If you are new to Christian rock, please read this
post about the definition of Christian rock and some of the biggest questions about Christian music.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Christian Pop Punk

For this post, I want to mainly talk about punk rock music and pop punk in particular. Before we can take a look at pop punk music of today, we first need to take a look at the roots of punk music. I won’t go too much into the history of punk rock, but I will give you a very quick overview.

Most believe the true origin of punk rock music is unknown, but they believe the genre did begin in the early 1970s. The first bands that did make punk music popular were groups like the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, and The Clash. These bands featured music that was fast, had short songs, used basic instruments like guitars, bass, and drums, and featured lyrics that were rebellious, political, and anti-establishment.

Over the last few decades, punk has evolved into many different styles and sub-genres. Many different genres came out of the punk revolution of the 70s including emo, hardcore, pop punk, Celtic punk, grunge rock, and the list goes on and on.

But for now, I want to stick with the sub-genre pop punk. About.com describes pop punk as, “being marked by a radio friendly sheen to their music, but it still retains much of the speed and attitude of classic punk rock.”

Pop punk did not gain commercial success until the 1990s with bands such as Blink 182 and Green Day. Since the 90s, pop punk has exploded with many secular bands finding mainstream success including bands like Simple Plan, New Found Glory, Fall Out Boy, Yellowcard, All American Rejects, and Good Charlotte.

When it comes to Christian pop punk, many secular musicians and artists disregard the thought of Christian punk. Christian punk features the musical qualities that made punk popular, but most Christian bands do not share the beliefs, or lyrical content of many of the early punk bands. Punk rock was founded on being rebellious and against established society, and since many Christian punk bands do not take this view, some musicians disregard this Christian genre. But, nonetheless, Christian punk is out there, and it is making waves in the Christian music scene.

Like many mainstream acts, Christian pop punk features upbeat and catchy rhythms but the one major difference is lyrical content. Most Christian pop punk bands choose to talk about issues of today and they also sing about Christian themes. Love songs also play a major part in Christian pop punk music. Most musicians do sing many songs about love and relationships. For this post, I want to share with you six bands that are making waves in the Christian pop punk scene.

The first band is Stellar Kart. They have released five albums since 2005, including a greatest hits album. Stellar Kart's sound has evolved over these past few years from being a straight pop punk band to releasing a pop worship album in 2010. This first song is off their debut album and it is called Life is Good. This song is a simple pop song talking about the beauty of heaven.

The next pop punk band is FM Static. This band is actually a side project of Trevor McNevan and Steve Augustine from the Christian hard rock band Thousand Foot Krutch. Over the past couple of years, FM Static has released three albums and they are planning to release their fourth in early 2011. The song I want to share with you is called Definitely Maybe off their debut album. This is probably their most recognized song to date. Like many other Christian pop punk songs, this is a love song.

The next group is Hawk Nelson. They are arguably one of the most popular groups in Christian music today. This Canadian band has released four albums on Tooth and Nail Records. This next music video is of the title track off their latest album Live Life Loud. At hearitfirst.com, bassist Daniel Biro described the song. “Live Life Loud is really about encouraging our fans to do just that. To live your life loud, to embrace all that life brings your way and experience every moment of it to the fullest extent.” The music video takes a comedic look at a competition between the members of Hawk Nelson and a group of older men.

The fourth group is Philmont. They are a relatively new band. They released their first EP and full length debut album last year in 2009. Both were released on Forefront Records, but the band is currently independent after their departure from the label. One thing this band is known for is their self-made music videos. They have made five videos for the songs: The Difference, Back Down, Another Name, I Can’t Stand to Fall, and My Hippocratic Oath. You can view the music video for the song The Difference on my blog post Top Ten Music Videos. The video I want to share with you is of the song Back Down. This song is about not giving up and not backing down. Once again, like all of their videos, this video is self-made by the members of the band.

This next group is an independent band called Eleventyseven. They have released three albums to date, including their last album, Adventures in Eville, which was released last year in 2009. Eleventyseven loves to talk about pop culture in their music. In some of their songs they sing about topics such as MySpace, Conan O’Brien, proms, and twelve step programs. This next song is called MySpace and it is about some of the pitfalls of social media.

