Songs 65-96, Day #4

The #1 seed: “Sing Your Praise To The Lord”, Amy Grant. You might make the accusation that I set up this entire bracket myself, with no input from anyone, to find a way to force Amy Grant to have the #1 seed in it, and specifically so that the song could be this Rich Mullins classic with the classical piano lead-in and the orchestral explosion that leads into the chorus. You might make that accusation. I’m not going to deny it, either.

Song you may have forgot: “Undo Me”, Jennifer Knapp. You may have forgotten the song because of everything that’s emerged since then. I personally wish Knapp still was associated with Christian music; I value the big tent, and the “faith industrial complex” seems to push people who don’t fit a very narrow picture of “believer” out. Regardless of that position, however, the song stands alone and the message holds up: a singular voice crying out for redemptive power.

Song you should know: “How To Grow Up Big And Strong”, Mark Heard. One of the more influential songs of the 80’s and early 90’s was first recorded on a forgotten side project of Heard’s called iDEoLA, and has the most dated sound in the field. Christian music audiences might recognize is as the driving rock track from Rich Mullins’ A Liturgy, A Legacy and a Ragamuffin Band. Global audiences, on the other hand, might recognize Olivia Newton-John’s version.

(Speaking of dated, I’m not linking that Olivia Newton-John music video. You can find it if you want. I’m warning you.)

The low seed: “Rocket And A Bomb”, Michael Knott. This is purely my twisted sense of “importance”, and the space set aside for the most alternative of Christian-alternative voices. The song is at once nonsensical and iconic, a rambling list of complaints and a brave and strident anthem of individuality. It’s as far in left field as anything called “Christian music” could possibly get, it’s got the most questionable of spiritual value, and I love it, and I will recommend it to anyone.

And Mike’s set up to be Amy’s sacrificial lamb here. Sorry, Mike.

Songs 65-96 – Round 1

(1) “Sing Your Praise To The Lord” (Amy Grant)
vs. (32) “Rocket And A Bomb” (Michael Knott)

(16) “If You Want To” (Daniel Amos)
vs. (17) “Imagine Me” (Kirk Franklin)

(8) “Undo Me” (Jennifer Knapp)
vs. (25) “Waves” (Resurrection Band)

(9) “Hope To Carry On” (Rich Mullins) vs. (24) “How To Grow Up Big And Strong” (Mark Heard/iDEoLA)

Songs 65-96, Day #3

This post is called “how quickly can I write about four of the eight songs in this block” because I’m realizing it’s time for the posting entirely too late in the day!

The #2 seed: “Revelation Song”, which as far as worship songs goes needs no introduction. It’s one of those timeless songs that you have heard somewhere and probably have sung somewhere, but you might not recognize it until you actually HEAR it. I didn’t know it by name for the longest time.

Song you may have forgot: “Heaven”, BeBe and CeCe Winans. I can’t imagine how anybody with the name “Winans” is so comprehensively neglected in brackets like these except collective amnesia. Once upon a time, these two were as big as anyboy in CCM, regardless of whether you attached the name “Gospel” to their music or not.

Songs you should know: “Lead Me On” by Amy Grant and and “Every Word I Say” by Adam Again. I can’t choose between these two songs, so I’m just typing up both of them. “Every Word I Say” is Adam Again’s masterpiece, a Gospel-tinged piece of funk that is every bit as danceable as it is piercing, truthtelling to a groove. It’s one of many reasons you should seek out Ten Songs By Adam Again no matter how hard it is to find. (God bless streaming for reasons like this.)

As for “Lead Me On”, the Amy Grant single you may have never heard? I said it last year, and I’ll say it again: Amy Grant got a song about slavery and the Holocaust on the radio. Respect the woman’s game. (And I’m a cruel bracketmaker for putting this song against my favorite band – I’m not even talking about the worship song you should hear, “Beautiful Scandalous Night”…)

The low seed: “Sing Your Freedom”, White Heart. Now we’re going deep into my college years, but dang it, this is my bracket and I’m slotting my songs of choice into the no-hope positions. I will insist to my grave that the first three tracks of White Heart’s album Freedom – “Bye Bye Babylon”, “Sing Your Freedom”, and “Let The Kingdom Come” – were as good as straight-ahead Christian rock ever got, It’s deeply personal to me – hearing those tracks for the first time made me reconsider everything I had ever assumed about Christian music, and that’s largely responsible for me deep-diving a lot of music like this here.

