Where were you 20 years ago? Me, I was in fourth grade, obsessed with all things monster anime. NewReleaseToday, then NewReleaseTuesday, was getting ready to launch. Our country had just elected George W. Bush as the new U.S. president. Also, 2001 was when 9/11, one of America's most tragic days, happened. That event was a defining moment for the country.
Where are you today? Me, I'm still in the process of growing and mastering where God wants me to be, as I juggle a new job and a blossoming love. NewReleaseToday is a thriving oasis for Christian music fans to stay up to date on their favorite artists and bands, with an annual gold-standard awards program in the We Love Awards. The U.S., again, has a new president, Joe Biden. And, America is coming out of the worst pandemic in a century. This event will, without a doubt, be a defining moment for the country.
So many changes in such a short time in the grand scheme of history. And yet, some things haven't changed. For Christian music, while some artists and bands have come and gone since 2001, many are still working hard making music for Christ today. Here is a look at a few of them you may know.
In 2001, the iconic rock band Skillet was still a few years away from their big break in the mainstream. At the time, they were just a quirky little industrial Christian rock band. But, they scored a big Christian radio hit with the ballad, "You Are My Hope," as well as the rocking title track of their 2001 album, Alien Youth.
Skillet's latest release is Victorious: The Aftermath, a deluxe version of their 2019 release of the same name. The re-release came out with some new tracks, including the heavy hitter, "Dead Man Walking," a song that boasts Skillet's signature face-melting rock.
In 2001, Switchfoot's success was on the rise, courtesy of their 2000 album, Learning to Breathe. The title track would become one of the band's signature songs. Their subsequent 2003 album, The Beautiful Letdown, featuring "Dare You to Move," became their official breakout album.
In 2021, Switchfoot is getting ready to drop their 12th studio album, Interrobang. The already released tracks show that the band's new album will combine classic root sounds with new experimental sounds.
Rebecca St. James
In 2001, Contemporary artist Rebecca St. James was at the height of her popularity. Her then album, Transform, was a success with a number of hit songs. Now, after nearly a decade in obscurity, Rebecca has made a welcome return to music with her latest EP, Dawn. Since her hiatus, her younger brothers, Joel and Luke Smallbone, from the popular band for King & Country, have become legitimate A-list artists, garnering success in the mainstream. On her EP, Luke joined Rebecca for a duet on the worshipful title track.
In 2001, the independent band MercyMe broke onto the national scene with "I Can Only Imagine," a single that would become of the most iconic songs in Christian music history. The landmark hit inspired the movie of the same name, a biopic of how the song came to be. And, 20 years later, MercyMe is one of the most active veterans in the business, still cranking out hit after hit. Recent hits like "Almost Home" and "Say I Won't" still prove that MercyMe has yet to exhaust their well of creative potential.
Steven Curtis Chapman
Well-known musician Steven Curtis Chapman is one of the kings of early contemporary Christian music. In 2001, he was one of the most likely choices to headline music festivals. In 2001, Steven released Declaration, an album with several chart-topping hits, such as "Magnificent Obsession" and the rousing "Live Out Loud."
While Steven hasn't dropped a full-length album in a few years, he's still a major presence in the Christian music industry. His most recent offering, "Together (We'll Get Through This)," a song that addresses the COVID-19 pandemic, was released in 2020.
Michael W. Smith
Michael W. Smith, another one of the kings of Christian contemporary music, has been churning out tunes for five decades. In 2001, Michael released Worship, an acclaimed live album that began a very successful second act of his career, specializing in worship music.
Michael's most recent hit album, Still, Vol. 1, released in 2020, was a success. The album topped charts with another worship standard, his cover of the immensely popular hit, "Waymaker."
One of the premiere names in gospel music, CeCe Winans has been an industry staple for over 25 years. For Christian music fans familiar with the name, but less so the music, it can be surprising to see just how many gold-certified albums she's released: one of these was her 2001 self-titled album. CeCe kicked off 2021 with a brand new live album, Believe For It. It's great to see that she's still a powerhouse in gospel music 20 years later.
Contemporary artist Ginny Owens has been a quiet success in the industry for many years. Since, releasing her debut album in 1999, Ginny is still releasing quality music to inspire fans everywhere. Undeterred by her blindness, Ginny boasts a soft and intimate voice that lends credibility to everything she sings. In 2001, it was music from her debut album defining her place on the music charts. Fast forward to 2021, Ginny is still musically active with her latest studio album, Sing in the Darkness.
Contemporary icon band The Newsboys have been making music since the 1980s, so they were already industry veterans when 2001 rolled around. That year found them enjoying the success of their popular The Greatest Hits album, with songs like "Who" topping charts.
In 2021, the band looks very different. Vocalist Michael Tait from dc Talk fame is a decade into his tenure as frontman of the band--and he's made such an imprint. When former vocalists Peter Furler and Phil Joel returned for a hugely successful "United" tour and album a few years ago, it offered fans the chance for a sort of "all of the above" era of the band. While the new single "Magnetic" seems to have things back to the normal in the Tait era, one thing's for sure: the Newsboys are still very relevant in Christian music.
Passion is an Atlanta-based worship conference featuring a band comprised of some of the hugest names in contemporary worship music, such as Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Charlie Hall, and Crowder. With several live albums under their belt, they have been a staple of the music scene since the late '90s. In 2001, the Passion band released Chris Tomlin's "The Noise We Make" from their album, One Day. In 2020, the band released their album, Roar. No matter what era, Passion is a leader in the church band scene.
The many Hillsong worship bands were at the forefront of the church worship genre before they were mainstream. With a consistent output of music, one such band, Hillsong Worship, has only grown in popularity throughout the years. In 2001, they released "Your Love is Beautiful" and now in 2021, they are staying relevant with their recent release, "Fresh Wind."
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. He is currently working on releasing a brand new novel.
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