The final group I want to share with you is by far the most popular group in the Christian pop punk genre. It is Relient K. Since their major label debut in 2000, Relient K has released six studio albums, two Christmas albums, a B-sides album, and four EPs. Relient K has three gold albums and they have currently sold over two million records. The song I want to share with you is off their fourth album, Mmhmm. The song is called Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been. The song is about a person who hates who they have been in the past and ultimately who they have become. In the song, Relient K is crying out for forgiveness and help to change their current and past lifestyles.

Once again, the main difference between secular punk bands and Christian punk bands is definitely the lyrical content. Musically, Christian pop punk bands are the same as secular bands, but lyrically Christian pop punk definitely has much more positive lyrics. These are not all the Christian pop punk bands out there. I just wanted to give you some of the most popular examples of this genre. If you would like to hear some music by other Christian pop punk bands you can check out these artists: Capital Lights, Amber Pacific, Last Tuesday, MXPX, Olivia the Band, Everyday Sunday, Run Kid Run, and Slick Shoes.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Skillets, Panheads, and Rock and Roll

Throughout their fourteen year career, Skillet has been a staple in Christian rock music. They have released eight albums, two of which were Grammy nominated. Skillet has sold over 1.5 million records worldwide, and their last two albums, Comatose and Awake, were certified gold. Skillet has also been widely used in the media today. Their songs have been featured in many television shows, video games, and films. Skillet’s music has been used on such shows as Joan of Arcadia, America’s Next Top Model, One Life to Live, WWE, MLB World Series, and Sunday Night Football. Skillet has also been featured in the video games: Guitar Praise, Rock Band, and Rock Band 2. Their music was also used in the trailers for the movie Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.

But, before their immense success, Skillet was formed in 1996 in Memphis, Tennessee. The founding members were John Cooper, Ken Steorts, and Trey McClurkin. John, Ken, and Trey were in different bands before Skillet, and they decided to start a side project. They named the side project Skillet because their band was like putting a bunch of ingredients in a skillet, mixing it up, and then seeing what would come out. To this day John Cooper still laughs at this name, and he claims that he still does not like the name of the band.

After being a band for only a couple of weeks, the band received major interest from the label Forefront Records. Soon after, they released their self-titled debut album on Forefront/Ardent Records. On this album, Skillet mainly played grunge rock music. This album was not huge on the album sales chart, but it was well received. For this record, Skillet made three music videos for the songs Gasoline, I Can, and Saturn.

This first music video is of the song Gasoline. This song is all about having God come into our hearts and consuming us. The video features a man trapped in a caged jungle, along with live shots of Skillet playing.

Skillet’s second album, Hey I Love Your Soul, came two years later in 1998. Skillet is known for constantly changing their sound musically from record to record. Unlike their debut grunge rock album, their second record featured a much lighter alternative rock style.

This next video is of the song More Faithful. This ballad is a simple song all about God’s faithfulness.

After the release of their second album, Skillet went through a number of member changes. Ken Steorts left the band and Kevin Haaland took his place as guitarist. John Cooper’s wife, Korey Cooper, also joined the band as keyboardist and back-up vocalist. Their third album, Invincible, once again featured another shift musically for the band. Invincible was more of an electronic album than anything they had done before. Shortly after the release of Invincible, Trey McClurkin left the band and Lori Peters filled in as new drummer.

Their fourth album was released less than a year after Invincible. Ardent Worship is a live album featuring the members of Skillet leading a worship service. The album features ten songs, five were written by Skillet, and five were covered from other musicians. This is Skillet’s first album where no music videos were recorded.

Skillet’s next album came in 2001. This was their third album released in a year and a half. Alien Youth proved to be their first huge hit. The album peaked at 141 on the Billboard 200, and the title track went on to be a number one single on the Christian radio charts. This is also the first album that featured Ben Kasica on guitar; he replaced guitarist Kevin Haaland.

The concept for the video Alien Youth is the band performing in the middle of a street. This song is all about the youth of America standing up for their beliefs in Jesus Christ and having a major impact on the world. Here is the music video for the number one single Alien Youth.