I’ve pinpointed a lot of songs that are important in the history of Christian music in a lot of ways. “Sing Your Freedom” was important in the history of Christian music to me. It goes in this bracket, dang it.

Songs 65-96 – Round 1

(2) “Revelation Song” (Phillips, Craig and Dean)
vs. (31) “Sing Your Freedom” (White Heart)

(15) “Lead Me On” (Amy Grant)
vs. (18) “Beautiful Scandalous Night” (The Choir)

(7) “Heaven” (BeBe and CeCe Winans)
vs. (26) “Every Word I Say” (Adam Again)

(10) “This Is Amazing Grace” (Phil Wickham)
vs. (23) “Already Over” (Red)

Songs 65-96, Day #2

The #3 seed: Second Chapter of Acts’ seasonal classic “Easter Song”. You know it. You have heard it. You may have even sung it. There is more than a bit of beauty to be found in the original, though.

Song you may have forgot: I can’t really argue with the Larry Norman song that eventually did make the big field (“I Wish We’d All Been Ready”) for its timelessness, but I’m still personally appalled that more attention wasn’t paid to Norman’s manifesto, “Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music?” Note, however, that I was not so appalled that I engineered a seed here above the #14 line, facing a possible second-round matchup against the best-known Second Chapter of Acts tune.

Song you ought to know: Daniel Amos’ alternative classic, “Darn Floor, Big Bite.” Koko, the gorilla who knew sign language, as a metaphor for our difficulty talking to God? Terry Scott Taylor was always lyrically adventurous, but never more so than right here.

The low seed: “Honestly” by Stryper, the MTV crossover smash hit. So low-seeded because how important was the song to CCM, really? Stryper spent much of their existence after an audience much broader. Still, this is the track that your local Christian Hit Radio station might have been brave enough to play because they sure weren’t going to play “To Hell With The Devil”.

All these and four more in the second day of voting on the Most Pearson CCM Bracket Ever!

Songs 65-96 – Round 1

(3) “Easter Song” (Second Chapter of Acts)
vs. (30) “Honestly” (Stryper)

(14) “Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music?” (Larry Norman) vs. (19) “Love, Salvation, and the Fear of Death” (Sixpence None The Richer)

(6) “Stomp” (Kirk Franklin & God’s Property)
vs. (27) “Darn Floor, Big Bite” (Daniel Amos)

(11) “How Beautiful” (Twila Paris)
vs. (22) “Washed By The Water” (Needtobreathe)

Songs 65-96, Day #1

I egocentrically have called the Songs 65-96 bracket this year “The Most Pearson CCM Bracket Ever.”

I’m responsible for all the songs in it. Me, alone, nobody else’s vote allowed. I allowed myself to be influenced by the all the standard factors that went into the selection of songs, but the ultimate seeding in the bracket is mine and mine alone, and the bottom of the brackets is scattered with my own personal selections.

I can argue that in another universe, this should have been the top 32 in the main bracket, and all 32 songs here are more important in their own way than the 64 that made the field. But that’s purely a matter of taste, and my taste influenced the structure of this bracket heavily. Your taste may vary, significantly.

We’ll break it up over 4 days. I’ll introduce the #4 seed today (my choice for song 68 overall), then the #3 seed tomorrow, then #2, then #1. Then we’ll get back to the big bracket next week.

The #4 seed: Controversially, I have Larnelle Harris’ “How Excellent Is Thy Name” in this slot. An African-American singer who bridged mainstream CCM and contemporary Gospel music, Harris always merited more attention than he got, and never more so than on this tour-de-force.

