Music: Where's the Gospel?
Amy Grant's latest album has thrown the Contemporary Christian Music industry into a first-rate identity crisis.
December 8, 1997
Behind the Eyes, by Amy Grant (Myrrh Records, cd, $16.98). Reviewed by William D. Romanowski, professor of communication arts and sciences at Calvin College and author of Pop Culture Wars: Religion and the Role of Entertainment in American Life (InterVarsity).
It has been 20 years since Amy Grant first burst onto the contemporary Christian music (CCM) scene. Since then she has garnered five Grammys and 22 Dove Awards, has been named Artist of the Year four times, and has seen her 14 albums sell over 20 million copies worldwide. More than any other CCM artist, this "Michael Jackson of gospel music" has come to embody the ideals and complexities, hopes and frustrations of the evangelical popular music industry.
Grant's newest release, Behind the Eyes, comes as no surprise given the course of her career since Unguarded (1985), the first of her albums to be distributed jointly by CCM label Myrrh in the evangelical market and A&M in the mainstream market. Previous "crossover" projects, however, had made at least some mention of God or Jesus. The complete absence of explicitly Christian lyrical content on Behind the Eyes has renewed a debate in the CCM industry about what constitutes Christian music.
While a reviewer in CCM Magazine (the Rolling Stone of the gospel industry) called Behind the Eyes "definitely faith-revealing," a music buyer for religious stores countered, "It's not a Christian album. A Christian album should be clear on the person of Christ, and these lyrics are not." Trying to avoid confusion (or perhaps deflect criticism) concerning the album, a CCM notice alerted religious radio programmers: "As far as the lyrical content is concerned, there's no evangelical bent, no mention of God. If the music you play has to ...