On Feb. 8 Casting Crowns won a Grammy Award for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album for their second album Lifesong. Winning a Grammy means you are both good and popular. Casting Crowns is definitely popular. Their first album went Platinum (i.e. sold a million copies) within 16 months of its release–making it one of the fastest selling Christian Albums in recent history.
Casting Crowns also happens to be one of my favorite groups. And their popularity actually speaks volumes about Christian Contemporary Music as a whole. Why? Because their songs are not mere Christian fluff dressed up in a popular music style. Their songs convey a deep and thoughtful message that is meant to challenge, provoke, and elicit heart-felt worship. And their songs are really popular for just that reason. In other words, a significant number of CCM fans really care about the message of their songs.
“Bottom line – my hat goes off to Casting Crowns for a job well done, once again. This is one band that doesn’t soft-pedal their message, even if it is one that people enjoying a “comfort-zone” may not want to hear. It’s apparent to me that their incredible popularity isn’t just due to their obvious talent. It’s what I like to call a “God thing.” Think about it … most people don’t want the errors of their ways pointed out to them, yet Casting Crowns does just that. But people flock to see them and hear their music. I believe that’s because God is opening hearts to see the ugly truths about ourselves so that the seeds that Casting Crowns plants have a place to grow.”
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With the announcement of their Grammy Award (winning over the likes of Jars of Clay, Stephen Curtis Chapman, and Michael W. Smith), I felt it would be a good opportunity to highlight some of my favorite songs from their Grammy-winning second album.
Lifesong The title song is a prayer that our life would praise you not just our lips. “Let my Lifesong sing to you”. I blogged about this song in an earlier post, where you can check out the lyrics.
Praise You in This Storm This is a great song which speaks to the problems of unanswered prayer. The solution is “I’ll praise you in this storm…for You are who You are no matter where I am…though my heart is torn I will praise you in this storm.”
Stained Glass Masquerade This song speaks to the typical church-experience: everyone puts on their best clothes and best face to come to church, and no one reveals their deep struggles and problems. We are content to just let church be church and not have our real needs addressed–that would be too risky. But the song says it best:
“…’Cause when I take a look around, everybody seems so strong. I know they’ll soon discover that I don’t belong. So I tuck it all away, like everything’s okay. If I make them all believe it, maybe I’ll believe it too. So with a painted grin, I play the part again, so everyone will see me the way that I see them. Are we happy plastic people under shiny plastic steeples with walls around our weakness and smiles to hide our pain?…But would it set me free if I dared to let you see the truth behind the person that you imagine me to be? Would your arms be open or would you walk away? Would the love of Jesus be enough to make you stay?”
Love Them Like Jesus I cried at least the first 10 times I heard this song. It paints two painful situations, which are all too common in this world: a woman losing her husband with a family still to raise, and a couple losing the baby they had hoped for. How do you face such situations? How do you help people in such situations? The song says “Just love them like Jesus, carry them to Him. His yoke is easy, His burden is light. You don’t need the answers to all of life’s questions, just know that He loves them and stay by their side. Love them like Jesus”. What moves me about this song is how Jesus can offer hope in any troubling situation. And we can offer the hope Jesus has to those who are hurting. It is a lovely song with music that matches the message of the words.
Set Me Free This song, too, wrenches tears from me most of the time when I hear it. It is extremely powerful and moving. The music is harsher to reflect the message. It is the story of the maniac of the Gerasenes (or Gadarenes)–the man who had a legion of demons in him. The song reflects the hopelessness of the man’s situation, and has him crying “Set me free of the chains holding me! Is anybody out there hearing me? Set me free!” The intensity builds through the song, “Who is this man that comes my way? The dark ones shriek, they scream His name. Is this the One they say will set the captives free? Jesus, rescue me! Set me free….” And the climax continues with “As the God man passes by, He looks straight through my eyes, and darkness cannot hide.” Jesus now speaks, “Do you want to be free? Lift your chains I hold the key. All power on Heav’n and Earth belong to me! You are free. You are free…” The song speaks of the greatness of our salvation by highlighting first our great need. All of us were as hopeless as the demoniac without Christ. And then it highlights the glorious power of Christ to set us free. I picture the image of a chained man lifting his chains and crying out “set me free”. But I see the hope that floods his soul as Christ passes by and says “lift your chains, I hold the key!” What a great Savior we have!
There are several other good songs on the CD, but these are my favorites. I encourage you to check out the CD. You can get the whole lyrics to these songs through a simple online search. A biography of the group is available here. And a review of their first album is available here.