Song you may have forgot: It’s difficult to pinpoint a proper “breakthrough” with all the Doves he racked up in the late 80’s and early 90’s, but Steven Curtis Chapman’s had a song that was heard everywhere before “The Great Adventure” – namely, the anthem “For The Sake Of The Call”. The kids apparently have never heard it, and the old folk might not remember how unavoidable the song was?

Song you should know: The song where the rapper Lecrae found his voice, the bracing tour de force “Fear”. I firmly believe that this is as challenging a song as has ever been recorded in the universe of Christian hip-hop; it’s a thrilling journey thorugh Lecrae’s doubts and convictions, the kind that drives home the victory claimed at the end because you know how real the pain was to get there. “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus to all of my haters.” The line, as unlikely as it is, works.

The low seed: Controversially, I have David Crowder*Band’s “How He Loves Us” in this slot – and I ranked this song so low quite possibly because I didn’t want to go through another iteration of the unforseen-kiss vs. sloppy-wet-kiss debate. It’s probably Crowder’s most notable contribution to worship music, though, so I think it belongs – even if I’ve slotted it in position for an upset threat. (For the record: “Unforseen”, please.)

Have fun, and listen to something you haven’t heard before. They’re good songs. I offer you a money-back guarantee.

Songs 65-96 – Round 1

(4) “How Excellent Is Thy Name” (Larnelle Harris)
vs. (29) “How He Loves Us” (David Crowder*Band)

(13) “For The Sake Of The Call” (Steven Curtis Chapman)
vs. (20) “Fear” (Lecrae)

(5) “Via Dolorosa” (Sandi Patty)
vs. (28) “How Great Is Our God” (Chris Tomlin)

(12) “Keep Me Runnin'” (Randy Stonehill)
vs. (21) “How Can It Be” (Lauren Daigle)

Day #8, and your education in Christian hard rock

The #1 seed in the entire field belongs, as it must, to Amy Grant, and the timeless Michael Card song she put on her breakthrough album Age To Age. “El Shaddai” will be worth all the attention later. We will get there.

The #64 seed in the entire field is mine, and I took charge and put the most neglected of genres into the field, and that is hard rock. Hair metal, if you must.

I could have expressed this bias in any number of different ways. The softest space in my heart belongs to White Heart, the lineup-changing icons of 80’s Christian rock, and I could talk about White Heart’s importance to my life for days. But I had a hope of not completely polluting this bracket with my own tastes, even in my ultimate choice for this slot.

Petra is arguably underrepresented in this bracket; we got Greg X. Volz era soft-rock Petra into the field (“The Coloring Song” on Day 6) but not John Schlitt era hard-rock of the likes of “This Means War”, “Beyond Belief” and “Unseen Power”. There was an era when Petra could just record Bob Hartman noodling on a guitar and John Schlitt crooning and win a Grammy in the CCM categories, though, and there’s a lot to argue about when it comes to when Petra did their best work.

There are a host of truer heavy metal acts – Bride, Vengance Rising, Savior Machine, Demon Hunter – that could get their due in this space as well. But none of those acts grabbed my ear when I heard them and never let go.

I had to give my time to the song that stopped me in my tracks completely when I first heard it, and led me to dive deep into the album it came from. That’s the best moment of musical discovery, when you know on first listen that you’ve got a song that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

That song is called “Holiest One”. It was the project of two brothers, John and Dino Elefante. John Elefante had a measure of rock fame already – he was the Vinyl Confessions-era lead singer of Kansas, and he already had experience writing with Dino on several songs for Kansas albums.

In the late 80’s, the Elefante brothers got very punny when they called their new band for the Christian market Mastedon – Elephant, mastodon, geddit? – and they got even punnier when they put the second Mastedon project out on a new record label of theirs, Pakaderm Records – Elephant, pachyderm, geddit? And it was very clear in the recording of the album that the project was fun in the studio for people who were getting ready to cut their teeth in production and recording for others. The project lacked the polish that other projects they worked on had – most notably the work of fellow hard rockers Guardian that emerged in the same era.

But what the album Lofcaudio ultimately lacked in polish, it added in energy.

