Grading This Week’s Top Christian Songs

Times are tough and rock is hard. Below, just as we have the rock and latin-pop charts, this week we grade the top ten songs on Billboard’s Christian chart.

1. MercyMe, “Move”

This just sounds like Maroon 5. That is all. Grade: D

2. Casting Crowns, “Courageous”

Okay, this is more like it. This is an entertaining video for a modern rock anthem for spiritual warriors. When I Googled one of the lines from this song the second link that showed up was to the Amazon page for a book called Every Man’s Battle: Winning The War On Sexual Temptation One Victory At A Time (The Every Man Series). I guess that’s what they mean by “the battle of the hand.” Grade: B+

3. Matthew West, “Strong Enough”

Genre cliches from Christian rock videos: denim shirts, stripped rooms with bare brick or concrete walls, golden lights and lens flares. People struggling with real-life issues like bills and bullies and then overcoming them through faith in Christ. This one’s got all of them. Grade: C

4. Jeremy Camp, “The Way”

Tease with a piano rock verse and pre-chorus nod, then launch into an anthemic Coldplay-style chorus about the glory of God. Bring it home with the sing-along na na nas. Build to a string-section-backed climax, and then everything but the piano drops out. Mix well with black hoodies and stir. Grade: B-

5. Matt Maher, “Turn Around”

Songs like this are kind of like that joke about playing a country song backwards. You get your faith back. You get your life back. Sometimes you even get your wife and kids back. Grade: B

6. Aaron Shust, “My Hope Is In You”

Another piano jammer. The Lord does not seem to like synthesizers as much as he likes horizontal harps. If pop tends to focus on the lighter side of life — party rocking, clubbing, and random sexual encounters — Christian rock picks up the slack with videos that specialize in poverty, sickness, and sadness. This video is about aging parents dealing with the war-related death of their child. It’s not a huge mystery why pop music generally avoids these concepts (or at least saves them for ballads). What is sort of amazing is how singing about the bleakest depths of random despair can be really uplifting. This song manipulated me into feeling and I liked it. Grade: A

7. Steven Curtis Chapman, “Do Everything”

This is the scariest thing I have ever seen in my life. This is the South Park parody of itself. Grade: C-

8. Jamie Grace feat. TobyMac, “Hold Me”

Oh good! A girl! And a rapper! TobyMac, formerly of supertrio DC Talk, signed Jamie Grace to his Atlanta-based label Gotee Records. She is also the star of IShine KNECT, a Trinity Broadcasting Network show that sounds like the Christian Glee. Nobody raps in this song. Very reminiscent of Taylor Swift’s ode to her mom “The Best Day.” I want to know the deal with the guy who’s just driving the car the whole time, where they are headed to (or from) in that red Bronco, and what secrets are lurking behind TobyMac’s dark aviator shades. Grade: D+

9. Chris Tomlin, “I Lift My Hands”

Yet another piano, another falling-down house. More sick kids, riding tricycles down a hospital hallway like The Shining. Grizzled men evoking accidental shades of Breaking Bad. Realization that this is Cairo, Illinois, one of the nation’s cities most consistently plagued with misfortunes. This takes it to the limit at three minutes in. Old man in rainbow shirt and young ill boy in surgical mask, I would like to watch a postapocalyptic buddy dramedy about you. Grade: A-

10. The Afters, “Lift Me Up”

Officially renaming this genre “Foreclosure Rock.” It’s not your fault you can’t get a job, troubled male protagonist trying to support his family. Chill baby sad girl, you have a great rack and cool Tina Fey glasses. Sad grandma whose partner just passed away writing “I’m so alone” in shaving cream, you are just making me too sad to live. Despite the title and twist happy ending, this is just bummer city.
Grade: C+

Filed Under: Grading the Charts, Music

Photo on 2014-01-10 at 12.58 #3

Molly Lambert is a staff writer for Grantland.

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