frye “Before You”. This is a local friend of mine who writes, “Thank you for the freedom, you’ve given to me.” I love that line and reminder of the freedom that Christ has given us.
12) Jeremy Camp “Give Me Jesus”. This is not written by Camp, but I love the simplicity of this song.
13) Newsboys “In Christ Alone”. This is the best modern day hymn of our time. It took 3 years of re-writing to come to the text of this song. If every worship leader put in the time that Townend and Getty put towards this song, I would not be spending time criticizing our simplicity. I had to include this quote from Crosswalk.com:
“I think content is vitally important to our corporate worship,” Townend shares. “Sometimes great melodies are let down by indifferent or clichéd words. It’s the writer’s job to dig deep into the meaning of Scripture and express in poetic and memorable ways the truth he or she finds there. Knowing the truth about God and who we are in Him is central to our lives as believers. Songs remain in the mind in a way sermons do not, so songwriters have an important role and a huge responsibility.”
14) Shane and Shane “Your Grace is Sufficient”. Simple truth to a simple song.
15) DC Talk “Into Jesus”. An oldie but a goodie.
16) Kutless “Grace and Love”. If you like worshiping to rock music, check out Kutless’ “Strong Tower” for some pretty solid arrangements. The bridge heading back into the chorus is awesome in this song.
17) Bebo Norman “Nothing Without You”. Can you tell I am partial to acoustic players singing simple truth’s straight to our Creator? I should also note that while hanging out with Bebo I called “shotgun” while walking to a car and he totally respected that victory and I got the front seat. ☺
18) Jeff Deyo “Bless the Lord”. Former front man of good ole Sonic Flood, this 6/8 song brings some great praise to the whole spectrum of who God is, even if musically it sounds the same as everything else. The third verse with the soft parts reflecting on thanking God for his suffering and big musicality to the praise of His victory is awesome.
19) Red Letter “Wondrous Love”. Free worship put out by Mars Hill Seattle Church. Doesn’t it seem like the words free and worship should go together more often??
20) Cross Movement “Lord You Are”. Not easily replicated in your suburban church, I wanted to make sure I threw on a few songs that match my definition of worship in this post and stretch the boundaries of pop. Cross Movement is theologically sound in every track and praise Him in a way that changed my life as a young follower of Christ.
21) KJ-52 feat. Rebecca St. James “God”. Another instrumental artist while I was growing up, KJ can be cheesy and geared towards younger people, but a great worship remix nonetheless.ist.
22) Kirk Franklin “Looking For You”. Gospel music can be annoying or refreshing. “I’ve realized nothing else will satisfy me” rings true in this single from the open and honest Franklin.
I guess that wraps up the list. Linkin Park or U2 could’ve probably been on this list, but I stuck to artists that specifically identify themselves as followers of Christ. Either way, I hope you enjoy the mix and continue to seek after the heart of worship.
Feedback and other recommendations not only encouraged, it is mandatory. ☺.