It is a work of the late 80’s. Synthesizers are everywhere over the rock. There is very little pure guitar and drums. And it works so well.

I’m personally a sucker for the piano pounding through the track, myself.

“Holiest One” is the lead track for the album, and the most arresting. There is no elegant introduction, no polite entrance. The track is a metaphorical elephant charging through the speakers, a worship song in a full sonic barrage. I’ve never heard anything like it, before or since. And Lofcaudio is an album I’ve never been able to fully put away, even as the style of music it represents is dated and out of vogue.

Never mind how the 16-seeds have performed in this field – 16-seeds are where they are in the field for a reason. I don’t hold out any hope of an upset here, and you shouldn’t either. The song of importance in this matchup is obvious.

But I hope you take the chance to sample and rock out a little bit. Some of us enjoyed growing up in the late 80’s, after all, and there’s a reason for it.

Last votes of the first round. Away we go.

Bracket A – Round 1

(1) “El Shaddai” (Amy Grant)
vs. (16) “Holiest One” (Mastedon)

(8) “Soldier of the Light” (Andrus, Blackwood, & Co.)
vs. (9) “Word Of God Speak” (MercyMe)

(5) “I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever” (Delirious?)
vs. (12) “The Champion” (Carman)

(4) “Shine” (Newsboys)
vs. (13) “We Will Stand” (Russ Taff)

Day #7, and the education in…all kinds of music, really

This is the day that I really question the wisdom of starting this enterprise during my final exams week, because now that final grades are handed in I’m out of adrenaline.

Of course, it’s also the moment where I’ve exhausted all the words I wrote while I procrastinated on grading and instead of editing what I’d already written, I have to smash words together just ahead of posting. And I have to make what I’m writing here have a theme.

Well, the theme here is simple: before this year’s game, I was unfamiliar with the lion’s share of this group of songs.

“Jesus Freak” was everywhere once upon a time, of course.

And “Mary, Did You Know” is everywhere during Christmastime, although I never gave a moment’s thought to where “Mary, Did You Know” came from and how it’s another testament to the influence of Gaithers.

I also remember assembling an Easter pageant around Don Francisco’s “He’s Alive” as well, although again that was a song that had always been there and not a song that came from somewhere.

It’s Twila Paris’ “The Warrior Is A Child” that first hit me clean new upon its hearing. The analogy in the title is so obvious – Jesus the savior, the babe in the manger – but it never hit me until listening to the song anew in preparation for this round how much Paris was being transparent in her fears and her weaknesses. “They don’t know that I go running home when I fall down; they don’t know who picks me up when no one is around. I drop my sword and cry for just a while…” That’s something that Christian artists projecting strength and power just don’t share.

In another moment of me being completely blind to contemporary Gospel, it’s Nicole C. Mullen’s “Redeemer” that made me realize who was responsible for a song that has always been around and that I’ve heard sung several different ways. Mullen’s performance is arranged like a standard CCM song, but the voices singing take the song to a transcendent place.

The 6 v 11 matchup is completely new territory for me. Lauren Daigle’s emergence in Christian music started with the album How Can It Be, and “Trust In You” is the most prominent single from that album. There’s a small measure of Amy Grant’s delivery in that performance. Mandisa’s “Overcomer” is the single poppiest song in the bracket (which would be why I missed it) and the video is either the best kind of star-studded super-encouragement or I’m just a sucker for Gabrielle Giffords.

And then there’s “Mansion Builder” – the later-career song by Second Chapter of Acts that found its way into the bracket when the song that I know by heart (“Easter Song”) didn’t make it. I’m not entirely mad about this – “Mansion Builder” is more representative of the musical style of the 70’s and shows the polish that reflects a “major-label” career turn. It was ultimately the more successful release at the time, even if for a bulk of different reasons “Easter Song” has had more staying power. Blame the chair of the selection committee for this one.

But ultimately, the chair of the selection committee wrestled with a lot to make sure this bracket was the most representative possible. There will be time for my personal biases shortly, and they do show up. There was also work to not pay attention to my biases, and to listen to what the broadest possible population thought was important.

