Turn on any mainstream radio station these days and chances are you’ll hear a bleeped out expletive or sexually suggestive lyric of some sort. Add in themes of violence, negativity and an overall sense of darkness, and it’s often difficult to know where to turn for wholesome tunes.
With the Dove Awards quickly approaching (Wednesday, April 20 from Atlanta’s Fox Theatre and only on gmc Easter Sunday, April 24), America’s eyes will turn to more spiritually-centered artists, but more than merely honoring their achievements, the ceremony also serves as a reminder that they are artists who are focused on impacting culture in a positive way.
Here's our list of current and relatively recent tunes from both the traditional Christian music community and the general market – examples of how artists are spreading uplifting messages, even amidst unnerving competition.
Rock n' roll inspirations
Skillet's "Awake & Alive"
A major milestone within the past month came to Skillet’s camp as the group’s explosive “Awake & Alive” didn’t just rise to the top of the sacred charts, but also landed at #1 on Mainstream Active Rock Radio. Considering today’s top 40 cohorts like Cee Lo Green and Pink have bleeped out song titles and offerings from Kesha and Rihanna are about removing clothing, the Dove Award-winning metallic rockers’ call to live each day to the fullest is truly refreshing.
Switchfoot’s “The Sound”
Speaking of never shying away from faith while simultaneously impacting culture, Switchfoot’s fresh cut “The Sound” is tearing up the general alternative rock world and vying for “Rock Recorded Song of the Year” at this year’s Dove Awards. The tune speaks to a society being squelched by its many pressures, but encourages listeners to rise above earthly injustice and clue into a higher calling.
One consistently uplifting group that hasn’t had any trouble scoring commercial viability over the past decade is Lifehouse. In fact, one of its groundbreaking songs, “Everything,” has become a staple of both wedding and worship services. “‘Everything’ became a big YouTube phenomenon [with people] interpreting it as a spiritual song, but it's also become a wedding song for another group,” frontman Jason Wade tells us. “Everyone always asks which is better and I just like the fact it can inspire two different groups of people and they don’t have to fight about what it’s about. That’s what music is all about to me. You’ve gotta interpret it however it’s reaching you.”
Producers haven’t been able to corral them to the Dove Awards just yet (we’re hoping someday!) but U2’s won just about every other trophy in existence, while keeping within a spiritually replete songwriting style. Even though many cite the Irish act’s early ‘80s albums as the most overt, a look at 2005’s “Yahweh" finds Bono and the boys even more Biblically informed than ever before. Need proof? Check out this Psalm-like poetry in motion: “Yahweh, Yahweh/ Still waiting for the dawn/ The sun is coming up on the ocean/ His love is like a drop in the ocean.”
Kirk Franklin’s “Lean On Me”
Speaking of Bono, his most specific foray into gospel came via a collaboration with frequent Dove Award-winner Kirk Franklin on the now classic “Lean On Me.” Along with vocal powerhouses Crystal Lewis and Mary J. Blige, plus “I Believe I Can Fly” singer/songwriter R. Kelly, Franklin didn’t just bridge the gap between genres, but presented to the world at large a message of hope and ultimate reliance on the Lord during life’s greatest trials.
Marvin Sapp’s “The Best In Me”
After his blockbuster, multi-format chart topper “Never Would Have Made It,” Marvin Sapp follows up with an even more moving smash. Up for this year’s “Contemporary Gospel Recorded Song of the Year” and "Artist of the Year" Doves, but also scoring endless R&B airplay, this cut covers issues as diverse as self-esteem to hands-raised praise. The song is especially encouraging and poignant in light of Sapp losing his wife to cancer shortly after its release.
Whitney Houston’s “I Look to You”
Previous Dove performer Whitney Houston may have taken some time off to work out her personal demons, but she’s back with her faith on her sleeve throughout the comeback collection I Look to You. The soulful pop ballad of the same name is a literal summary of her spiritual rejuvenation thanks to lines like: “Winter storms have come and darkened my sun/And after all that I’ve been through/ Who on earth can I turn to?/ I look to you/After all my strength is gone/In you I can be strong.”
Dolly Parton’s “Jesus and Gravity”
The crossover queen of country music recently whipped up one of her most spiritually sound tunes to date and she even sewed some seeds on American Idol with a jaw-dropping rendition. The lyrics speak of a believer not filling themselves up with pride, but rather, realizing all their blessings come from the Lord (and in the event we get a big head, gravity will pull us back down to earth). On the flipside, the song also reinforces the fact that the Lord will rescue us from our earthly burdens once we turn over our circumstances to Him.
Kenny Rogers’ “Circle of Friends”
Those tuning in for the Doves this year will score a sneak peek at Kenny Rogers’ brand-new (and believe it or not, first ever) gospel CD entitled The Love of God (available at all Cracker Barrel stores). Though it remains to be seen what specific song he’ll perform, attention’s been steadily mounting for his duet with multiple-time Dove winners Point of Grace on their previous smash “Circle of Friends,” an accountability-bathed ballad that reminds listeners to surround themselves with fellow believers to stay on the straight and narrow.
Rascal Flatts’ “Bless the Broken Road”
Last but not least, Rascal Flatts is one of country’s current heavy hitters, so it’s no surprise to see even the spiritually blatant “Bless the Broken Road” reach double platinum sales status and score a GRAMMY in the process. The track was written by members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was also recorded by Underwood, Melodie Crittenden (Selah), Geoff Moore and Jamie Slocum. But no matter what version, the message about being spiritually reborn after a life of pain and wandering is nothing short of timeless.
Copyright 2011, watchgmctv.com. For permission to repost or reprint, click here.
About the Writer
Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, IllinoisEntertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, MTV.com and Vibe.com. He’s also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park’s Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel’s very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).
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