You can tell a lot about a person by the books they read, the shoes they wear, the laugh they have and the music they listen to. That’s just the truth. I am always giddy to foist my booklists upon people because of a misplaced zeal—my books are elements of my person; books are relational beings almost! And naturally, in the same way that we want to introduce our family to our meaningful lovers or friends, bibliophiles want to introduce loved ones to their important books. All good books should be good to all good people.
Music… now there is something entirely different. The unique tastes of people get a lot more leeway with me. I mean, if you don’t appreciate Bach’s Goldberg Variations or Mozart’s Piano Sonatas, I don’t know how to have a conversation with you; those things exist outside of time and space almost. But outside of that, you’re free to jam to Adele or Johnny Cash or Pearl Jam. No matter to me.
But Christian music is something else… a sort of contrived category of the same five chords, hook, and emotional exploitation that seems to sound all the same.
I mean… I love Jesus too. But there’s something very saccharine about creating an entire radio channel of good looking, pearly white people singing His glory. Art is art. And the truest artists aren’t categorical to one subject alone (I mean… the classic composers could do Catholic Mass settings and also rage about lost pennies too without feeling like they deviated from their musical identity).
In my opinion… the best ‘praise and worship’ music should strive to be excellent art first. If musicians happen to be Christian and that is reflected in their lyrics… awesome! But if they strive to be a “Christian musician” primarily… I feel like this is a disordered expression of gifts. That’s not to say I ‘judge’ all Christian musicians as frauds or cheapskates— truly, they’re probably doing the best they know how with what they’ve got! But the sound? That unmistakable contemporary Christian sound? It’s just not my thing…
Truth be told. I can barely stand most contemporary Christian music. I know that sounds awful, but categorically, maybe it’s the way people feel about country music. As a whole, some people loathe it, as it is usually so single-minded in its sound and theme… but occasionally, there’s a standout.
We all have our standouts in most genres.
I wanted to share my favorite “Christian music” here. Because the list is pretty limited compared to my wonderful other curated playlists of folk, fiddle, rock and classical music etc…
I made this playlist when I was at the height of my marital trauma. I needed someone to have words for me, when I had no words and when nothing made sense. These musicians did that for me. I have since added to it here and there. Some of these songs are definitely of the ‘typical contemporary Christian’ sound that you are free to dismiss. Others are the plight of the human spirit in verse… so listen up! It is still music I turn on when my heart hurts or when I need to jam while making supper and not worry about my children overhearing the lyrics.
… So, entirely subjective and a million other disclaimers, I call this list “Healing” and I love it. I organized them into sections for you to laugh at or love. (As a general rule, I usually hate music videos, and I’ve not SEEN most of these but YouTube links are convenient.)
When Nothing Makes Sense:
“Where I Belong” by Building 429
“Sweet Simplicity” by Brother Isaiah
“Rest” by Matt Maher
“Carry Me” by Jenny and Tyler
“Trust in You” by Lauren Daigle
“Your Grace is Enough” Matt Maher
To Raise the Volume All the Way Up and Scream into the Void Like a Crazy Person:
“Taste and See” by Shane and Shane
“Psalm 46” by Shane and Shane
“Jacob’s Song” by Brother Isaiah
To Fight Fear
“No Longer Slaves” by Bethel Music
“Mighty Fortress” by Matt Maher
“Safe” by Phil Wickham
“Back Home” JJ Heller
I Just Love Him and Desperately Need Him
“Tender Remedy” by Brother Isaiah
“How He Loves” by David Crowder Band
“Champion” by Alanna Boudreau
“Lord, I Need You” by Matt Maher
“Fortunate Fall” by Audrey Assad
“Jesus Lover of my Soul” by Fernando Ortega
“Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns
“I’ll Keep On” by NF (featuring Jeremiah Carlson— love his voice— who incidentally, I went to school with… used to play the game RISK at his house with him, some friends and his savvy father— good times…)
“Praise You in this Storm” by Casting Crowns
Claim Me, Jesus
“Love Song for the Bride” by Brother Isaiah
“Spoken For” by Mercy Me
“You Say” by Lauren Daigle
“Remind Me Who I Am” by Jason Gray (*nota bene: I actually love this video)