It meant that I had a lot of learning to do.

Bracket D – Round 1

(2) “Jesus Freak” (dc Talk)
vs. (15) “Redeemer” (Nicole C. Mullen)

(7) “He’s Alive” (Don Francisco)
vs. (10) “The Warrior Is A Child” (Twila Paris)

(6) “Overcomer” (Mandisa)
vs. (11) “Trust In You” (Lauren Daigle)

(3) “Mary, Did You Know” (Michael English)
vs. (14) “Mansion Builder” (Second Chapter of Acts)

Day #6, and the education in Christian Country

Okay, this one’s hard to write. I nearly gave up and talked a ton about Hillsong Worship instead, but there should still be time for that later.

Country music of all stripes has been a huge turnoff to me in recent years. Too much of it seems to cheerlead for a very homogenous, bland version of America! that is wearying to live among and far less joyous than the diverse and wondrous kingdom of God.

The same accusation, of course, can be laid at the feet of Contemporary Christian Music itself, and in several of its expressions, the picture of the world that CCM projects is very…well, white. It’s not merely a picture of a fraction of the world that we should be aware of, it’s a weak and uninteresting fraction in its worst expressions.

Christian Country should be the worst of all possible worlds. These are my biases. I am laying them on the table and I don’t care what anybody thinks of them.

Now, here’s the counterpoint:

There is a lot to be said about authentically American music. There is a story that ought to be told about songs that can connect with rural culture where rural culture lives, and that provide real ministry where that ministry needs to be shared.

Rural culture, after all, gets dismissed by the trendsetters and the culture definers. The stereotypes are too easy; redneck, dumb hick, ignorant and proud. The stereotypes ignore the diversity of the people who live in rural spaces, the graft and labor that’s required of those spaces, and the traps that ensare people in those spaces that are so hard to break free from.

The featured song yesterday was called “Break Every Chain”; the featured song today is called “Chain Breaker.” There might be a theme here.

Zach Williams is a longtime Americana artist who encountered Christ in 2012 and gradually reinvented himself as an artist who could commuicate with the Christian market. “Chain Breaker” was a thunderbolt of a leadoff single, and my introduction to him was through a video which was…

…well. Playing music in an Arkansas prison tells me all I need to know.

I prefer my Americana a little darker, a little grittier. But I’m also a reasonably middle-class guy that’s comfortable on my couch. A room full of prisoners don’t need to hear darker and grittier. They need to know that there’s hope for them. They need to know that the snares that hold them can be taken away.

Sometimes the music isn’t for me; it’s for the people who need it. And that’s okay.

And that’s my education on Christian Country.

Bracket B – Round 1

(2) “Step By Step/Sometimes By Step” (Rich Mullins)
vs. (15) “Chain Breaker” (Zach Williams)

(7) “Friends” (Michael W. Smith)
vs. (10) “What A Beautiful Name” (Hillsong Worship)

(6) “The Great Adventure” (Steven Curtis Chapman)
vs. (11) “Shout To The Lord” (Darlene Zschech)

(3) “Give Me Your Eyes” (Brandon Heath)
vs. (14) “The Coloring Song” (Petra)

Day #5, and the education in Contemporary Gospel

One of the most interesting results of the crazy, mixed-up process of putting together this bracket is an all-timer of a worship chorus getting a #16 seed and having to go up against a modern pop powerhouse. Michael W. Smith’s “Agnus Dei” gets its entry under the banner of Third Day’s more famous performance. Its reward for its place at the edge of the field is a face-off against the still-selling single “You Say” by 2019 final-four artist Lauren Daigle. We’ll see how that goes.

I’m interested in songs written by one artists and recorded more famously than other artists right now. It’s been one of my major points of education when assembling this bracket.

At another point in time, Leeland’s Way Maker might have found its way into this field – it’s getting sung in churches all over the place at this moment in time, and the number of different ways the song has been reinterpreted are just too numerous to count.

But it wasn’t until the process of putting the field together and considering who to assign songs to that I discovered that the song was written by a Contemporary Gospel artist named Sinach. A Nigerian Contemporary Gospel artist.

