year end review
CBN.com's Best Contemporary Christian
Albums of 2004
By Jennifer E. Jones
After much research, listening, debate, and threats of a possible
mutiny, CBN.com highlights the best Christian music released in
2004. It was a year for debut albums and musical risk-taking.
Revolting against the pop worship trend of last year, some of
the artists got radical with their adoration. Certain sounds matured
while others continued to hit perfection right on target. Here
is the best that 2004 had to offer:
When founding member Derek Webb left Caedmon’s Call in 2003
to go solo, people wondered where the group would go from there.
Needless to say, there is nothing to worry about. On the tail
end of mission trips in Brazil and India, Cliff and Danielle Young
and friends took away more than souvenirs. An essence of the cultures
is caught in every song on Share the Well. This world
music sound turns the album into an international adventure with
great songs such as “There’s Only One (Holy One)”.
The void left by Jennifer Knapp’s hiatus was barely felt
this year if you picked up a copy of Bethany Dillon’s self-titled
debut. She earns brownie points for being a fantastically talented
singer/songwriter at the tender age of 15. On the album, Dillon
looks at her spiritual journey through young but mature eyes.
She struggles with her body image in “Beautiful” and
writes a sacred love song in “For My Love”. A bold
cover of Amy Grant’s “Lead Me On” could convince
any critic that this youngster will be around for a while.
by Relient K
If you love this Gotee Records release, you’re not alone.
These boys moved 51,000 copies of mmhmm within its first
week - - challenging veteran Michael W. Smith’s new album.
And with the no. 1 rock hit “Be My Escape,” Relient
K upped the ante. Their maturity shines through their fourth album,
while their tongue-in-cheek humor still keeps you laughing.
by James Clay
At 22 years old, Clay saw more troubles than most of us could
imagine. But he took his turbulent youth and turned it into pure
musical magic. James Clay is a rarity -- both eclectic and enrapturing.
He mixes rock and reggae while lyrically pushing you closer to
what it means to truly thirst after righteousness. The cover of
The Call’s “I Still Believe” kicks the album
in high gear along with “One at a Time” and the radio
pop hit “Franklin Park”.
By Sara Groves
Arguably, one of the most underrated singer/songwriters in Christian
music today, Sara Groves dug deep for her fourth album. The
Other Side of Something offers her quizzical view of living
life between the simple and the divine. Songs such as “The
Boxer” and “Jeremiah” are lyrically dense and
will have you putting this album on repeat. Simply listen to the
third track, “Compelled”, where she writes a personal
mantra, “What a relief it is to know / I’m a slave
to Christ / Of all the masters I have known / I’m compelled
to live this life.”
We can’t always define success by crossing over into the
mainstream but a group that seamlessly spans both secular and
Christian charts deserves some recognition. Pillar first caught
national attention with 2003’s Fireproof, a fusion
of rap metal. This year, without a hint of compromise, Where
Do We Go From Here emphasized the rock and tackled tough
issues like pornography. The combination pushed them to the top
of the charts with the big crossover hit “Bring Me Down”.
by Rachel Lampa
Sigh. They grow up so fast. Formerly Christian music’s pop
princess, Rachel Lampa tossed her crown and co-wrote the lyrics
on this album. Adequately self-titled, Rachel Lampa offers up
an introspective look into her emotional, spiritual, and musical
maturity. Rachel Lampa has everything from Top 40 to R’n’B
as well as high-profile duets with T-Bone and Robert Randolf and
the Family Band.
by Third Day
They’ve done it again. After riding the worship wave with
Offering II in 2003, Mac Powell and the boys are back
to their earthy rock music roots with an album that plays just
as easily in a church as it could in a bar. Songs such as “Come
on Back to Me” and “You are Mine” keep their
Christ-centered message pure and their music consistently appealing.
As top ten hit “I Believe” creeps into mainstream
radio, Third Day remains true to their call to deliver the gospel
to the everyday person.
This city on a hill cannot be hidden and neither can the producer/rapper
talents of phenomenon tobyMac. Welcome to Diverse City
erases all the genre and color lines, and the result is a blend
of eclectic, electric grooves. As if tracks like “The Slam”
and no. 1 smash “Gone” aren’t enough, reuniting
dcTalk for the remix bonus track “Atmosphere” alone
makes this album priceless.
by Sarah Kelly
If you love worship, then you have something in common with Gotee
Records newcomer, Sarah Kelly. She’s neither soft-spoken
nor subtle about being hopelessly in love with Jesus. Her Grammy
nominated Take Me Away is reckless praise with an acoustic
edge. And that voice… raspy and earnest, she gives a grittiness
to songs that are already amplified. She says it all in “Living
Hallelujah” -- “I was born to worship.”
Owe You by KiKi Sheard
Nothing by Further Seems Forever
Sleeper Hit of 2004
by Mat Kearney
Kearney is what you might call a late-bloomer. Bullet
was released in October but didn’t start making waves until
late November. He trailed similar artists like Paul Wright and
Shawn McDonald in the fledgling hip-hop/folk genre and, at first
glance, you might have passed on Kearney as another white guy
who raps. However, you’d be missing out on a goldmine of
lyrical ambition. Bullet pierces through pop semantics
to the core - - God is faithful, even when you’re unsure.
Kearney’s honesty and the ease of his flow makes him the
guy next door… except much more talented.
Best Collection of 2004 (tie)
by Amy Grant
by Sixpene None
Let’s take a trip back to when pop was pure. The 90s were
kind to Sixpence None the Richer and Amy Grant. Both saw tremendous
crossover success and No. 1 hits. “Kiss Me” made Sixpence
a house-hold name, and Heart in Motion kept Grant in
perpetual rotation on MTV. Although Sixpence announced their disbanding
at the beginning of this year and Grant went back to doing gospel
pop, we can still reminisce with these classic collections.
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