Hip-Hop, Music and Worship, Pop Music, Rock

The 10 Kitschiest Christian Songs

Covering the best and worst of the music world.

The 1980’s and 90’s were an era where Christian music flourished in various pop music genres, from metal to country and rock to hip-hop, yet it was also a time of some of the kitschiest Christian music ever created. Christian artists were trying to create music that was “safe for the whole family” and in the process made some of the blandest, uninspired and theologically shallow music ever. Additionally, some musicians were trying too hard to be hip and cool but failing miserably (i.e. Carman). While the level of kitsch in the Christian music world has toned down a bit, there are still a good number of CCM artists who produce music that is lacking in depth and quality. However, some of the responsibility for a vanilla Christian music lies with CCM record companies, who encourage a certain type of watered-down sound so that the artists’ songs will be guaranteed airplay on Christian radio. What musicians, record companies and Christian radio fail to realize is that the gospel is a dangerous message and the bible is not safe for the whole family. This is why Jesus warns about the familial cost in following him in Matthew 10:34-37 and Luke 12:51-53, where families are torn apart because of the gospel. The Indian man who wrote I Have Decided to Follow Jesus had a keen understanding of the dangerous act of following Jesus because his family abandoned him when he became a Christian. When Christian musicians create music that is tame, overly cheerful and inoffensive, the radical message of the gospel loses its power. Let’s continue the conversation, do you agree with the choices below? What other songs would you add?

Newsboys – The Breakfast Song
Best known for its theologically deep statement, “They don’t serve breakfast in hell.” Also one of the worst examples of commercialization in Christian music.

 


Audio Adrenaline – Big House
A band trying too hard to be cool and telling everyone that heaven is where you get to pig out and play football all day. What?!?!? I do not remember that picture of heaven in the bible.

 


Rick Cua – Young Boy, Young Girl
Encouraging teenagers to “wait until marriage” with the lyric, “Young boy, young girl. True lovers respect each other. Well, it ain’t easy, but please believe me, there’s all the time in the world.” I highly doubt this moved any teenager to wait for their spouse. Thank goodness the gospel is greater than this sad attempt at moralism.

 


Amy Grant – El Shaddai
Amy Grant sang this song. Enough said.

 


Michael W. Smith – Place In This World
Unfortunately, this song crossed over to adult contemporary radio and pretty much says nothing. No Jesus, no gospel, only a lost wandering soul looking for his “place in this world.”

 


Sandy Patty – Love in Any Language
Her biggest hit and full of syrupy schlock, plus the sign language is a nice touch. She did say love in any language.

 


Sandy Patty – How Majestic
Another Sandy Patty hit that is super cheesy.

 


Carman – Satan Bite the Dust
Carman’s spoken word song is plain horrible and could it be the music video is worse than the movie Troll 2? Worst line: “Cause I represent a whole new breed of Christian of today and I’m authorized and deputized to blow you clean away.” Someone did not read Jude 1:8-10.

 


Rich Mullins – Awesome God
Contains one of the oddest lyrics in Christian music history, “When he rolls up his sleeves he ain’t just putting on the ritz.” Ritz? Really? You could not think of a better word that rhymes with “fists”?

 


Carman – Who’s in the House
Carman’s foray into hip-hop, which created a controversy because he called Jesus, J.C. Also, a middle-aged white man rapping is never a good thing. Quite possibly the worst example of musical gentrification.

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16 thoughts on “The 10 Kitschiest Christian Songs

  1. Kenny says:

    Thanks… I grew up in the Church, in the Bible belt, so these songs brought back some good and bad memories… haha! I would first like to say that I I do agree that many of these songs wee CHEESY and doctrinally off base, however (can’t believe I am about to say this) I think it served a purpose. I saw people’s heart soften and come to repentance listening to Carman as awful and cheesy as it is. Also, for a young kid who wasn’t allowed to listen to secular music THANK GOD for Audio A and the Newsboys or I would have been reduced to listening to Sandi Patty and Amy Grant. For the record Michael W. Smith’s “Go West Young Man” was my first tape I ever officially owned. There were bands like Delirious?, the Waiting and Smalltown Poets who had better music in that time era. 10 yrs from now we’ll be adding songs like John Mark Mcmillan’s “How He Loves Me” to the list i.e. “… sloppy wet kiss…” Seriously? Anyways it was fun stroll down memory lane….Thanks again.

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  2. Matthew Linder says:

    Kenny,

    I feel like Christian music is becoming better and better over time. While those early experiments trying to emulate secular music might not have always worked out they at least tried to move Christian music into the modern era. I mean how long could we really stay on the cutting edge of 17th century organ music and expect people to be engaged with worship? There were some good bands during the 1990’s and I really liked a lot of the bands on Tooth and Nail records. Living Sacrifice and many other Christian metal bands of the era were on par with their secular peers musically. In regards to the song “How He Loves Me,” I agree. That line is super weird.

