Since the age of about fourteen or so I have been passionately interested in music charts. During my high school years I would get up by choice before 6AM on Sunday mornings to record the chart data from Rick Dees’ weekly top 40 show. So it happens that when a song from a genre that one does not often see on the pop charts crosses over in a big way, I am going to pay attention to it eventually. This is true even in a case where I may not be predisposed to like the song in question, and in that spot we find ourselves today talking about “You Say” by Lauren Daigle. This song was the first of her songs to cross over from the Christian charts onto the Hot 100 (she had a Christmas song briefly chart afterward), and so far “You Say” has spent 28 weeks on the chart and peaked (so far) at #34, showing that while it is not a big hit by any means, it is a persistent song that has shown some tenacity in remaining on the charts for a long time. To put it in context, she has 35 hits on the Hot Christian chart, 11 of which have hit the top 10 and four of which have hit #1. “You Say” narrowly missed being in the top 100 songs of 2018 on the pop charts and it certainly has some potential to be one of the top 100 songs of 2019 if it manages to stay on the charts for two or three more months, which is possible but by no means certain.
After having read so much about the success of the song and seen it stay in the middle reaches of the chart for so long, I decided to finally listen to it. It is one thing to look down at a song for being a Christian Contemporary song, especially since that is not my favorite genre of music (for reasons I will get into below), but I don’t like to rest in my prejudices without giving a song a chance. When I finally listened to the song a couple of days ago, my first thoughts about the song were that it sounded like Adele. I don’t know where that powerful voice comes from, but Lauren Daigle has some serious pipes, and the song is a classy piano ballad that I enjoyed listening to. I will probably listen to the song again. If I happen to hear it on the radio, I don’t think I would change the channel or be in a hurry to put on the next disc of an audiobook. I think that is a pretty notable achievement for a song that it would have been easy to dismiss.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be so proud of being at least moderately fond of the song. I did an informal poll of some people after church this afternoon and found that to no surprise whatsoever the two people I was talking with had heard the song, probably far more than I had. One of them had listened to the song and had been surprised that the song was crossing over from her Christian music playlist to her pop playlist, since it hit the top 40 a few weeks ago. The other person, a young lady who I know listens to CCM a lot, said something to the effect that she doesn’t think well of people who don’t like the song, which is something I find mildly amusing. While I have seldom listened to Christian Contemporary Music, from time to time I have been fond of crossover hits and the acts that make them. When I was in middle school I was fond of the music Amy Grant, which at that time was crossing over to pop. In high school a close friend of mine was fond of the music of DCtalk, which I enjoyed, and I later enjoyed the music of Jars of Clay. One of my roommates in college was a bit fan of Switchfoot years before they broke into the mainstream and I remember rocking out to “Something More (Augustine’s Confession)” and enjoying the band after their commercial peak with The Beautiful Letdown. I still play songs like “Stars” from time to time.
My thoughts on Christian music are somewhat complicated. On the one hand, I don’t like CCM stations. It’s not always easy to figure out why. The songs are certainly competently done, but I think I’m honestly a bit too dark for most of the songs and their approach. When I listen to Christian songs, the emotional tone of what I enjoy varies quite heavily from that I associate with Christian Contemporary Music. I like Christian rock, enjoy Christian rap like NF, and I am especially fond of the darker motets that explore the gloomier material of the Bible as well as the serious oratorios by Handel, among others. I enjoy Renaissance masses and even plain chant Gregorian songs. I am by no means hostile to either adult contemporary music or pop music in general, but like many other people I have a bit of bias against Christian Contemporary music. Most of the time, it simply does not speak to me, in the same way that I tend to find a great deal of contemporary Christianity seems a bit more feminine and emotionally based than am interested in, either that or it exists on the level of merely intellectual apologetics, like “God’s Not Dead.” I would be a lot sooner to the party of appreciating a song with worth if I found a way to appreciate Christian contemporary music more, but it is admittedly rare when I come across any song from the genre in my own music listening. And I don’t know what, if anything, I should do about that.