Can you be a Christian band even if you are not marketed as one? According to Christian Today, being labeled as a “Christian musician” or “Christian Band” can have “devastating effects on the artist’s exposure and sales” and for some artists, the labeling of “Christian” is harmful to their brand. And so, some Christian bands can be considered to be hiding in plain site.
“This is one of the reasons I don’t fully embrace the ‘Christian rapper’ label,” says Lecrae in his recent book, Unashamed. “It isn’t that I’m ashamed of being a Christian. I’m not. If someone asked me to renounce my faith or take a bullet in the brain, I’m dying that day. But labeling the music that way creates hurdles and is loaded down with baggage. Plus, it just isn’t a true expression of the music I’m making. I try to produce music that is life-giving and inspires people to hope, but it isn’t just for the super-religious. I want to address themes that people who aren’t Christian can appreciate.”
Tyler Jospeh and Josh of Twenty One Pilots are also not afraid to proclaim their Christian faith, but at the same time, they don’t like to be referred to as a “Christian” band.
“We’ll always stick to what we feel is right for us to do, and I don’t think either of us have had a hard time saying, ‘This is who I am, and I’m fine with it.’ You hear about our conservative background and know that we’re Christian guys but we’re not timid at all.”
Perhaps the most damning statement comes from One Republic singer, Ryan Tedder, who was raised as a Christian who states that he isn’t interested in making a deal with a Christian record label because he doesn’t want to play in churches. However, the reason why might surprise you.
“I was in Nashville for two years, (and) I quickly became friends with probably half a dozen of some of the biggest Christian recording artists. Every single one of them was absolutely miserable with the fact that they were ‘Christian’ recording artists. I saw some stuff in Nashville that turned my stomach. Some of the most pretentious, insecure people I ever met were Christian recording artists.”
The article doesn’t go on to say what that “stuff” was that he saw, but the point of his statement is clear: it’s hard to be a Christian in the public eye knowing that the world is standing by waiting for you to make a mistake.
“I think it’s a shame because these are people who are vulnerable to God in a good way – porous, open,” Bono from the group U2 told Contact Music who wishes that Christian bands could be more open about real life problems in their music.
“I would love if this conversation would inspire people who are writing these beautiful voices, Gospel songs… (to) write a song about their bad marriage, write a song about how they’re p**sed off at the government … That’s what God wants from you – that truth… Why I’m suspicious of Christians is because of this lack of realism. I’d love to see more of that in art and in life and in music.”
Christian music giant TobyMac is more optimistic about the current contemporary Christian music scene.
“I see a lot of promise. I see a lot of bands going over into mainstream success. You can call it what you want, but I call it salt and light and being a witness,” he tells Patheos. “In the studio I’m praying that this music will inspire people to live more passionately in pursuit of God.
“[My songs are] really about my life and things I’m struggling with. But it’s also to inspire and entertain … I am talking about my life, my struggle to walk faithfully. The most important thing in my life is my faith in God…that’s going to come out in my songs.”
Kevin Olusola, beat boxer for the a cappella group Pentatonix, may have the best of both worlds. Known for his strong Christian beliefs and undoubtedly challenged why he shares the stage with a group of people who may or may not share his values, Olusol shared with Hallels that he is thankful that God brought that group together, even if he is the only religious one of the bunch.
“I’m so thankful because I really believe it was the Lord that put together this entity and who we are. I guess the way that we always think about music, it’s very similar. Although we have different styles we bring all the sounds together into a modern context. We’re always thinking about the mainstream context and how we can break boundaries but maintain being a cappella.”
Olusola is not shy about sharing his faith as well, especially through social media.
“I always try to tweet things that are uplifting and not be afraid to show people that we can be Christians in the industry.”
But Olusola also admits that being seen in the public eye has challenged his views on character.
For Olusola, he is lucky to be performing with Pentatonix as they have his back regarding the content of their music.
“They always ask me, ‘Kevin are you comfortable with the song? If not we’ll find something else.”
[Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images]