Christian music encompasses such loosely related genres as gospel, spiritual, ecclesiastical, soul, R&B, rock and roll, pop, and even hip-hop. Widely used to spread The Word, Christian music has been packaged into all manner of musical genres, the wider the appeal, the more effective the message.
Contemporary Christian music (CCM) marks one of the most successful forays into mainstream music. Historically Christian music has been stiffly compartmentalized. Overtly preachy lyrics that ferment in folksy acoustics have failed to widely convert. But thanks to malleability of alternative rock, and youth-centric bands such as Jars of Clay, Creed, and Life House, the new message has been delivered in a much more upbeat, palatable style. Alt-rock bands criss-cross the line between CCM and mainstream, heralding a new relationship with listeners. ‘Positive hits” attract newcomers everyday. Lyrics that have won converts underscore themes of confusion, forgiveness, sin, and ultimately messages of human redemption, but are strictly sans the preachy go-to-church message inherent in hard-line Christian music ranks.
Hip-hop and R&B styles have similarly drawn a number of CCM artists whose message is downright catchy and infectious. Toby Mac and dc Talk, both spin a palatable Christian message into smooth, silky blends of soul, R&B and hip-hop tracks that have converted even more listeners.
Inspirational marketing though has helped with promotion of the CCM movement. Christian rock festivals like Lifest and Shout Fest seek to emulate the success of rock’s Lollapalooza, Summerfest, and Ozzfest. Such large-scale CCM venues appeal to youth in search of music that explores their angst and search for meaning at the same time it avoids violence and doom. CCM festivals also encourage healthy socialization and provide a platform for prayer and praise.
CCM goes beyond the crossovers, though. Legions of Christian listeners subscribe to the music of artists uninterested in going mainstream, artists such as Chris Tomlin and Jeremy Camp that stick to songs of praise packaged into a distinctly folk format. Here music tends toward the acoustic side, a soft rock with contemplative overtures and passion. Lyrics explore personal grief and loss, worship, and spiritual searching.