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Where have all the Christians gone?

There seems to be a bit of a backlash over the recent Top 10 Album List of 2007 feature we ran at the end of last year. Many readers have voiced their concern through comments and email over the fact that Christian artists were not well represented on our list. In fact, if you look at the individual contributor lists we ran on January 3
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, none of our contributors included any Christian artists on the top of their lists.

I thought it would be good to clear the air on behalf of the contributors involved and try and explain why we chose what we chose.

To start, what makes a good album? For me, and the majority of music critics, we hear lots and lots of music from all genres. The bulk of the albums released every year mimic, or copy ideas from other artists. Obviously every artist is influenced by someone before them and you will hear those influences in their music. That’s not what I’m talking about.

What plagues most music in my eyes is the inability to take one’s influences and create an original body of art, not a blatant imitation or carbon copy. Because we as music writers hear so much music every year, it’s the albums that take chances and produce something new and creative that catches our ear.

That’s why you may see albums you’ve never heard of on our list. You’ll probably see many of the same albums on Best of 2007 lists in the majority of magazines all across the county. It’s not like every critic in the U.S. gets together at the end the year and conspires to pick the most obscure artists just so we can appear to be uber-intelligent, brilliantly discerning music writers. The truth is, most of us only hear a handful of albums each year that rise above the rest. The fact that the vast majority of music writers agree on an album being good means it’s probably good.

What I’m hearing from quite a few Relevant readers is that, if Relevant Magazine claims to be a Christian publication, which it does, and those who contribute to the magazine claim to be Christians, which we do, then why wouldn’t the positive, uplifting, Christ filled music from bonafide believers make up the majority of our lists?

Think about the best 10 movies you saw this year. How many of the movies you can find in your local Christian bookstore are on that list. I dare say even the most heavenly minded individuals would feel a tinge of remorse in saying that Christian films are the best being made every year. For the same reason, it would be untruthful for us to include Christian albums on our list if we don’t feel they deserve to be there.

That’s not to say the devil has all the good music, or that Christians are incapable of making art with Christian themes that can be great or brilliant. Living in the state of VA, I’ve been to the various Smithsonian Art Museums in Washington D.C. many times. As I peruse the massive marble halls I marvel at the fact the most brilliant works of art for centuries and centuries were not just religious, but Christian in nature.

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Many of the most influential films, certainly my favorites, were made by directors like Martin Scorcese and Ingmar Bergman who made films for everyone, yet dealt with Christian themes and heavy spiritual struggles all humans face.

Over the past few years, many Christian musical artists have been on my Top 10 list; Pedro the Lion, Anathallo, Sufjan Stevens immediately come to mind. They weren’t my favorite because they were Christians, but because there music blew me away, inspired me, and I connected deeply with these artists. For me, that is a rarity with artists who promote themselves as being Christians.

Perhaps in the future we can include a “Top 10 CCM list” at the end of the year for those who want to know what was considered the tops in that category. I certainly understand the lyrical content and themes in the albums we chose isn’t for everybody. Personally, I would like to see less Christian artists being content with making good CCM music, and start striving to make great music that defies categorization.

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