On this first iteration of TTAS, I’d like to start with something very broad, yet very meaningful. With everything that’s happening now in this world, I feel we have every right to be anxious, unsure, angry, and lost. These four adjectives seem to take hold of our lives in a very demanding way, whether we’re dealing with a pandemic, political issues, or our simple day-to-day routines. With routine, can come expectation; we do the same tasks everyday and want them done our exact way all the time. As a result, our minds become clouded with these ideals, insinuating unnecessary stress and leaving us with much to be desired. Such feelings aren’t anything new, for us humans are constantly striving for unique innovations, in an attempt to one-up our competitors. While this in many instances brings out the best in people, the other side of the coin (doubt, stress, fear, etc.) is often neglected. I feel this way about many things, but one concept that has stood out for me recently is religion, and for good reason. Right now, it seems like those who aren’t as prayerful as others, are doing it more now than ever. After all, who else could you really turn to in these times of uncertainty? For me personally, I feel many who claim are not religious definitely believe there has to be something out there, they just don’t agree with all that’s associated with this thought, such as the people, music, rules, and other things.

Christianity is a very niche group when you think about it. Sure, there are myriads of Christians around the world, but even then there is so much subdivision in the culture. It’s now to the point where one denomination often points its fingers at another. As a Catholic, I hear many times how Protestants are doing this or that wrong, or Catholics should follow the Bible more. Whenever I hear people talk like this, it’s upsetting because I feel both parties are forgetting one important concept: GOD IS PERFECT!

Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘perfect’ as “being entirely without fault or defect.” I find it humorous how we human beings created our own definition of this word, when we can’t even follow through with it. If God is perfect, then how can we as people fully understand what He wants and how He wants it? We can’t. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to judge someone on something we don’t truly know ourselves. That’s my biggest problem with Christianity. We act like we know everything and follow this step-by-step program, pretending we feel safe in our beliefs. But I personally feel that when we begin to question everything we’ve ever known, that’s when our genuine faith in God starts to show. It’s an act of vulnerability which I think many of us are scared to take.

Apply this principle to Christian music, and you’d find not many artists abiding by it and the few that do, don’t get any sort of recognition. First off, I hate how we put the word “Christian” in front of something that is meant to be very diverse, giving someone complete freedom of whatever they want to say or play. Inserting this word only feeds into the stereotype others speculate about religion. Second, a majority of artists in this genre only talk about Christianity’s highlights with lines like, “This is tough, but Jesus loves me so I’ll get through it” or “Jesus is my Savior. He’s always by my side.” This seriously isn’t that much of an exaggeration and reading it probably sounds superficial; how in our bustling lives are we supposed to relate to this? We honestly can’t, and I don’t think this is what we need to hear; we’ve heard these messages so much that we’re numb to them and in many ways, they can defeat the purpose of what is called “Christian” music. However, there are a few artists who’ve wiped the middle man out. They’ve opened up about their struggles and insecurities, and in essence I feel have brought people an authentic sense of faith and purpose. These three musical acts are ones I highly encourage people to look into, especially if you fancy rap and pop like I do…

1. Kings Kaleidoscope

Courtesy of Relevant Magazine

I won’t lie. I don’t know too much about this band as a whole but they have a very unique presence to me that is unlike anything else in the small Christian scene. One of their most popular songs, titled A Prayer generated lots of publicity and to some people, it wasn’t in a good way. The title easily attests to what the song is about: someone engaging in conversation with God. Here’s the catch: IT HAS CURSE WORDS IN IT. With how we’ve shaped the world, many of faith would probably shudder at the previous statement. There are tons and tons of articles about this song, where Christians debate whether or not his cursing is a sinful act. If you needed proof of what I’ve ranted on above, you don’t need to look any further than this. Why should we uphold someone else to a higher standard, when we can’t even do it ourselves? It makes absolutely no sense and this abomination of a word in some people’s eyes, makes the band’s message all the more powerful and relatable. When you combine raw lyrics, catchy melodies, and awesome horn and string instruments, you get this group. I need to listen to more of their stuff, but hopefully this gives you insight on something fresh.

2. Jon Bellion

Courtesy of Vancouver Weekly

Honestly, I discovered Jon through the radio back when All Time Low was released well over four years ago. I thought it was a good song at the time, but one day I just went through his whole catalog and was completely blown away. He has a sound similar to Kings Kaleidoscope, but still manages to stand out on his own. What I think is really cool are the religious messages he brings to a more secular (I don’t like this word either) audience. Having a musical rap sheet of collaborations such as Jason Derulo and Rihanna, it was only a matter of time before people would begin to take notice. I had the pleasure of witnessing him live, and hearing his syncopated rhythms and vocal range on stage was truly an out-of-body experience. Songs like HumanMaybe IDK, and JT to name a few, all talk about his faith journey and how difficult it is to stay straight in this world’s winding road. If you’re into rap incorporated with elements of pop, you won’t be disappointed.

3. NF

Courtesy of Pinterest

As often as I listen to music, I never had a favorite artist until around five years ago. One day, I was sitting at home recovering from a surgery that occurred in November of 2015. A few months prior was around the time TobyMac released his “This is not a Test” album. There was one track on that stood out to me which featured this rapper named NF. I didn’t know who he was at the time, and his feature was alright so I decided to do some digging. It turns out, he released his own album “Mansion” earlier that year. From his very first track, I was instantly hooked. Never had I heard such aggression, combined with the potency of cinematic elements, all the while not using a single curse word. The entire album is a high-packed action flick which I thought was wild, considering the hip-hop genre is super bland and oversaturated nowadays. I also had the opportunity to see him live before his career took off, and to see how much he’s progressed is a true testament to his character and music. Between his second and third albums, he switched labels (from Capitol Christian Music Group to Capitol Records), allowing him to expand his message to a much bigger platform. He was able to branch out from the box I feel many of these worship artists get put in; they can only sing about God and more often than not, only provide the scenic view of religion. However, once he came on commercial radio for the first time, I couldn’t help but smile at the idea that he’s now helping more people like myself than ever before. One of his best qualities is his versatility, so I would look into the songs Mansion and Trauma as these two songs reveal different sides of him. None of his stuff is “happy” per say, but in a world where everyone wants you to forget that we all have struggles and don’t wrestle with faith, this is a refreshing reminder, and essentially can make one’s relationship with God or whatever you believe in, that much stronger.

I know this was quite long, but it was something I wanted to say for a long time. I feel we especially need to hear these words now and remember that it’s okay to not be sure of what’s to come, or question your beliefs. I’ve done that a lot recently and as a result, have grown so much in terms of genuineness. In my opinion, when I start to doubt some things I learned in Catholic school my whole life, that’s God’s real way of testing who I am as a person. It’s easy to read stories like these in the Bible, since we’ve never experienced them firsthand. All in all, we can pick what we want to believe. It’s important though to make these decisions in the interest of your faith, not to the people who are part of it. This is a huge difference and I feel the lines are completely blurred in today’s world. I’m still trying to relish this idea, but once I do, it’ll be the defining crosspoint between knowing God and understanding God.


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