If you grew up with the 1980s and 1990s contemporary Christian music, chances are you're more than a little familiar with the music of Michael W. Smith. For an iconic artist who defined the genre as much as "Smitty" did, it's difficult to hone in on just where the peak of his career was. There's a decent case to be made for pretty much all of the albums he released during the 1990s. Looking at his 1992 release, Change Your World, we see an artist at the top of his game. And, as that release turns 30 years old, let's look back at an album that helped Smitty dominate 1990s Christian music.
Change Your World finds Smitty at the turning point of the big hair, 1980s music scene, and grittier stylings of the 1990s. The album's songs appropriately balance big sounds with a little more bite and stylistic influences. The hip-hop influences provided by Toby McKeehan--that is, iconic pop artist TobyMac--give "I Wanna Tell The World" a unique flair. While the opening track "Picture Perfect" balances a huge chorus with sing-spoken verses, it makes for a memorable cut.
Songs like "Colorblind" deal with racism head-on and give some thematic meat to the album. Songs like "Love One Another," "Somebody Love Me," and "Give It Away" have the signature Smitty sound and are themed about various themes of love, from our desire to be loved to our call to share the love with others.
Here For You
Following up on the immense crossover success of his previous album's "Place in this World," Smitty built an even bigger crossover hit with the power ballad, "I Will Be Here For You." With a signature Smitty piano hook that explodes into a rousing power chorus, this song offers encouragement to those hurting with one of Smitty's most recognizable legacy songs.
"Somebody Love Me" offered solid follow-up success for Smitty in the mainstream. Albeit, no song would ever land quite as huge on mainstream pop charts for Smitty as "...Here for You."
It's Out of This World
Michael W. Smith records always excelled with relatable lyrics that never failed to offer listeners both encouragement and a way to Christ. The fitting imagery in "Out of this World" points out how it's only by looking outside this world do we find the best way to live in this world. "Cross of Gold" is a biting commentary on Christian hypocrisy that doesn't throw the baby out with the bathwater and makes room for proper use of devotion.
Even when the lyrics turn more toward relationships between people, the focus is on healthy expressions of love, whether in the context of romantic love or friendship. In fact, a reworking of his debut album's signature hit, "Friends," closes Change Your World and serves as a fitting summary of songs like "I Will Be Here For You" or "Give It Away." Reminding us that in addition to having Christ with us, we're not alone on our journey toward Him.
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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