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  5. Including “Breakfast in Hell” on this list? You missed the point…that song is MEANT to be kitchy…not to mention fun and clever for younger Christians. Music like that kept my daughter engaged in christian music and gave us something to sing loudly together in the car . Ever been to a Newsboys show? That was an anthem for teens and youth groups. AND, its also a clever piece of songwriting.

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  6. Amy Grant may have sung “El Shaddai,” but Michael Card wrote it. I think you’d agree he’s written some fine material. My main gripe with the song is its repetitive tune, but the lyrics are solid.

    Rich Mullins himself didn’t like the song “Awesome God,” so it’s unfortunate that that particular song got pigeon-holed into the shallow worship tunes market. Mullins himself was one of America’s great songwriters. But even in “Awesome God” I think he had some good ideas. For example, I don’t think that second verse is very wussy. “Judgment and wrath he poured out on Sodom/Mercy and grace he gave us at the cross.” Don’t know about you but I haven’t heard another worship song that mentions judgment OR Sodom. That part is always cut though. Can’t think why…

    As a general point, my humple op is most of these artists don’t deserve to be on any list next to Carman, except maybe the Newsboys or Michael W. in a really cheesy moment (“PITW” isn’t even his cheesiest).

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    • Carman is the king of cheese for sure. I think my point overall was the quality of the music and not always the lyrical content of the songs. Although some of the lyrics as I pointed out are a bit silly.

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  7. Bob Beste says:

    I would tend to agree with your selections and many more ran through my mind especially given the artists that you mentioned. I would have to throw in some of the more recent (last 5 years) released by say Kutless and even the foreray by Petra in to the “we have to make a worship album” crowd. Carman’s songs helped kids to actually use their imagination when a video game or new app for your phone didn’t give you the picture that the words were painting. I would have to say that even Stryper back in the day had a song or 2 that was more general ballad or bubble gum than it was creative genius for depth. I think another thing to consider is how many people that these songs did speak to and how, in a time of need, they brought them closer to God than say the song “Monster” by Skillet. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy hard rock, metal, edgy music and would love to find a station that played Love and Death, Skillet, Red, The Letter Black, Fireflight and the likes but that’s not what “christian radio” is catering to. When we lived in San Antonio, Texas back in 1992 – 1994 (I am 46) I called KLOVE to speak with them about their lack of programming diversity and was told “we are playing to the 20 – 4- year old mothers market”. I don’t think they have ever changed although they seem to be getting bigger. I will stop here. This is my first time reading and responding, I will be back.

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    • You are right, these songs did speak to some people but I just happened to not be one of them. I fall more in line with you in musical style but many people have fond memories of these songs. My biggest issue is the quality of the music to me is second-rate compared to all my other listening choices. The other issue is the theology of some of these songs (not all) especially the Carman songs.

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  8. I don’t quite see the problem with ‘How majestic’…? It’s an 80’s worship song.. words are good, it’s singable.. you don’t have to do it with synths. (I wonder what Kings’ Kaleidoscope could do with it?!)
    I think the chorus of ‘Awesome God’ is, well.. awesome, especially when being belted out by 150 young guys on Boys’ Brigade camp ( even without the suspect line about the Ritz, the verse just isn’t singable for a congregation )

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    • Matthew Linder says:

      I would be interesting to hear Kings Kaleidoscope cover “How Majestic”. I especially love their version of “In Christ Alone”.

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      • Bob Beste says:

        I think that AndrewF hit it be it on purpose or accident. Many of the artist came from “traditional” houses of worship where the songs were written, including notes for instrument as well as vocal’s so that the masses of people listening would take them back to their churches and sing them as part of worship. Much of the “rock” music with Christian lyrics would not be related in forms of worship sings in church because it would not be considered “mainstream” or “normal”. I have played several music video’s between services and after services by Skillet, Red, The Letter Black and Fireflight to name a few that many of the “seasoned” church attenders did not care for by any stretch. Yet i would wonder if I slowed the music down or changed the tune slightly but kept the same words if they would see how creative and worshipful the songs really are. Sorry for the rabbit trail, but there it is.

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  9. Um, plenty of these songs are silly — and come from an era when I paying attention to CCM even less than I do today. But, if you’re expecting every song to include specific references to Jesus and the Gospel — perhaps spelling out the whole Gospel in every bit of art? — then the Psalms themselves fail. Nothing in Scripture itself says every Christian song must be a self-contained Gospel presentation, rather than also exploring an aspect of Christian behavior while presuming hearers either know the Gospel context or will be inspired to go and find it. “This is anti-Gospel” is a fine reason to critique a Christian song. But “not enough specific Gospel” is not sufficient reason. And in fact, it leads to lack of God-glorifying, Gospel-exploring and Gospel-driven creativity in Christian hymn- and song-writing, and art altogether.

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