Why are so Many Mainstream Artists Doing ‘Christian’ Music?
This week’s “Saturday Night Live” episode featured Alicia Keys as a musical guest. The excitement over Keys returning to do some music is understandable, but even more noteworthy is that she returned with a very “gospel music” sounding song, “Hallelujah.”
Keys appeared at the halftime of the show to perform new track “In Common.” She performed again toward the end of the program with a song called “Hallelujah.” Both songs are from her upcoming record due out in the summer.
“Hallelujah” both visually and sonically was sure to leave an impact on everyone watching SNL. The song opens up with Alicia behind the keys softly singing with strings and light percussion via cymbals, in the background.
“There’s a hole in my heart I’ve been hiding/ I’ve been strong for so long that I’m blind Is there a place I can go where the lonely river flows?/ Where fear ends and faith begins” reads the verse.
The chorus, “Hallelujah, hallelujah, let me in/ I’ve been praying but I’m paying for my sins Won’t you give me a sign if I lose my mind?/ Woah, hallelujah, let me in”
She then sings of needing protection from fear “I need you right by my side” and in the bridge “Please forgive me of my sins.”
Now before we go hit the checklist of Alicia Keys as a Christian artist, in the past she answered questions of faith unconvincingly. According to Keys’ view of religion according to Hollowverse, “I would call it spirituality because I think religion gets very sticky. I think it’s beautiful to have a belief in something and that’s where religion comes in… But for me it’s definitely spirituality in the sense of having integrity and certain morals I stand by.”
That sort of answer is sure not to invoke confidence in her relationship with Jesus, but the comments were made a few years ago. Things may have changed since then.
However, that is not the question we are asking. The real question is, “Why are all these mainstream artists taking a liking to God?”
In today’s society it feels like every ounce of God is being squeezed out of mainstream media whether it be news, movies, TV, or music. Being a Christian is certainly not the “cool” thing at the moment. Yet, star performers such as Keys, Kanye West, Justin Bieber, DMX, and Chance the Rapper are making it a point to declare an aspect of their faith regardless of what their actions indicate.
Chance the Rapper was recently on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” where he performed his new track, “Blessings.”
Chance, especially as of late, has been very vocal about his relationship with Christ. He sites Kirk Franklin as one of his favorite artists and worked with the acclaimed gospel artist on Kanye’s “Ultra Light Beams.”
In January Chance tweeted:
Today's the last day my old life, last day smoking cigs. Headed to church for help. All things are possible thru Christ who strengthens me.
— Lil Chano From 79th (@chancetherapper) January 31, 2016
Now, let’s take a look at some of the lyrics of “Blessings.”
“I’m gon’ praise Him, praise Him till I’m gone/ I’m gon’ praise Him, praise Him till I’m gone When the praises go up, the blessings come down/ When the praises go up, the blessings come down/ It seems like blessings keep falling in my lap/ It seems like blessings keep falling in my lap” reads the chorus.
“Don’t believe in kings, believe in the kingdom…He has ordered my steps, gave me a sword with a crest” he rapped.
The bridge reads: “There are obstacles in life/ Many many trials and tribulations that come up But you got to realize and know/ That even Jericho walls must fall/ Every wall must fall”
Without diving into the Biblical connotations of Kanye’s Life of Pablo, which we did here, there are moments of the emcee proclaiming God in a bold way, albeit surrounded with objectionable content.
The live performance with Kanye, Chance, and Franklin was done remarkably well, and featured Franklin praying over Kanye as he lay on the floor. It is almost putting on blast that Kanye is searching for God but still battling his demons.
And speaking of fighting demons, DMX recently came out in a podcast and unleashed a powerful rap/prayer called “Amen.” He even spoke about how he has been delivered from drug addiction.
DMX has always proclaimed to be a Christian despite what some of his lyrical content may otherwise suggest. In interviews, he has said that the persona he embodies in his music is just a character. He is not the same person that is portrayed in the songs. Nevertheless, the person in the tracks has caught up to DMX has he struggles to find the balance between a Christian man with aspirations to one day be a pastor, to someone who can’t stay clean.
The opening line of “Amen” is, “Dear Lord, I need to be rescued…please tell me the test is through.”
“…cause he knows my heart/And what grows from the start, glows in the dark/knows from the start, I was chosen as part,” rapped DMX.
“Imma give it to Jesus cause it ain’t my fight” he proclaims in another part.
Other content includes having faith, relying on Jesus for healing, and the power of the Word of God.
The examples listed above are “Christian” songs done by secular artists. With that being said, what would it take for these performers to be considered Christian artists? Would they have to put out an entire album of songs like that? Would they have to stop swearing or using derogatory vocabulary? What are the parameters of being a Christian artist? If these songs done by non-Christian artists are touching people and bringing people to Jesus, then wouldn’t that song be a form of ministering?
It is a rather interesting development, and something that needs some discussion because it is becoming more and more noticeable. With Christian music now cracking the Billboard charts and outselling secular artists, has making Christian art become cool because it’s profitable? Has culture become more accepting of Christianity if it’s packaged in your favorite artists’ catalog? Or maybe it is in fact that Christian music’s infiltration of mainstream music is starting to touch other artists. Whatever the answer or non-answer is, there are a lot of questions to be raised.
What do you think? Christian themed music, a fad or genuine? Stay tuned as we continue to unpack this discussion.