That’s right – one of the most successful worship songs right now isn’t an African-American song, it’s an African song.

The modern Contemporary Gospel experience is such an interesting turn on the worship music movement that several of us have grown up in and around – it’s the exact same instrumentation as contemporary worship, with a lot more voices and the exuberance turned up to 11. One of my frustrations with the first iteration of this tournament was the lack of comfort those of us connected to CCM had with these expressions of worship music, and I still stand by the argument that it’s a shame. The improvisation and the energy behind Gospel music is worthy of our attention.

It certainly gets attention where music is sold. One of the measures I used to position seeds in this field is record sales, and specifically RIAA Gold and Platinum certifications. This decade, on the Platinum list, alongside names like Casting Crowns, Chris Tomlin and David Crowder are artists like Kirk Franklin, Tamela Mann and Tasha Cobbs Leonard – familiar songs are alongside unfamiliar, and it strikes me anew that not only is Sunday morning as divided in America as it’s ever been, so is the music that we listen to.

Tasha Cobbs Leonard’s entry is the one that made the field, and it’s evidence that the influence of Contemporary Gospel travels both ways. I’d heard “Break Every Chain” in many contexts before, most notably the version that was performed by Jesus Culture. I’ve heard it in church settings that are comfortable and familiar to me for much of this decade. I’d never heard Tasha Cobbs Leonard’s version before, and I had no idea that her version was considered the definitive and commerically successful one.

Listening, it makes sense. Most versions of this song I’ve heard before quietly smolder, patiently building throughout the song, maybe even interminably building if this type of music isn’t to your taste. Cobbs’ version isn’t nearly as patient. It charges very directly, driving the repetition of the lyrics home, and soaring at the climax. It’s musically a superior arrangement, and it’s delivered with energy that takes the best parts of the previous contemporary worship versions and amplifies them, adding a truly transcendent payoff.

Of course, the difficulty of a bracket tournament is that you put one great worship song up against another – and so Cobbs is paired in this round with a very different standard of the genre, Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons”. It sets up the type of choice that makes games like this a stupid idea.

Or a very fun proposition. I still haven’t decided.

I just know I’m learning a lot about music I thought I understood as I go.

Bracket C – Round 1

(4) “10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)” (Matt Redman)
vs (13) “Break Every Chain” (Tasha Cobbs Leonard)

(5) “What If I Stumble?” (dc Talk)
vs. (12) “On My Knees” (Jaci Velasquez)

(8) “Place In This World” (Michael W. Smith)
vs. (9) “He Is Exalted” (Twila Paris)

(1) “You Say” (Lauren Daigle)
vs. (16) “Agnus Dei” (Third Day)

Day #4, and the clash of sincerity

There will surely be more words for our #1 seed in this bracket after a few weeks. There are many words you can use to describe the song “Awesome God” – sincere is certainly one. It’s uncommonly direct for a worship chorus and not written with much of the flowery language that goes with such an effort – that unique directness is part of the reason that song has had such endurance and resonance.

Rich Mullins will get his day. I want to talk about Barry McGuire first.

Barry McGuire is not famous for the song that appears in this bracket. He is much more famous for singing a protest song that corresponds with the front side of the Jesus Movement, “Eve of Destruction”.

P.F. Sloan’s lyrics to that song, crying out for justice in the midst of strife and hatred, are not the stuff that gets associated with Christian music, and when McGuire released this song, he was still outside the faith – but clearly seeking. McGuire’s conversion to Christianity in 1971 was a shot in the arm to the young Jesus Music performers, as welcome an addition as could be. Randy Stonehill specifically credits McGuire for being not only a role model as a performer, but an encourager and a friend.

None of McGuire’s output in Christian music was as prominent as “Eve of Destruction”, but it did have a small influence as the Christian music industry began to organize itself and coalesce. In many ways, McGuire’s inclusion in this field of 64 is a fluke. One of the earliest charts I had access to had McGuire’s 1978 release “Cosmic Cowboy” high enough up to merit inclusion in the early nominees list, but certainly not high enough to get any serious attention.

