The Christian crossover phenomenon is a unique one indeed. But the line is very wide and very, very grey, so we need to set some parameters immediately:
This list consists of bands that have been played on both Christian and mainstream radio stations and have sold music in Christian bookstores.
The bands don’t necessarily have to say they’re Christians — but they have to be associated somehow with the “Christian market” (hence the omission of bands like Creed, Coldplay, and OneRepublic, who have never seen radio play in the Christian circles)
Artists don’t have to “continue” with their Christian marketing. This eliminates any argument about how “Christian” a band is. Some artists get airplay outside of the Christian market, yet are still included on Christian radio stations.
However, outright shunning of associating with Jesus eliminates them from the list (Evanescence and Chevelle come to mind: both bands found themselves on Christian charts, but publicly avoided the stigma–both were soon removed from the Christian store shelves)
This guy explains everything else:
How did I compile this list? Math, of course.
There are three factors that determined rank:
– Bandwagon: Christian markets love to say “mine” to popular artists, even if the religious undertone is remote. The more far-reaching this is, the higher they’re ranked.
– ChristCreds: Every artist loves to give a shout-out to the Big Man at the Grammys, but the truly faithful ones will talk about God in their lyrics, vaguely or otherwise. Some even say “Jesus”. Furthermore, public confessions of faith are factored in.
– Sellin’ Out: The most calculable way to determine success is record sales. This removes bias about “quality” — obviously, people believe some bands are better than others. I took cumulative record sales and divided it by the number of albums. I thought it would create problems with some of the artists that peaked and fell, but it actually worked out nicely.
I created quotients from all three of these categories, and this is what popped out. So, behold, the 15 greatest Christian crossover acts.
They toured with some of the best hard rock bands in the mainstream market, yet retained their Christian values on a public scale. Their extreme genre helped in intangible ways — keeping them off the big Christian stations in particular.
14) Owl City
His song “Fireflies” is a whimsical, light-hearted, and completely unspiritual song. But he’s written others that are pretty blatantly worshipful in nature.
13) Relient K
The core of their success came from “MmHmm” (featuring “Be My Escape” and “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been”) and “Five Score And Seven Years Ago” (featuring “The Best Thing” and “Must Have Done Something Right”), all making it to mainstream stations at some point. Their Christian roots are undeniable, and their lyrics attest to it.
12) Jars of Clay
These guys were on MTV. MTV!! In 1996.
11) Stacie Orrico
When Stacie went pop, CCM gasped a little. But it worked for her, and she rolled out some excellent sales for being a relatively unknown pop artist.
Air1 is still playing a handful of tracks from their successful “The Beautiful Letdown” album. The mainstream has moved on.
Skillet has been working hard to get noticed for a long time. It’s starting to work. Touring with high profile bands and getting high debuts on the Billboard charts help. So does having two chicks .
8) Kirk Franklin
Mr. Franklin should be called the godfather of gospel, which sounds a bit idolatrous. I’m sure every hip-hop artist has at least one of his soulful tracks or compilations under their beds.
They beat Paramore to the punch with the whole edgy chromatic-haired frontgirl, and Flyleaf has the spiritual tone that the other lacks. While they’re a little funny about their definition of being a “Christian band”, you can’t ignore their incredible talent and profoundly worshipful songs.
It’s pretty clear that Daughtry uses Christian metaphors in their lyrics, and they get hits charted on the Christian radio ranks. I call no foul.
What is “Hanging By A Moment” really about? I know. But Jason Wade won’t tell ya. So they sell more records, and Christians are kept guessing.
Abbreviating their moniker to shirk the possibility of seeming too dogmatic, these pioneers of Christian nu-metal surprised everyone with their remarkable talent, and at least one person on every one of their YouTube videos have written, “Those guys are Christians??”
3) dc Talk
“Jesus Freak” remains their only mainstream hit, but their impact on Christian music is undeniable, bridging the message of Jesus and the sound of awesome for the first time. They were so talented, in fact, that all three of their members are now heads of highly successful Christian acts.
2) The Fray
These guys have done something clever: be talented and write incredible songs while making a stand for Jesus. Wait, hasn’t someone else done this before? Well, not like The Fray has.
1) Amy Grant
This chick pioneered the crossover move, notoriously going pop as the church wagged its big orthodox finger. She eventually came back, however, and the Christian music market gave her a big hug and said, “OURS.”