December 10, 2008
“Jesus Freak” by dc Talk was pretty much the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (Nirvana) for the Christian music world. If you grew-up in an evangelical household in the ’90’s, you know how influential this song and album were. Most contemporary Christian music (CCM) before the mid-90’s was awful — cheap music, shallow lyrics — similar to much of mainstream rock before Nirvana broke through. “Jesus Freak,” title track to dc Talk’s fourth album (released Nov. 21, 1995), signaled a major shift in CCM. Other equally talented bands, with creative and meaningful lyrics, rose at the same time, finally giving Christians some CCM worth listening to and passing on to friends: notably, Jars of Clay’s self-titled debut (Oct. 24, 1995), Newsboys’ Take Me to Your Leader (Feb. 20, 1996), and Audio Adrenaline’s Bloom (Feb. 20, 1996). All of these bands would dominate CCM until the “praise & worship” phenomenon of this decade (David Crowder Band, Chris Tomlin, Hillsong United, to name a few). So, contrary to many expectations, CCM has actually shifted toward an even more exlipicit Christian sound and lyrics with the hymn-like quality of praise & worship; although many bands continue in the tradition of dc Talk, Jars of Clay, etc. (such as Jeremy Camp, Brooke Fraser, Needtobreathe, to name a few).
So, there’s a brief history of CCM. And now the song that inspired a generation (well, of evangelicals):