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.
Seeing all the growth that has taken place since 1990, we wanted to compile a list of the top 25 Christian albums from then until now.
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
- #11-15 – Third Day, Jennifer Knapp, Lecrae, Michael W. Smith, Relient K
- #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.
Josh Garrels had gained a following through the years, but in 2011 he raised enough support to release Love & War & the Sea In Between as a free download for one year. A multitude of new eyes were opened to his eclectic expression and lyrics. The track “Farther Along” got my attention first, but it hooked me in for more. With an abundance of musical styles and poetic words, I found that I couldn’t stop listening. Christianity Today named it their 2011 Album of the Year, and for good reason. It is a reflection from beginning to end that captures your soul and keeps you coming back again and again.—AW
P.O.D.’s Satellite couldn’t have been released at a more appropriate time. Released on September 11, 2001, Satellite made an immediate impact in both Christian and secular markets. Songs like “Alive”, “Boom” and “Youth of the Nation” hit radio and TV airwaves all over the world, garnering the band continued attention on MTV and secular radio. The album’s positive lyrics and hard-hitting sound struck a chord with listeners, pushing Satellite to become the band’s bestselling album to date.—ZD
I’m weird, in a number of ways, really, but when it comes to music, I have different preferences based on the weather/seasons. I’m pretty strict about what music I play when, depending on the state of the atmosphere.
When Jon Foreman released his Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer albums, I was hooked right away. The four albums fit so clearly into the seasons—I love adding these to seasonal playlists on my iPhone. “House of God, Forever” is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard and was played at the beginning of our wedding ceremony.
All of the EPs, compiled into one album as Limbs and Branches, are dominated by acoustic guitar and Foreman’s voice, with a few brass instruments thrown in here and there. The songs are defined not necessarily by their musical genius or artistic beauty, rather, they are full of profound, reflective thoughts that are emphasized, not overshadowed, by the tunes behind them.—CM
I remember the first time I heard “Hold Me Jesus,” in a pre-concert event at a bookstore, where Rich Mullins played an acoustic guitar to about 20 people sitting around on the floor. This was two years before his death, and I had no idea what I was experiencing. To this day I regret that I didn’t fully take it in.
Rich Mullins gave us the language to express the struggle of not being perfect. This 1993 two-part concept album was just one part of a large impact over the course of a career, but to many who could resonate with the label “ragamuffin” it meant the most. The first half patterned itself after a liturgy with songs like “Creed,” which showcased an amazing reflection of true faith accented by brilliant work on the hammered dulcimer. The second half reflected on our secular heritage with songs like “I’ll Carry On” and “You Gotta Get Up.”
This album received third place in the book CCM Presents: The 100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music. Many would say it deserves that high ranking. I will simply say that each time I play this album and get to “Hold Me Jesus,” the effect of Rich Mullins registers a little more.—AW
There is an entire genre of music built around the Christmas season, and everyone has a favorite holiday album from Nat King Cole to Mariah Carey. But among Christians, the spirit and anticipation of Advent calls for an even more specialized focus. In 2004, Andrew Peterson provided an entire album dedicated to telling the story.
Born out of a live tour that continues to this day every December, this album spends just under 45 minutes proclaiming the Good News. From the first call to “gather round” to the final call to “behold the Lamb of God,” the story simply falls on the ears of the listener. The brilliance of this album is that even with the incredible musical talent and the poetic lyrics, Peterson successfully takes all attention and points it to the story itself. The climactic moment of “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night” gets me every time, when the music builds up and the word “Hallelujah” is the only possible word that could be said. It’s a fitting response to a beautiful proclamation.
The artistry displayed in the career of Andrew Peterson has been vast and much more from him is anticipated, but this particular contribution reaches the heart of all of us who wake up every day with the expectant longing of Advent—a longing that can only be satisfied with “the true tall tale of the coming of Christ.”—AW
CCM Lip Sync Battle
Two members of the selection team, Lydia and Elizabeth, got into the spirit of the countdown and created a lip sync battle using CCM songs.
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.