10 Christian Rock Songs We Were Listening to While the '90s Happened

This is DC Talk. They are very, very famous.
This is DC Talk. They are very, very famous.

Nirvana means absolutely nothing to me. I'm sorry to have to be so blunt, but that's the only way to put it; as much as I enjoy the songs, and as much as I can intellectually recognize the influence it had on the next decade of popular music, Kurt Cobain did not ever take up residence in my conscience, or my rock-star fantasy life, or my angsty teen self-identity, because I did not live in America. I lived in CCM America.

That's Contemporary Christian Music -- the genre in which Michael W. Smith, who is coming to town early next month, is unspeakably famous. And while the world was doing its best to convince itself that grunge was inherently more thoughtful and less disposable than hair metal, those of us who lived in the Christian Bookstore Alternate Universe had our own totally separate cultural touchstones. Here are 10 of them.

Michael W. Smith - "Place in This World" (1990)

Amy Grant -- who was more or less the Elvis of CCM through the '80s -- had an enormous crossover hit with the unflinchingly secular (and suspiciously chaste, in hindsight) "Baby Baby." This worried CCM fans, who had long since taken to a kremlinology that involved counting mentions of the word Jesus to figure out which artists and bands were strong in the faith and which ones weren't.

"Place in This World" was also an enormous crossover hit -- No. 6 on Billboard's Hot 100--and was actually cowritten by Amy Grant. But because it's about "looking for a reason" and "needing your[-or-maybe-Your] light," and probably also because he never had another secular hit like it, Michael W. Smith soldiered on as a full-fledged member of the CCM alternate universe.

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Those two songs basically form the central question of CCM in the '90s, one that artists would eventually ask over and over again in song: Do you go mainstream? Do you try to replace God with easily discernible pronouns? Or do you leave in the altar calls and work entirely within the Christian bookstore market?

Eventually this would get really, really tiresome.

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