But one of our voters took it upon himself to listen to every song in the list of nominees, and when he did, he was struck by positive energy of a song he’d never heard before, so much so that it became his favorite out of the whole list.

In explaining why Barry McGuire rose to the top of his list, that voter referenced the New Sincerity – an artistic movement that casts aside cynicism and negative effect and appreciates art forms such as music on their own terms.

When Barry McGuire performed “Cosmic Cowboy”, he was enjoying himself, and it’s obvious he was enjoying himself. That joy radiates out of the song, and a song that one generation (possibly even my own) might have dismissed as “cheese” can be received on its own terms as positive and affirming.

I’m still very much in a gritty-realism artistic place. (I’m going to have to write up a Round 1-in-review just to have one more chance to say words about the recently-departed 77’s.) I’m not going to be a devotee of this New Sincerity. But my friend gave me things to think about when I listen to music.

Sometimes the path to greatness is just owning what you’re singing, and genuinely, clearly enjoying it.

Bracket D, Round 1

(1) “Awesome God” (Rich Mullins)
vs. (16) “Cosmic Cowboy” (Barry McGuire)

(8) “God Of Wonders” (City On A Hill)
vs. (9) “Soon And Very Soon” (Andraé Crouch)

(5) “Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)” (Chris Tomlin) vs. (12) “Big House” (Audio Adrenaline)

(4) “Praise You In This Storm” (Casting Crowns)
vs. (13) “The Robe” (Wes King)

Day #3, and the clash of expectations

I make comment in another corner of this small internet about how difficult it was putting this bracket together, and how little confidence I have in the seeding of the thing – but how I tried to make the seeding as unbiased as possible.

Nowhere is my doubt more pronounced than it is here: #2 “Dare You To Move” by Switchfoot vs. #15 “Your Love Broke Thru” as recorded by Phil Keaggy.

I don’t suppose I’m that doubtful of Switchfoot’s position, although I never could have imagined that song landing a #2 seed. Then again, when we did the artists’ bracket last year, I felt that Switchfoot’s #6 seed was just about right, and they claimed their bracket and made it all the way to the final. Shutting down my biases as much as possible means that some of these newer artists (and how old am I to be classifying Switchfoot as “newer”) get seeds that are higher than what I’d assign on my own. (For the record: I had “Dare You To Move” on a 5-line on my personal ranking.)

What shocks me more than seeing Switchfoot so high is seeing Phil Keaggy’s lone appearance on this bracket so low – and not only that, but Randy Stonehill and Keith Green’s songwriting so low as well. Last year I screencapped a story that Stonehill told about Keith Green’s driving passion, captured in the writing of a song. That song was “Your Love Broke Thru.” I had that song with a top-three seed; everything about the song is so emblematic of that era of the Jesus Movement, the energy and the boldness of the hope.

If I hadn’t backed the song so strongly, it wouldn’t be in this field at all. As it stands, it’s facing a virtual buzzsaw.

It’s representative of my worries about how a game like this plays out. Old nerds like me aren’t found all that often. My expectations of a place of honor for the old hands are prone to get drowned out by the wishes of the younger set (and by “younger set” I obviously mean “below the age of 35”),

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Switchfoot speaks to the same hope in a very different way. Keith Green appears by himself elsewhere in this bracket (albeit on a very different line), and I’m still going to hold out hope that he has a place in the later stages of this tournament, because Keith Green’s voice means a whole lot.

But here’s a favorite song that went around the world. I hope you like it enough to dump out one of the tournament favorites.

Bracket A – Round One

(2) “Dare You To Move” (Switchfoot)
vs. (15) “Your Love Broke Thru” (Phil Keaggy)

(7) “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” (Larry Norman)
vs. (10) “My Hope Is In You” (Aaron Shust)

(6) “Made To Worship” (Chris Tomlin)
vs. (11) “Testify To Love” (Avalon)

(3) “Voice Of Truth” (Casting Crowns)
vs. (14) “Holy” (Nichole Nordeman)

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