In the last 25 years, Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) went from an obscure and often copycat genre of music to one that consistently produces quality artists known beyond Christian audiences.
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
- #6-10 – Caedmon’s Call, Audio Adrenaline, Sixpence None The Richer, NEEDTOBREATHE, MercyMe
- #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. Tweet about the list using the hashtag #25in25.
There might be more musically sophisticated music out there, but you’d be hard pressed to find music that is more fun to listen to than Relient K’s. Who doesn’t love the occasional flashback to watching Thundercats or hoping that cute girl in your high school is interested in you? And somehow, in the middle of these seemingly juvenile punk-rock songs, they find a way to communicate about spiritual longing, the hypocrisy they see in the church and in themselves, and especially the hope found in Jesus.
From the goofy playfulness of “Sadie Hawkins Dance” and “I’m Lion-O” to the soul-lifting power of “For the Moments I Feel Faint” and “Less is More,” The Anatomy of Tongue in Cheek perfectly captures the joys of listening to this fun-loving group!—CO
Let’s clear the air and identify the elephant in the room right out of the gate: Michael W. Smith’s Go West Young Man is adorned with what has to be the most 90s album art the world has ever known.
Released 23 days before I was even born, Go West Young Man is really known for one song and one song only: “Place in this World.” I remember listening to this song when I was a kid, gazing deeply into the Midwestern sky, wondering what God’s plan was for my life.
Not really, but it is still a catchy song.—CM
2008’s Rebel was Lecrae’s first album to chart in the Billboard 200. 2012’s Church Clothes mixtape brought him to the attention of mainstream listeners and Gravity won a Grammy and sold more albums than any other Christian hip-hop album in history. But in 2010, Rehab elevated the Houston-born, Atlanta-based rapper to the forefront of the growing “Reformed Rap” movement and into the consciousness of millions of listeners.
Rehab challenged the idea that a Christian could never deliver a rap album with the highest levels of production, powerful beats, along with theologically-sound lyrics delivered in a creative manner. It even shocked the mainstream hip-hop world by outselling rap icon Dr. Dre, who released an album the same day as Rehab. Hard-hitting rap songs like “40 Deep” and “New Shalom” coexist perfectly with the hit pop rap song “Background.” As the latest Lecrae highly anticipated album, Anomaly, is set to drop next month, listeners can look back to Rehab as the one to turn the corner.—AE
Likely one of very few, if not the only, albums ever produced which opens and closes with an acapella version of the same song, Kansas broke the mold of what CCM music was in the late 90s—especially for women. Jennifer Knapp went from playing coffee shops in the Midwest to opening for the biggest acts in the industry almost overnight.
Knapp was no pop clone of Amy Grant or Point of Grace. She single-handedly carved out a space for female singer-songwriters in CCM and did so with an album that sold more than half a million units, featured multiple number one hits, and won her a pair of Dove awards.
Though she exited the CCM scene in 2002, Kansas remains one of the best albums of the last 25 years with a sound that holds up to this day and lyrics that are filled with passion and poetry. Knapp’s current theological beliefs may put her at odds with many in evangelicalism, but on this we can agree: Kansas was a masterpiece, and Jennifer Knapp will always be a favorite of many, including me.—JH
Picking one album by a group that so exemplified CCM for over a decade was difficult. Arguments could be made for several of their albums. Time is a return to the band’s more southern rock roots. In fact, they said “with Conspiracy No. 5 [their previous album], we were really setting out to prove something. With Time, we just tried to be ourselves.” The personal album features “I’ve Always Loved You” and “Your Love Oh Lord (Psalm 36),” hits that are still sung in worship today.—EH
The video for “Background” features Lecrae and fellow Reach Records artist Andy Mineo.
The selection committee
- Zach Delph is on Twitter at @zeejaydee.
- Aaron Earls blogs at TheWardrobeDoor.com 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.