Christian singer-songwriter Chris Tomlin’s latest album hit number one on the Billboard 200 charts earlier this month, only the fourth time a Christian CD has ever reached that milestone.
Tomlin’s Burning Lights sold 72,000 copies during its first week, which is small compared to the several hundred thousand sold by mega popstars like Taylor Swift or Bruno Mars a few months ago. But Tomlin managed to snag the top spot during the slower, post-holiday release week.
This is the second time in less than a year a Christian album has made it to the top. In September, former DC Talk member tobyMac hit number one with Eye On It. Before that, the last Christian album to make it to number one was LeAnn Rimes’ You Light Up My Life–Inspirational Songs in 1997. The first Christian number one was Bob Carlisle’s Butterfly Kisses (Shades of Grace) also in 1997.
In Burning Lights, Tomlin showcases what made him a staple in churches around the world. His lyrics stay grounded in the gospel and musically he mixes traditional hymns with contemporary guitar riffs and soaring melodies. While Tomlin mainly sticks with ballads and pop/rock worship songs, he also experiments with a dance-infused “God’s Great Dance Floor,” and a collaboration with Christian rapper Lecrae.
This is Tomlin’s 9th album since he came onto the Christian music scene in 2001. Since then, the Atlanta worship leader has created well-known worship songs like “Indescribable,” “How Great Is Our God,” and “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone).”
Burning Lights also is the second-highest selling Christian album after Casting Crowns’ Come to the Well sold 99,000 during its first week release in 2011. Billboard said Tomlin’s first-week sales were helped by this month’s Passion conference in Atlanta, where Tomlin has performed since 1997. Sales from Passion-related purchases and church sales made up 40 percent of the album’s numbers.
Comparing the song titles in Burning Lights with Billboard’s runner-up, heavy-metal band Hollywood Undead’s Notes from the Underground, show a completely different worldview. It’s a battle between “Thank You God for Saving Me” and “Kill Everyone.”