While perhaps best known for their sometimes aggressive, sometimes symphonic rock, Skillet has amassed quite a collection of heart-tugging, hand-raising ballads. These are some of the essential ones for you to check out if you want to get to know the softer side of Skillet.
Skillet’s current Christian radio single is one of their softest songs in years and proudly boasts some of the better elements of modern worship music. Cooper’s voice sounds more soothing than ever and the lyrics proclaim the greatness of God who serves as our anchor amidst the storms of life.
"Terrify The Dark"
The other new ballad from Victorious, this song boasts the title of a gritty rock song. Yet, the end result is one of Skillet’s best ballad offerings ever. Proclaiming how Christ’s life will terrify the dark, Cooper sings how Christ can help us overcome all of the enemies and trials before us, including our own inhibitions. The lyric, “My doubt will answer to Your scars/And fear will have no place/No hold upon my heart” rings especially true.
This song was an instant Skillet classic. It was one of the band’s first songs in years aimed at a more AC/Klove radio audience. It’s blatantly worshipful lyrics eschewed some of the vaguer ballads of their recent albums and the result was a hit that connected with Christian radio listeners across the country. The band even offered a stripped-down “The Shack Version” of the song that appeared on that movie’s soundtrack and also received a fair share of radio airplay. Regardless of which version you prefer, it’s hard to find a Skillet ballad more definitive of the band’s current era and sound than this one.
While it kind of had to stand in the shadow of the success of the previous song on this list, “Lions” was a legitimate hit unto itself. Achieving commendable radio success, the song’s accessible energy made it a natural choice for live sets. Start to finish, every note seemed to scream for radio airplay.
"Fire & Fury"
One of the songs on Rise that really leaned in to duet nature of Cooper and Ledger. Instead of just singing backup to Cooper, Ledger’s role in this song is nearly equal to Cooper’s. While it starts off slow, it builds into a pounding crescendo finish that is nothing short of epic. This was a surprise radio single, beating out more obvious “radio friendly” choices. Fun trivia, Cooper has “Fire” and “Fury” tattooed on his knuckles. While this may not be the first ballad you think of from the band, it’s definitely one that deserves your attention.
This song closed out the standard edition of Skillet’s chart-topping and still bestselling album, Awake. The song itself laments the loss of a loved one and the singer’s role in it. It can offer listeners an encouraging look at healing through grief and forgiving oneself.
However, the song took on an even deeper meaning when John Cooper, after months of fan speculation, revealed that the song was actually about an aborted baby. A couple the Coopers knew had chosen to abort a child and felt immense guilt afterward. Among the chosen steps for healing their grief was choosing a name for their child. This context adds such depth and timely relevance to an already poignant song, and makes the healing and hope promoted within the lyrics all the more powerful.
"Yours To Hold"
Probably the most famous Skillet ballad to not be a radio single. This song was a live staple for years (even getting a sort of makeover when Jen Ledger joined the band and took on singing the second verse in concert). This was a standout softer moment on the band’s magnum opus album, Comatose. It exemplified the best of Skillet’s ballad writing, tender music, soothing vocals, and hopeful lyrics. While other ballads have gone on to have more commercial success, it’s easy to make a case for this being the quintessential “Skillet ballad” in terms of style and meaning to longtime fans.
"A Little More"
Standing as one of the few moments of calm amidst the chaotic rock fury that was Skillet’s Collide album, “A Little More” still packed more of a punch than the standard ballad. With a chorus that demanded to be played loud balanced with calm and soothing verses, this hit exemplified the range of Skillet’s strengths.
"You Are My Hope"
One of Skillet’s biggest non-rock hits on Christian radio in their early years, this song was one of the first to utilize the dual guy/girl vocals that would become a signature of the band in later years. While Korey Cooper’s soft backing vocals aren’t as prominent as in other songs, they add a rich texture to the chorus. The song still feels like it would fit on today’s Christian radio, even if it’s sound isn’t in line with what Skillet themselves currently do. There is a joyful simplicity to the music and the worshipful lyrics that doesn’t at all want for the band’s also-enjoyable theatrics of later releases.
This was probably the first Skillet song that I ever heard and the only one I can say I sort of “grew up with.” It achieved a fair amount of radio play back in its day and was a staple on some Christian music video channels throughout the 2000’s. The song contains profound imagery of the love and faithfulness of our God. Musically, the song fits well with many of the laid back ballads of its day. It gives us just a taste of the profound and uplifting power one John L. Cooper was capable of even in the band’s early days.
Okay, okay. This first ballad from way back on Skillet’s 1996 self-titled debut kind of sticks out in the collection of signature Skillet ballads. It’s hard to even fathom that the same frontman behind this would go on to lead the band to blistering headbangers like “Forsaken,” “Whispers in the Dark,” or “Monster.” Yet, one can’t help but like the simple musicianship of this little ballad. It’s metaphors and imagery might make even the band members blush a bit, but its delivery is no lest earnest. Even if it’s just an exercise in seeing the roots of the band behind other songs on this list or your favorite arena rock anthem (or seeing the music video with a totally unrecognizable John Cooper), “Saturn” is worth a listen.
Did your favorite make our list? Let us know which ballads you think are Skillet's best.
J.J. Francesco is a longtime contributor to the NRT Staff. He's published the novel 'Because of Austin' and regularly seeks new ways to engage faith, life, and community.
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