When I worked in the music department at a Christian bookstore in high school and college, I’d feel a bit like a methadone clinician. (Methadone, for those of you who are unaware, is a drug that is given to people in order to ultimately relieve them of their elicit drug habits.)
But instead of trying to get clean from drugs, many customers would be trying to walk away from secular music. They would come into the store with a specific favorite artist in mind, asking, “Do you know anyone who sounds like [fill in the blank]?”
Many times, they’d come upon a comparison chart that had hung on the walls, which told them that Stephen Curtis Chapman sounded a lot like N*SYNC or that Michael W. Smith was the same as Creed or Third Eye Blind, or something completely random like that. I always hated those comparison charts, because not only were they inaccurate, but it almost seemed as if certain artists were being positioned as something they weren’t.
I’d see these people look at the chart, and then I’d stop them before they’d throw down hard-earned cash under false pretenses. I’ve always had an ear on popular culture, and have always found artist comparisons fairly effortless.
You’d be surprised how many people have no idea what’s out there when it comes to Christian music—they still think the album selections and artists and styles have been frozen since 1994. So that’s why this column exists: to take the hot, chart-topping artists of the day and offer a valuable alternative.
Certainly, not everyone will always agree with me, and truth be told, we’re comparing apples and oranges. But it’s my hope that in the process people discover new artists who will bring them closer to Jesus with positive messages.
Curious about a comparison? Want to ask me something in this vein? Shoot an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ADELE & DARA MACLEAN
Adele is huge right now. Currently occupying the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 with her newest song, “Someone Like You,” and the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 with her newest album, 21, the heir to the Amy Winehouse soulful throne has become a pop phenomenon with hits like “Rolling in the Deep” and “Chasing Pavements.”
Adam Holz of Focus on the Family’s Plugged In site has this to say about Adele’s content: “While songs about romantic failures are not inherently objectionable, I wonder about the effect of listening to so many songs about tainted love back to back.”
If you’re looking for a unique, soulful voice without the “bad romance,” look no further than neo-soul newcomer Dara Maclean.
The Texas native credits Lauryn Hill, Natasha Bedingfield, Ray LaMontagne and, yes, Adele as her musical influences. But rather than sing about broken hearts and tainted love, Maclean is attracted to a much more positive catharsis.
“I want to paint a picture of God’s complete restorative love and how through Christ, we have an opportunity to live free,” she says.
Maclean turned lots of heads with her debut single, “Suitcases,” and shattered expectations of Christian music with the release of her 2011 introduction, You Got My Attention.
Certainly there are moments on the album where Maclean has greater pop sensibilities than Adele, but she has some great moments on songs such as the aforementioned “Suitcases,” the title track “You Got My Attention”—perhaps the most Adele-like song on the album—“So Good to Me” and “The One.”
There’s no doubt that Dara Maclean is a different breed of Christian artist. Her vocal stylings are a breath of fresh air in the industry, and this is only the beginning. For neo-soul with a soul, stop “chasing pavements” and grab your “suitcases.”
NRT Senior Editor Marcus Hathcock has been a newspaper reporter, an editor and now Communications Director for East Hill Church in Gresham, OR. He's also been involved in opera, acappella, an Avalon-style group and now is a songwriter and one of the worship leaders at East Hill. Follow his journey at www.mheternal.com.