1. The Beautiful Letdown
Weeks on the chart: 63
Style: The mean, median, and mode of modern rock.
Worldview: "I want to see miracles, / to see the world change. / I wrestled the angel / for more than a name, / for more than a feeling, / for more than a cause. / Singing spirit, take me up in arms with you. / You're raising the dead in me" ("Twenty-four").
Overall quality:A well-produced and catchy (if ultimately derivative) distillation of the post-U2 moment.
Artist: Third Day
Weeks on the chart: 5
Style: Grunge-lean (as opposed to grunge-light).
Worldview: "Sometimes I wonder why You even love me / and why You ever chose to call me 'Child.' / Then I remember / it's by Your sacrifice / I can say that / I am Yours and You are mine" ("You Are Mine").
Overall quality: Better than Creed, if only because Mac Powell's Eddie Vedder impression is less obnoxious than Scott Stapp's.
3. Spirit & Truth
Artists: Bishop Eddie, L. Long
Weeks on the chart: 2
Style: Exuberant contemporary black gospel.
Worldview: "If I had a moment to testify, / to tell about His goodness and to tell you why, / why I serve a Savior, why I lift Him high, / why I serve my Jesus, let me tell you why: / He's been so good to me" ("He's Been So Good to Me," featuring Darwin Hobbs).
Overall quality: Inspirational when not exhausting.
4. Hiding Place
Weeks on the chart:2
Style: Middle-of-the-road renditions of several generations' worth of evangelical favorites and some that will be.
Worldview: "Would you be free from your burden of sin? / There's power in the blood, power in the blood. / Would you o'er evil a victory win? / There's wonderful power in the blood" ("There Is Power in the Blood").
Overall quality: The mean, median, and mode of Contemporary Christian Music, ages 35 and up.
5. Casting Crowns
Artist: Casting Crowns
Weeks on the chart: 24
Style: Worship-team rock.
Worldview: "I will love You, Lord, always, / not just for the things You've done for me. / And I will praise You all my days, / not just for the change You've made in me. / But I'll praise You, for You are holy, Lord, / and I'll lift my hands, but You are worthy of so much more" ("Life of Praise").
Overall quality: As tuneful as it is ephemeral.
In the spotlight
Given our cultural climate, it's hard to imagine Columbia/Legacy's motives for releasing Are You Bound for Heaven or Hell?: The Best of Reverend J.M. Gates. Consisting of 19 sermonettes (circa 1926-1930), it would seem to cater to no discernible audience, so antiquated a moment of black-American culture does it capture. Yet, despite Rev. Gates' tolerance-testing lack of elocutionary and cultural refinement, his homilies can still hit home.
With a bluntness and a wit that would later come to characterize the deliveries of comedians like Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor, Rev. Gates (1884-1945) and his trio of respondents identify as impediments to heaven not only debt ("Pay Your Policy Man") and sloth ("Things That You Can Move Don't Ask God to Move") but also an obsession with one's own appearance ("Kinky Hair Is No Disgrace") and feminism ("Mannish Woman"). If the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences ever inaugurates a "Politically Incorrect" Grammy, Rev. Gates would make an ideal recipient.