This is arguably Switchfoot's breakout album. Fueled by the immense success of singles like the title track or their signature song "I Dare You To Move," Switchfoot established themselves as A-listers in both Christian and mainstream music markets. Switchfoot re-recorded "I Dare You to Move" to even greater success on their subsequent The Beautiful Letdown, the biggest album of their career.
But, far from conforming to generic genre cliches, Switchfoot achieved success while keeping their artistic integrity intact. Never one to shy away from cultural and political critique, Switchfoot's wit is as sharp as ever in these collections of songs. The film A Walk To Remember also helped bolster the band's rising stardom. As this album turns 20 years old this month, revisit classics like "You Already Take Me There" and "Love is the Movement."
Jaci Valesquez - Crystal Clear
Jaci Valesquez was seemingly everywhere in contemporary Christian music circles around the turn of the millennium. If she released a single, there was a good chance it would hit number 1 on several Christian music charts. Crystal Clear came at arguably the peak of her stardom. Boasting classic hits such as "Imagine Me Without You" and "Every Time I Fall," one need not wonder too much about why Jaci was such an in-demand pop presence.
Songs like "Escuchame (Listen to Me)" also demonstrate why Jaci was a powerhouse in Latin pop music as well. These songs were accessible and catchy, while also offering deeper spiritual nourishment lacking in much of the secular pop.
Lincoln Brewster - Live to Worship
Lincoln Brewster has long been a pioneer of rock-driven worship in contemporary Christian music. With Brewster, you don't have to pick between groovy guitar riffs or praise and worship. Brewster's sophomore album contained his take on the popular "Lord, I Lift Your Name on High" and "Psalm 91." But, perhaps most iconic is his rock-driven rendition of Darlene Zschech's iconic church favorite, "Shout to the Lord." Even to this day, Brewster's rendition is perhaps one of the most energetic and memorable takes on the praise hit.
Pillar - Above
The mid-2000s was arguably the golden age of melodic hard rock in the Christian market. With a driving rock edge paired to memorable melodies, the tunes of brokenness and healing spoke to a generation of youth trying to navigate a changing and painful coming of age. Pillar was one of the driving forces of this golden age. The year 2000 saw them as one of the more aggressive debuts of the new millennium.
Mixing in rap with hard rock made for an attention-grabbing mix. Fans of their later work may be jarred to hear such a pairing on this debut. Still, songs like "Original Superman" demonstrate the skill that would make the band a powerhouse presence in rock music for the remainder of the decade.
Smalltown Poets - Third Verse
Smalltown Poets rode the wave of acoustic pop-rock that the success of Jars of Clay spurred in contemporary Christian music in the latter half of the 1990s. With their first two albums garnering them several radio hits, the band stayed true to their artistic integrity with this third release. Catchy hits like "Firefly" and "Any Other Love" anchor the album.
Deeper cuts like a cover of "Beautiful Scandalous Night" and "100 Billion Watts" reward listeners who dig beyond just the radio hits. While this would be a turning point where the band veered more toward underappreciated artistry instead of radio pop, those who stuck with the band would be rewarded with some of the band's best cuts yet in the coming releases.
Paul Colman Trio - Turn
Paul Colman is a name you may recognize. He played with the Newsboys. He's had a respectably successful solo career. And, his work with his band, Paul Colman Trio, has produced hits like "Fill My Cup" and "Run." This sophomore album was a self-released one in Australia, before his success stateside. You can find future hit "Turn" on the album, as well as other cuts, showcasing the talent that would carry Paul far in the coming years.
V*ienna - Where I Wanna Be
Continuing with the debuts of female-fronted acts of 2000, V*ienna is a name that many casual fans of contemporary Christian music may not recognize. But, anyone listening to Christian radio at the time is certainly familiar with their trio of hits. Formed as a response to secular acts such as Britney Spears or Jessica Simpson, the music was unashamed pop with a positive message.
The band was only active for a year or so. They didn't achieve the longevity of some of their fellow debuting contemporaries of 2000. That said, V*ienna released three singles to Christian radio from Where I Wanna Be. Each song became a popular hit of the time. "Where I Wanna Be" and "Do You Wanna Know" are dance-pop gold. "All The Way To Heaven" offers a sweeping melodic hit that exemplifies the best of the Christian radio sound at the turn of the millennium. They may not have become a household name in the industry, but as their debut turns 20, now is a good chance to get to know them.
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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