Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Christian Girl-Music

I've never liked BarlowGirl.

On an unrelated topic, I'm a terrible person...

Oh yes, I am. BarlowGirl is a group of Christian sisters with a ministry specifically aimed at encouraging young girls to maintain a high standard of purity, modesty, and love for the Lord. They are catchy, have a positive message, and they actually play their own instruments, you have to like them.

But I don't, and I hate myself for it. Rather, I feel bad for not hating myself for it...

I've tried, really, but Christian female artists always let me down. I did like Rebeccas St James for about a year circa 1997 and, apparently, I was obsessed with the song El Shaddai as a 3 year old (which is just a weird song for a toddler to sing) but aside from Breath of Heaven, since I hit middle school, Christian girl music has been consistently letting me down.

And I have tried.

I tried with Jennifer Knapp (she lasted longer than most)... I'm loving her newest album Letting Go!
and Nicole Nordman...
and Joy Williams...  *update* Joy Williams officially redeemed herself with The Civil Wars, amazing.
and Bethany Dillon...
and Audrey Assad (though I really like her lyrics)...
and Genevieve Falleur (dig that folky vibe)...
and Kari Jobe...
and JJ Heller...

Generally, they'll give me one or two songs that make me say, "Oh, this is nice," and then I get bored. I mean, i'm sure they love Jesus and are He is honored by their ministry and, musically, they're okay, good even. Just...boring.

And before you get mad at me, you think so too! When you suggest a Christian female artist to me it usually goes something like, "try x out, she's pretty good."

Pretty good? Really, that's the standard?

I generally end up hurting or offending really nice people when I admit that "I don't really like x, she's not that great/interesting of a musician/writer," and end up looking like an impossible to please jerk. Well can be kind of a jerk, but I'm not impossible to please.

I can listen to Adele for hours and never stop smiling.

I'm not interested in "pretty good music" that gets a bye in the Christian music scene because it happens to be about about Jesus, not when I can listen to someone with an interesting, creative sound; surprising chord progressions; driving energy; outstanding, clever, deep lyrics; and dynamic vocals. I'm not looking for Avril Lavigne vanilla-pop, I'm looking for an Adele/Fiona Apple/Regina Spektor/Norah Jones/Feist grade female artist.

The only Christian female vocalist who I will happily choose to listen to (presently) is Lacey from Flyleaf. She is (they are) a very talented and creative vocalist and writer. But it's Flyleaf...and sometimes I wanna be happy.

Now I don't think there needs to be a "Christian version" of everything, I certainly don't plan on giving up my love-affair with Adele even if a Jesus-loving alternative comes along, but I'd love to be elevated to musical nirvana by a song about Jesus rather than an ex-boyfriend. And I refuse to believe that there aren't any insanely talented, creative, risk-taking Christian female singer/songwriters out there, especially because I personally know at least two.

To be fair, I really didn't give JJ Heller a fair try is actually pretty cool!

Maybe I'm not being fair here, maybe I am confusing "good" with "indie/singer-songwriter/alternative/baroque-pop." That's not really fair, but I'm frustrated and not feeling particularly fair.

Any other suggestions?

****************PEACE OFFERING***************
Lest I be, again, labeled as impossible to please let me tell you that there are female Christian artists that I enjoy.

I happen to be a huge fan of Brook Fraser's writing for Hillsong United (Desert Song, Hosanna, You'll Come) I was excited to listen to her solo music. I love her perky, fun, and unique sound (I occasionally get a sweet Joni Mitchell vibe!). But her lyrics, while interesting and well written, are sometimes a bit ambiguous on the message. Again, that's totally cool but it doesn't do much to dispel the myth that a girl can't write creative, poetic lyrics explicitly about Jesus.

Actually, Brook has worked pretty hard to keep herself from being categorized as a "CCM artist," which may be why I like her.

(It doesn't hurt that she's a very active supporter of Charity:Water and World Vision)

So there, I've got one! And because I'm feeling generous, I'll share a secret with you.

One of my favorite Christian singer-songwriters (one of the aforementioned "two") is my friend Hannah Jean. She's in the early stages yet, but I'm excited to see the music that she produces as her career grows.