Skillet’s sixth album came out two years later in 2003. Collide is known as Skillet’s heaviest album. Unlike previous albums, this album features heavy guitars, driving bass, and a pounding drum beat, with very little electronic rock mixed in. Lead singer John Cooper is also known for screaming on multiple songs in this album. Collide did not do as well on the Billboard 200 as previous albums. It maxed out at 179 on the Billboard 200, but it did reach number five on the Heatseekers Chart.

This next video is of the hit single Savior. This video features two boys and their abusive father. In order to escape the pain of living at home with their father, the boys flee to a park.

Comatose was released three years later in 2006. This album is by far Skillet’s most important, popular, and influential album to date. Comatose debuted at number 55 on the Billboard 200 and it later went gold, by selling over 500,000 units. Skillet released six singles from the album, and two more Comatose cds were also released. A deluxe edition was released along with a live Comatose record. This album was also nominated for a Grammy award.

Comatose definitely proved to be another diverse album from Skillet. Collide dabbled in orchestra music along with hard rock, but this album dove headfirst in that concept. Many of the songs feature string instruments, including violin and cello, along with the driving hard music that has made Skillet so popular. For me personally, this is probably my all time favorite album. From start to finish, the album absolutely blew me away. I have never heard a perfect album before, but this record definitely came as close as possible to perfection.

Two years after the release of Comatose, drummer Lori Peters announced that she would be leaving the band permanently. She was replaced by eighteen year old Jen Ledger from England.

This music video is of the fifth single off the Comatose record called The Older I Get. This song is about John Cooper’s strained relationship with his father. After Cooper’s mother died, John and his father had a very hard time getting along. This song is all about the repaired relationship Cooper had with his father. This video features behind-the-scenes shots of the band recording the album Comatose. It is also the last video that features Lori Peters as drummer.

Skillet’s latest album, Awake, was released in August 2009. The album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, selling over 68,000 copies in its first week. In less than a year, this album went on to be certified gold. Skillet currently has three music videos for this album: Hero, Monster, and Awake and Alive. All three videos are doing very well on youtube. Hero has over 9 million views, Monster has almost 12 million views, and Awake and Alive has around 300,000 views.

This is the first album that Skillet did not make a drastic leap musically. For all their past albums, they always switched up each album musically. For Awake, Skillet mainly stuck to the same formula that made Comatose popular: using string instruments with driving hard rock melodies. This was also the first album that featured Jen Ledger on drums as well as back up vocals on the songs Hero and Awake and Alive.

This music video is for the song Hero. Lyrically, the song talks about how we as Christians should stand up for our beliefs and become true heroes in today’s world.

Skillet has also lent their talent to the Christian kids TV Show Veggietales. They were featured on the Veggie Rocks cd along with many other well known Christian rock artists including: Audio Adrenaline, Newsboys, Relient K, Sanctus Real, Superchick, O.C. Supertones, and many more. Skillet recorded the song Stand Up for the Veggie Rocks album.

Skillet has toured with many popular groups in the secular and Christian markets. In the secular market, they have toured with bands such as Three Days Grace, Breaking Benjamin, Seether, Shinedown, Puddle of Mudd, and Creed. They have also toured with many well known Christian rock bands including: Red, Disciple, Thousand Foot Krutch, Flyleaf, TobyMac, The Letter Black, Decyfer Down, and Hawk Nelson.

Skillet is known for having a very close relationship with their fans. Skillet is active on many social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter. They also have a special name for their fans. Skillet calls all their fans, panheads. Finally, Skillet is known for their podcasts. Skillet records many podcasts, throughout the year, that feature behind the scenes content of the band. All of these videos can be seen on Skillet’s youtube channel. Here is an example of one of Skillet’s behind the scenes podcasts.

For the last 14 years, Skillet has defined this generation of Christian rock music. Through many member changes and album releases, Skillet has been a staple in the Christian market. John Cooper said it best in the chorus of their hit song Awake and Alive when he described his faith as a Christian. “I'm awake I'm alive. Now I know what I believe inside. Now it's my time. I'll do what I want 'cause this is my life. Right here, right now, I'll stand my ground and never back down. I know what I believe inside, I'm awake and I'm alive.”