The top 10. This is where things get really serious. What are the top 10 Christian albums of the last 25 years?
It is a tough choice because there have been some great albums since 1990. Several of the ones I placed in my top 10 have already been on the list and others didn’t even make the top 25.
But those that are here in this top 10 were all significant, important albums. Christian music would not be where it is today were it not for these records.
You can see the entire top 25 countdown along with a Spotify playlist or you can look at the other groups of five and see why we chose each one:
- #1-5 – dcTalk, Jars of Clay, Steven Curtis Chapman, Switchfoot, Newsboys
- #11-15 – Third Day, Jennifer Knapp, Lecrae, Michael W. Smith, Relient K
- #16-20 – Andrew Peterson, Rich Mullins, P.O.D., Jon Foreman, Josh Garrels
- #21-25 – Tenth Avenue North, Casting Crowns, Veggie Tales, 4Him, Amy Grant
Let us know what you think about our list of the top 25 Christian albums of the last 25 years. Tweet about it using the hashtag #25in25.
Lyrically, one of the most compelling CCM albums of the 2000’s would have to be Almost There by MercyMe. With a huge crossover success with “I Can Only Imagine” (I watched this music video on repeat, multiple times! And not just because it featured Michael Tait, Tammy Trent, and a Katina.), MercyMe exploded into the CCM stratosphere. With a large number of positive reviews, Bart Millard’s unique voice carries through each track with such ease, it’s amazing this was their first major-label studio project!—LM
Named for a passage in C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, Sixpence took Christianity into the mainstream with their self-titled third album. If you watched any teen movie or television drama in the late 90s, you heard Sixpence None The Richer’s smash hit “Kiss Me.” It was the unescapable pop hit of 1998 and 1999. It spent 16 weeks in the top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 and 35 total weeks on the chart. Despite never reaching the top spot, it was the sixth best-selling single of 1999. The follow-up single “There She Goes” also charted well that year and the next.
While the rest of the album never garnered the commercial success and attention, it still features a smooth sound that highlights lead singer Leigh Nash’s ethereal voice and guitarist Matt Slocum’s introspective lyrics. Most people only experienced the hit singles, but the entire album flows together as a coherent work. Yes, “Kiss Me” was the ubiquitous song you could not escape, but Sixpence None The Richer provides a relaxed listening experience that remains calm without being boring and which stands out from much of the overproduced albums of today.—AE
Guitarist and songwriter Bob Herdman said they wanted the album to “have more fun – not take this music so seriously — and just make songs that people like.” Sometimes it is easy to forget that albums and songs can be fun when so many artists and albums take themselves too seriously. Audio Adrenaline’s Underdog is just a fun, upbeat album. Starting off with “Mighty Good Leader,” “Underdog” and “Get Down,” listeners can’t help but tap their feet, sing along in the car or dance around the house.
But underneath the levity is a substantive message of affirmation and optimism. Christians are underdogs, but that’s OK. God has a different measuring stick. His standards are not the world’s. Plus, we know that, in the end, the underdogs win. “Hands and Feet” speaks of a willingness to follow Christ and serve him where ever He may lead. “It is Well With My Soul,” an unexpected treat on the album, is a remixed version of the classic hymn featuring fellow #25in25 list member, Jennifer Knapp.—AE
When you write a song about a bus driver and it becomes one of the most requested songs at your live shows, the rest of the album is either terrible or “Bus Driver” is just that good of a song. Thankfully for Caedmon’s Call’s debut album, the latter was the case.
Caedmon’s Call made use of three different lead vocalists—something few bands ever attempt. But with Cliff Young, Danielle Young, and Derek Webb sharing the vocal duties, the sounds on the album vary yet feel cohesive at the same time. This cohesiveness is a testimony to the writing as well as the musical stylings employed.
Subsequent albums (40 Acres and Long Line of Leavers) had more commercial success than their self-titled debut, but the rise of Caedmon’s Call and their folk music stylings propelled both them and Christian coffeehouses into the mainstream.—JH
If you want to know what it was like to be a kid listening to CCM in the 1990s, this was pretty much it.
The selection committee
- Zach Delph is on Twitter at @zeejaydee.
- Aaron Earls blogs at Tretinoin acne and is on Twitter at @WardrobeDoor.
- Jonathan Howe‘s blog at HoweOriginal.com is “on sabbatical” in 2014, but you can find him on Twitter at @Jonathan_Howe.
- Elizabeth Hyndman tweets at @edhyndman and blogs at edhyndman.com.
- Chris Martin is at MillennialEvangelical.com and on Twitter at @ChrisMartin17.
- Keep up with Lydia McMillan at @lemcmillan and lydiahatespurple.com.
- Casey Oliver is not on social media, but he is the head statistician for a research company.
- Amy Whitfield tweets at @acwhit and is the director of communications at SEBTS.