  1. Come to think of it, the only female Christian artist I really like is Amy Grant and it has a whole lot more to do with the fact that I grew up listening to her. I just happen to be in the right age group to be a faithful fan. But no other female artist has drawn me in and captured my attention for very long.

    I've heard of Britt Nicole, but never heard her stuff (at least not that I know of)

  2. I listened to Britt Nicole, great voice and very high energy! She is still a hair too pop-musician to make it onto my "most played" list but she was good. I actually read some more of Audrey Assad's music and while her style is still not my favorite that girl can write some amazing lyrics! JJ Heller has also nudged up a little on the list.

  3. I really like Alli Rogers. Her music is more in storytelling form, which I am usually not a big fan of, but she is genuine. I think I love her so much because she is true to herself...she writes all of her own stuff, and doesn't try to make it sound like something/someone it's/she's not. Ya know what I mean?

  4. P.S...I think her album 'The Day of Small Things' is my favorite of hers.

  5. I wonder if you'd like Carolyn Arends - I especially liked her album "I Can Hear You"

  6. I really love Francesca Battistelli's lyrics, plus she has a really unique and talented voice.

  7. Rebecca I've never heard of Alli Rogers, I'll check her out thanks!


    My friend loaned my Francesci Battistelli's most recent album after I made my post. I thought "This is the Stuff" was pretty cute (it was stuck in my head for like a week!)and "Hundred More Years" was really sweet. I'll check out Carolyn Arends, thanks

  8. Francesca Battistelli's first album "Paper Heart" is better than her recent album and I LOVE Carolyn Arends...her acoustic work is awesome and she is great to see and hear live!

  9. OhMyMom !!

    ARE YOU ME ??
    your post is like someone wrote my mind's ideas :)

  10. "Oh my Mom" < THAT is hilarious, I'm totally stealing it ;) Thanks for saying so, it's nice to know I'm not crazy!

    Who are your favorite female artist (on either side of the Jesus line).

  11. I'm loving Brooke Fraser right now

  12. I like Laura Story a lot, but you might find her a little boring. She does more worship songs. I have her cd Great God who Saves. But, I listen to songs from her newer album Blessings on YouTube.

  13. Just curous.... Is Adele a Christian singer??? Thanks!

  14. Well I am a Christian singer songwriter and recording artist and here is my take on your post. Great Music as a whole is hard to come by. There are very few artists out there secular or Christian that I can to listen to very long as well. Sure everyone has a favorite that does it for them but for the most part we all like a song here and a song there and no matter who you like rarely does an album come along that you can wear out for months. Let's get real here. Tastes in music are like tastes in ice cream. I have fans that have sworn that they have played my music in their CD player for years and I have people that listen to my music and just shrug. So just know that the world of music is just a part of everyone's world or no ones world. Don't take yourself too seriously or your tastes in music. Better to major on the majors than obsess over the minor things in life.

    Love God first and get lost in your relationship with Him and you will find that music is really not worth obsessing over. Enjoying music is just another gift from God that enhances life. Looking for the perfect artist is not worth the time. Find songs that move you towards God and listen to them. Feed on the life of music based on the Word of God and not feelings. Whether or not you find an Christian artist that lights your emotional world on fire will probably not be all that important. While you are at it check out my music at stevewulfeck.com but don't tell me if you hate it...just kidding..:-P

    All us recording artists do our best to express our gifts as well as possible with as much or as little of budget as we can drum up. Once we record our music we have to spend so much time promoting it and doing what we know to do to get it in front of people that it leaves little time to do what we do best which is write and record inspiring music and lyrics. So you wonder why the latest album is not as good as the last one or the first one or whatever one and why can't we write nothing but amazing perfect songs and produce them so they light your emotional fire for years. I wish I could...maybe I will..but if I don't....don't let it ruin your day. Just find a song or two that moves you towards heaven and enjoy it while it lasts..which won't be for very long because we are not wired to be satisfied by anything for very long other than a really deep intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father through His Son Jesus Christ. Blessings

    1. This is lovely sis. Yes, I'm a worship leader/intercessor also and what a relief to just fall into Him! Since I let go of the music, I'm in a much more relaxed place. Seeking His presence daily and basking is His love replaces everything I'd ever cherished! God bless you. we should meet on FACEBOOK?

