If you’re like me, you’ve long dreamed of becoming a 90’s Christian rock star. After all, those were the golden days of CCM. I’ve gone on the record many times about how much I love 90’s CCM.
dcTalk wasn’t raising fans’ hopes of a reunion tour, only to mercilessly crush them by announcing a cruise. Jennifer Knapp was still on the official “Okay To Listen To Because She’s Not Gay Yet” list, and the Newsboys still had at least one original member. We also had a fair number of bands who did passable imitations of better, secular bands (see: MxPx).
Ahhh, yes. Those were the days. So how do we create a renaissance of such music? How do we make Christian music great again? We need a bunch of 90’s Christian rock stars…today.
How can you be one of those stars? Here’s your step-by-step guide.
Step #1: Adopt A Unique Look
First things first: you need to look the part. If you’re going to dominate the 90’s, you need to have a style that is part godly, part sexy (in a godly way), and 100% unique.
Steven Curtis Chapman honed a look CCM historians now refer to as “Elegant Mullet”.
Michael W. Smith perfected the “Geometric Power Vest” vibe.
If you’re going to take over the airwaves, you need a look that says, “Hey baby, I’ll lead your Bible study, and then I’ll blow you away with my sweet tunes.”
Step #2: Write Songs That Are Generic Enough To Be Claimed By All Christians At All Times
If you want to be a true 90’s legend, all your music must be Christian enough for the church and just generic enough to not offend anyone in any church, no matter the denomination.
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This is why you never saw any songs titled, “James Dobson Is A Bad Mamma Jamma”.
“Big House” by Audio Adrenaline is a prime example of this musical mastery. Is it about heaven? Is it about being part of God’s family? Is it about the church (God’s house)? We’re not sure, but it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that God has a big yard where we can play football.
“Breakfast” by the Newsboys is another perfect example. Yes…the song is about hell, the place of eternal torment for those who have rejected Christ. But it’s also a poignant reminder that they don’t serve breakfast there, and that’s really the most important thing to remember.
Step #3: Write A Few Songs That Are Straight Up Embarrassing
If you’re truly going to arrive, survive, and thrive (see what I did there?) as a legit 90’s CCM god, you need to pen a few songs that will embarrass you for years to come. These are the songs that haunt your dreams.
Look no further than Carman for proof of this. Despite being a white, middle-aged man who would have done well as a Vegas lounge singer, Carman went all in on the rap trend started by dcTalk, Grits, and similar bands.
His song “Who’s In The House” is a cringe masterpiece, featuring some of the stiffest, Midwestern-est rapping you’ll ever hear. If you plopped a corn famer into a studio and told him to rap, it couldn’t be any worse than this.
Step #4: Write A Song That Will Make Everyone Hate You
Once you’ve firmly established yourself in the hearts and minds of listeners, you need to pen a song that will make Christians question everything about you, including:
- Your salvation and the salvation of everyone you’ve ever known (including your saintly mother)
- Your commitment to being a “Jesus Freak”
- Whether you’re just in it for the money
- Whether it’s acceptable to publicly burn your albums and ask for your public execution
Amy Grant masterfully navigated this step with her song “Baby, Baby”. The music video showed her interacting with a man in ways that Elisabeth Elliot and Joshua Harris would NEVER have approved of. FOR SHAME!
Step #5: Use The Phrase, “We’re not a Christian band, we’re Christians in a band.”
If you play your cards right, someone will inevitably ask you if you’re a Christian band. When that happens, it’s crucial that you pause thoughtfully, as if considering the deep theological implications of the question, and then say, “You know, we’re not really a Christian band, we’re Christians in a band.”
This distinction is just confusing enough to sound profound. It’s like saying you smoke marijuana but don’t inhale.
It also makes it acceptable for Christian kids to boast that they listen to “secular” music to their friends in youth group, which was a powerful way to look more cool than you really were.
Step #6: Sign With Tooth & Nail Records
If you did step 5 correctly, it could lead to signing with Tooth & Nail records, which was the label for bands that liked to push the envelope in every sense of the word.
If you like to throw back a few cold ones on the tour bus and occasionally smoke the wacky tobaccy, this is the label for you. If you’re all about not selling out and preserving the integrity of your sound (whatever that means), this is your home. If you always thought church was kinda lame but you’re down with Jesus, come on over to Tooth & Nail.
Your Stardom Awaits
There hasn’t been a lot to be excited about in CCM in recent years. I mean, the Newsboys are still getting a ton of airplay. We need some fresh blood. Some new stars. Some new, 90’s rockstars.
Will you rise to the challenge? Your path to glory awaits.