In the 80’s, as we know, video killed the radio star, and secular music set the trend that Christian music slowly followed. There were two reasons why Christian music was slow to begin producing quality music videos. First, there were budget issues. Producing an album in the 80’s cost tens of thousands of dollars. The technology was not as readily available as it is today, and this applied to video production as well. The second reason CCM was slow to catch on to the music video trend was, even if you could afford to produce a video, who was going to play it? Eventually, however, it began to happen, Christians started making music videos that caught our attention.
Today, I want to countdown 10 Christian music videos that made an impact. Since this is a CCM backbeat, we will not be looking at current CCM artist. This list will only contain music from the 1980’s through the early 2000’s. I do have one entry in here a recent at 2008, but that is an exception. No, there will not be any Carman videos in this list. Though many of his videos are notable, Carman deserves a CCM Backbeat of his own. He is the Nickleback of Christian music, or should I say, Nickleback is the Carman of secular music. Carman is the artist Christians love to hate, some of it is deserved, and some of it is not. We will explore that topic another time.
With all of the preliminaries out of the way, here are the top 10 music videos that made us sit up and take notice.
10. Two Sets of Jones’ – Big Tent Revival (1995)
In the mid-90’s, Big Tent Revival gave us a powerful song that reminded us that the possession of the world are not the not the key to happiness. This video, filmed as a home movie, resonates with most of us even if it may be a bit overstated. Rewatching this video brings back memories of when my wife and I were a young married couple setting out on the adventure called life. It was at that point we needed a foundation upon which to build our life together. This song still has the power to bring us back to that reality. Our hope is found in nothing less than Jesus’ blood and his righteousness.
9. Supertones Strike Back – O.C. Supertones (2002)
Unless you lived in Orange County, CA, this video may have seemed to come out of nowhere. Interesting story, in Orange County, several Christian bookstores actually held release parties at midnight when this sophomore album released, and the lines wrapped around the building. A friend of mine hosted one such party. He was amazed when I told him my experience of trying to buy the album.
I was traveling in Texas the day the album released. I went to one of the largest Christian bookstores I had ever seen to pick up a copy. I walked in, and it was nowhere to be found. So I found a worker and asked them if they had it. He said he had never heard of them, but he would check the back. Sure enough, they were still in a box in the back.
It would not be long before they knew of this band because this song and video travelled fast. It even saw crossover success finding play on a few secular stations. The world was learning that ska was cool (well, at least for a few years), and Christian music had one of the best bands.
8. Cash Cow – Steve Taylor (1993)
After a few year away from CCM with a secular band called Chagall Guevara, Steve Taylor came home with a new album called Squint in 1993 which was nothing less than brilliant. Along with the album came a VHS release of videos for each song, and Cash Cow was a standout; a rock opera in three acts.
Capturing the mood of early 90’s alternative rock, this dark and foreboding video gave us a glimpse of the insidious nature of the love of money with stop-motion claymation. With lyrics as you see below, you know you are in for quite a ride. Beware, the cash cow lurks.
It glistened, it glowed, it rose from the gold of the children of Israel
(and most of the adults)
The Cash Cow
The golden Cash Cow had a body like the great cows of ancient Egypt
And a face like the face of Robert Tilton (without the horns)
If you blow off this warning, perhaps you’ve already been licked
7. Shine – Newsboys (1994)
The newsboys had been slowly gaining popularity. Their album Not Ashamed received quite a bit of recognition, but the release of the album Going Public put them on the trajectory to become one of CCM’s most loved bands. This quirky video perfectly captured this oddly fun song, and made us all want to Shine.
6. In the Valley of the Dying Sun – House of Heroes (2008)
This will be the most recent entry on this list. For CCM Backbeat, I usually do not talk about music this current, but some of the best Christian music is often music that Christian radio never played and many Christians have never heard. The same goes for Christian music videos. This video did receive play on several college markets, but it seemed to be largely ignored by Christian outlets.
Though not overtly Christian, this song and video hit hard, and through it we learned that House of Heroes could make seriously good music and videos as well. I will leave the rest for you to experience, but the song comes to a climax with these lines:
All through the night
I wrestled the angel
To undo the curse
That’s burdened me all of my life
And for the first time I could see
That God was not my enemy
“I’m thinking of you”
Like pieces of the sun
Our light burns on and on and on
Like stars in the night sky we shine
I’m living to shine on
5. Jesus is Just Alright – D.C. Talk (1992)
Let’s be honest, there is no way you can have a CCM backbeat on music videos without mentioning D.C. Talk, but you probably expected Jesus Freak or some later offering. Though Jesus Freak, and several that followed, perfectly captured the zeitgeist of 90s music, this was this video that made us all realise that these guys were not going away, and they were only getting better. You have to admit, this song still rocks, and this video still makes you want to get up and dance. It was this video that set the stage for many great videos that followed.
4. 666 – DeGarmo & Key (1984)
Regardless of whether or not your agree with the dispensational theology that undergirds this song, it deserves to be on the list for two reasons. First, the end times where on everyone’s mind in the 70s and 80s, and second, this is one of the first Christian music videos with production quality rivaling some of what was being played on MTV. This is actually the second version of this video. In the original, the beast is consumed in flames, and MTV said it was too much, so D & K toned it down to what you see here.
One top of all of that, there is an aspect of this song that is still relevant today. It may be sooner than we think when we will have to either deny some aspect of our faith or face arrest.
3. Mercy Mercy -77’s (1982)
Though this video never gained huge popularity with the evangelical crowd, due to misunderstanding the darkness of the video, not to mention the eye shadow, this song makes the list because it is one of the first Christian videos to make it into the rotation of a relatively new TV station called MTV. In the end, we are all sinful creatures with sinful natures that tempt us away from the Lord. We are destined for wrath unless the Lord has mercy on us.
I was wallowing
In a pit of snakes
They come crawling
Up around my legs
Now, I despise them
But I know
If they hypnotize me
Down, down I go
Then I say, Lord
Have mercy on me
I say, Lord
2. Know Me (Huh, What?) – The Cross Movement (1999)
This video reminded us, once again, that true hip hop can be theologically rich and make a statement at the same time. Who has not watched an awards show when a musician or actor thanks Jesus for some profane song or movie? For every one of those facepalm moments, this video is for you. Not much else needs to be said about this video. It speaks for itself. We all need to examine ourselves to see that we are in the faith.
1. Meltdown at Madame Tussauds- Steve Taylor (1984)
This is the second entry by Steve Taylor on this list, but he has earned it. The year is 1984, Christians are beginning to have some music and videos that are not behind the times, and we know it because of Meltdown. The moment the video starts, and you see Blair (Lisa Whelchel) from the sitcom The Facts of Life when it was at the height of its popularity, you know you are in for something good. This was not a sub-par offering. The video then proceeds to use the fire that destroyed the wax figures at Madame Tussauds wax museum as a metaphor for hell and so much more. The whole video comes to a point with these poignant lyrics:
“Celebrity status only got in the way
Had my hands in my pockets on the Judgment Day
You can’t take it with you, there’s fire in the hole
Had the world by the tail but I lost my soul”
What do you think of this list? Are there videos you would have included? Let us know in the comments below.