For the first time in 15 years, a Christian album is No. 1. TIME examines how Christian music hit the mainstream and why it’s here to stay.
There’s a whole lot of Jesus running through Americans’ earbuds, at least according to the latest Billboard and iTunes numbers. In back-to-back weeks Christian artists TobyMac and Lecrae released new albums that made even mainstream artists listen up as they both stormed up the charts.
Earlier this month TobyMac jumped to the top of the Billboard Top 200 chart withEye On It, the first Christian album to reach the No. 1 spot since Bob Carlisle’s Adult Contemporary hit Butterfly Kisses 15 years ago. But TobyMac isn’t exactly AC. His blend of rock/pop/hip-hop—“schizophrenic pop” he jokes to TIME—is a new sound to reach such levels of success: an overtly Christian artist who sings, talks and raps about Jesus.
And if you want to hear something else as different from Christian AC as you can get, then take Lecrae, a hip-hop artist debuting at No. 3 on this week’s Billboard Top 200 chart with Gravity. He has already claimed the top overall spot on iTunes, including concurrently owning the first, second and seventh slots on iTunes’ hip-hop chart for the deluxe and regular versions of Gravity and his album Church Clothes. Just like TobyMac, whom he collaborated with on Eye On It, there’s no sidestepping what drives him: Lecrae tells TIME he wants his album to “change the way people see the world and let my faith bleed out in my music.”
In an industry not exactly known for its embracing of a Christian worldview, Lecrae has made his Christian perspective paramount, calling out those making masochistic, violent, self-centered music (“I’m passionate about my faith and want to create great music that provides an alternative perspective,” he tells TIME).
The fresh faces emerging these days prove that “Christian music” doesn’t have to mean an old-school sound. “That wall is coming down between Christian music and Christians making music,” TobyMac says. And this, he says, “is a beautiful thing.”
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