    2. Like I said, I don't want to diminish your calling or ministry. You don't answer to me after all :) But I would object to the idea that "music is really not worth obsessing over." It's certainly not going to ruin my relationship with God, but it matters to me. Music is a huge part of that relationship. I love driving in the car, listening to Phil Wickham or Kim Walker (weird worship-chuckles notwithstanding)and remembering why I'm in love Jesus. It's like chilling in the Psalms, for me and it totally matters. As a recording honest, I'm surprised to hear you don't think so?

      And to be honest, there are artists that I've listened to and loved for the past 15 years even as tastes in music have risen and fallen. I don't particularly care about Billboard.com, just something creative that moves me.

      Hey, it could just be my taste but, there you go.

  15. BRITTT NICOLE. or Mandisa

    1. I think Britt Nicole a little badass, to be honest :-) She's just totally not my style.

  16. Try Dara Maclean

  17. Replies
    1. Ooh, you may be onto something here! I was totally prejudging them based on the title "Love's Gonna Getcha" :) but what a fun sound! Kind of an Ingrid Michaelson vibe. I'll have to listen a bit more. Thanks!

  18. Tee, hee, girl. This is an article I could have written myself! You should see the secular music collection I'd amassed as a performer/songwriter. I too am SO bored with Christian female stuff, (most) that's why I don't go the Signed Christian, record deal route1 I love hard rock, jazz, hip-hop and have managed to have a GREAT time working with a VERY interesting bunch of NJ Songwriters/local producers. Yes, Adele is Very unique. My favorites, Joni Mitchell, Paula Cole, Tori Amos, Annie Defranco, Bic Runga.I have a LONG list on my Indie Heaven music profile. I hate playing boring G, F, C chords. Boring. boring. As an artists, I love to paint with different chord voicings and nuances as well write ballsy lyrics. And believe me, I have NOT had ANY records kicking down my door. But I write songs my way, with unconventional chords, in-yer-face lyrics about topics Christian girls usually don't write about! Pastor abuse, domestic Violence, legalism struggling with sin. How's that for a nice, fresh pallet? BTW GREAT post. I think I shall write one similar on my wordpress...Tee-hee, hee.u

  19. Nice! I haven't checked these comments in a while, so I've got a few more to add to my list. There are a ton of artists here that I've never heard of, so that is AWESOME. I actually do check out the artists you've suggested, I'm thinking about writing an update to this post.

    Like I said, these ladies are certainly talented and I even appreciate some of their lyrics. I don't want to diminish the ministry of any particular artist. I'm just bored.

    And this isn't about catering to "what's in" right now. By all means, I want an artist to be true to their art and write words from their heart. I'm just tired of listening bubble-gum christian girl-pop that, lyrically and musically, sounds exactly like everything else. I don't doubt these artists love Jesus and mean what they're saying. But dang, write something that makes me sit up and listen.

    I've fallen in love with Gungor over the past couple of years. They're a man-wife duo, so it's not truly relevant to this conversation. But that's an example of artists who love Jesus and have found a beautiful and interesting way to express it; something that sinks in past my skin and stirs my heart.

    That's music. Anyone can play a I-V-IV-vi progression and say, "Praise, Jesus. Did you know he died on the cross?"

    It's not that's its not true, it's just been done...again and again and again...

  20. There are a couple artists who bore me at times, or only have one of two songs that I really like, but overall I enjoy and am blessed by most of the girl artists named above.

    Furthermore, while I like creative lyrics, I have seen some artists - like you mentioned - whose lyrical message is ambiguous. I can and do listen to those artists occasionally, but always come back to the "Praise Jesus, Did you know He dies on the cross?" type of lyrics -- because truly that is Christianity is all about...and I for one need constant reminders.

  21. Sorry for the typos above lol. And PS: I don't much like Barlow Girl's music either (well maybe one song), or ZoeGirl (are they even around anymore??) Though I liked them for a season as a teen.