Music is the soundtrack of our lives. Or so it’s been said.
But there really is something to it.
Music makes us happy when we’re feeling low. Dance when we didn’t know we could. Rest when there’s no way to sleep. Try when we’ve already given up. Laugh when we feel like screaming. And cry when the tears have run dry.
For a lot of us the music soundtrack has been cradle lullabies, toddler rhymes, grade school chants, high school musicals, college choirs, graduation themes, heartache tunes, romance ballads, wedding marches…Then it starts all over again.
The soundtrack of our lives is typically personalized for each of us, i.e., it takes on different forms for individuals and societal groups. In the music business, this is what the industry calls “genres.” Grammys are handed out in the different genres, or categories, by the droves.
There is one category of music that started out rather small, and in relative terms, not that long ago. It slowly grew in popularity and at one point seemed to take off like a race car.
The official category is Christian Music. In contrast to the musical and vocal performances that were heard in the traditional hymns of the past, contemporary Christian Music has a style that, aside from the lyrics, is many times indistinguishable from Billboard’s Pop, Rock, or Country categories.
Christian Music grew from a folk rock fringe type of music in the 1960s to become a major genre, which has been embraced by a huge segment of the population that is seeking positive-oriented music as well as lyric content that sets forth faith expressions and timeless truths.
“Crossover” is a term used in the music business to describe a performer or song that appeals to two or more types of audiences that represent two or more types of musical genres.
A Christian Music performer is catapulted into the arena of crossover artist when he or she starts out being marketed to Christian-oriented outlets and venues, but additionally finds that sales of recordings are selling in other mainstream markets as well.
The reverse may sometimes also come to fruition. An artist who starts out as a mainstream pop performer, but whose music and/or lyrics contain themes that Christians can relate to, may also find a newfound audience in one or more crossover categories.
Amy Grant was one of the earlier Christian artists to make the leap into crossover. In the 1980s and 1990s, Grant segued from a sole Christian audience to an additional pop music audience as well.
In 2001 a little known Christian performer named Katy Hudson released an album to Christian outlets, but the recording didn’t quite lead to the desired success. Crossover magic happened when Katy Hudson changed her marketing strategy, and her name, to Katy Perry.
Carrie Underwood became a mainstream success after winning the 2005 fourth season of “American Idol.” She highlighted her Christian faith in many of her recordings, including “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” “Temporary Home,” and “Something in the Water.” In 2020, Underwood released a faith-filled Christmas album titled “My Gift” that added to her crossover credentials.
Other notable Christian crossover artists from country music ranks include Alan Jackson, Alison Krauss, Rascal Flatts, and Brooks & Dunn.
The notion of the Christian crossover artist reached unprecedented heights rather recently with the popularity and success of two super star level artists: Lauren Daigle and Kanye West.
Two-time Grammy Award winner and multi-platinum selling Christian music artist Daigle is a consummate crossover, having expanded her audience from her original Christian fans to the world of mainstream pop.
Daigle’s single “You Say” experienced record-breaking success on the Christian and Pop Billboard charts. The song held the number one position for all of 2020, its second straight year, and is the longest-running No. 1 title ever to appear on the weekly Hot Christian Songs chart.
For the last three years in a row Billboard has named Daigle the Top Christian Artist.
Then there’s Kanye. He’s not only one of the best-selling artists of all time, he’s among the most critically acclaimed artists in the whole world. Winner of twenty-one Grammy Awards, Kanye has earned praise from music critics, industry peers, cultural figures, and fans from Hip-Hop to Christian.
Kanye’s song “Follow God” placed second on the 2020 Billboard Hot Christian Songs list. His album “Jesus Is King” landed number two on the Top Christian Albums year-end chart. He was the leading Christian male artist of 2020, according to Billboard, as well as the year’s top Gospel Artist. His album simultaneously placed high on multiple charts.
Kanye is best known as a super star rapper, but over the course of his career he didn’t shy away from featuring his Christian beliefs. After his song “Jesus Walks” became a hit, he was quoted in the New York Times on the nature of his faith.
“I will say that I’m spiritual. I have accepted Jesus as my Savior. And I will say that I fall short every day,” Kanye shared.
During a recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show, he was asked by Kimmel if he would consider himself to be a Christian music artist, now that he had committed himself fully to Christianity.
Kanye replied in a way that may have been thought provoking for the host and viewing audience as well.
“I’m just a Christian everything,” he said.