A List of Dubious Distinction

CCM Magazine had presented a list of the top 100 Contemporary Christian Music albums of all time a few years back. In case you missed the list I’ve reproduced the top twenty to give you some idea as to the content:

  1. Amy Grant, Lead Me On
  2. Larry Norman, Only Visiting This Planet
  3. Rich Mullins, A Liturgy, A Legacy & A Ragamuffin Band
  4. Mark Heard, Second Hand
  5. Keith Green, For Him Who Has Ears To Hear
  6. U2, The Joshua Tree
  7. Rich Mullins, The World As Best As I Remember It, Volume 1
  8. Leslie Phillips, The Turning
  9. dc Talk, Free At Last
  10. BeBe & CeCe Winans, Different Lifestyles
  11. Russ Taff, The Way Home
  12. Tonio K, Unchained Romeo
  13. Randy Stonehill, Welcome To Paradise
  14. dc Talk, Jesus Freak
  15. Charlie Peacock, Love Life
  16. Bob Dylan, Slow Train Coming
  17. Michael Omartian, White Horse
  18. Steve Taylor, Meltdown
  19. Sixpence None The Richer, Sixpence None The Richer
  20. Phil Keaggy, Crimson and Blue

I have only 3 of the top 20 albums on this list and only 15 of the top 100 despite an extensive collection in this genre. CCM is by and large run and operated by secular labels due to the popularity of this musical genre in the United States. There are some who write scathing reviews of CCM as a concept and a business segment. Consider the following comments from D. Marty Lasley of American Wasteland:

I loathe the very notion, the concept, the enterprise, that takes one of the creative arts–like music–and consciously dedicates itself to forming an exclusive club of artists bound by certain narrow, ridged parameters. After they’re bound and gagged, then they’re put to the grindstone by cruel, greedy taskmasters to prefab a product for a boneheaded, niche audience. That’s the formula for artistic mediocrity, and the road most traveled by the secular musical industry.

Alas, the recipe for mediocrity has also been enthusiastically embraced by the contemporary Christian music industry and sanctioned by their official sycophant–CCM. What makes the CCM industry more repulsive to me than the secular music industry is the fact that CCM follows in lock goose-step the trends and tastes of the secular industry. If a vocal group of four midget yodelers burst onto the scene and sold a million CDs for Columbia Records, bet the house that within six months Myrrh or Sparrow will have themselves an agape knockoff midget yodeling band. Mediocrity is tolerable, but copycatting mediocrity isn’t.

You can read his full article here. But be warned… he is not a fan of CCM. I have a different view in that much of the CCM content is very well produced and very competitive with the secular industry in terms of overall quality. The underlying business model is certainly a primary factor. At the end of the day CCM is in business to make money.

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