It's 1999, folks. As we prepare for our ascent into the next millennium, let's stop for a moment and take a look at where Christian music is headed for 2000. It certainly has changed over the past decade, as a recent video from Forefront reminded me. The company, which recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, put out a retrospective video of the label, featuring label founders Eddie DeGarmo and Dan Brock as well as Forefront acts DC Talk, Considering Lily and the Newsboys. The video featured interviews and video clips spanning from DeGarmo & Key's classic "666" to the recent "Entertaining Angels" from the Newsboys' excellent new release. Christian videos sure have come a long way, folks, and I'm grateful for that! (Interestingly enough, after the video was released Degarmo and Brock announced that they are resigning from the Forefront label.) CCM as a whole is entering the technology age as its presence grows on the Internet and radio stations experiment with cybercasting. Who knows what's next?
Musically, CCM has grown more diverse as well - although there is still a great deal of room for improvement! Touches of world music have entered the homogenized Nashville world of CCM in the form of such groups as Worldwide Message Tribe and Christafari. The lines have blurred considerably, too, between "Christian" and "secular" music, as artists like Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Jars of Clay and DC Talk charted on Christian and secular radio. This trend seems to be continuing and growing as CCM moves forward and groups like The W's, MxPx and Burlap To Cashmere show they have appeal with audiences across the board.
More women have entered the arena, too, and have started to make tentative steps toward a bolder message and place in Christian music. Artists like Rebecca St. James, Julie Miller, Ashley Cleveland, Margaret Becker and Sarah Jahn have given a new voice and texture to Christian music, and I heartily hope this trend continues through and beyond the year 2000. (Isn't it about time some grrls got together and put out a Christian album?)
Lyrically, Christian music has started to grow up a bit as well. There seems to be a much greater authenticity to the gentle questioning of DC Talk's Jesus Freak than in some of their earlier work such as Nu Thang, for example. As this decade has proved, no one is safe from tragedy or scandal and the searching lyrics of Christian artists help to light the path in a dark world.
Finally, though it was way too long in coming, CCM industry people realized that there was this whole untapped market called alternative music they'd been ignoring and started to sign more and more alternative artists, which (let us hope!) will continue to be a trend. Artists such as Derri Daugherty, Steve Hindalong, Steve Taylor, Mike Roe and Gene Eugene led the way with enthusiastic but too-small audiences throughout the Eighties and Nineties, but it took the breakthrough power of Jesus Freak to finally make the labels sit up and take notice. As a result, bands like Third Day, JOC, Audio Adrenaline, Supertones, Burlap To Cashmere, Danielson and Plumb have found a place in an industry that might not have been so open to them just a few years back.
Let's face it: Christian music is just not as neat and marginalized as it once was, which has both positive and negative ramifications for the genre. While it grows in popular acceptance, it risks becoming watered down into something other than Christian music. It will be interesting to watch what happens to the music as more and more diverse influences enter into its sphere and to think what we might be calling CCM in the year 2010.