You don’t have to be a fan of contemporary Christian artists to have heard Christian music in recent years.
Thanks to a wave of collaborations between CCM groups and those of other genres, you could be a fan of country music. Or pop music. Or even hip-hop and rock.
In 2019, For King and Country partnered with hip-hop artist Timbaland and pop singer Sydney Sierota of Echosmith for a new rendition of “God Only Knows.”
Knocking down walls
TobyMac followed with a collaboration with folk/rock singer Sheryl Crow on “Promised Land.” Chris Tomlin teamed up with country artists Thomas Rhett and Florida Georgia Line on “Thank You Lord,” then with Jimmie Allen, also a country singer, on “Love People.” Other collaborations include Matthew West and country singer Carly Pearce on “Truth Be Told,” Zach Williams and Dolly Parton on “There Was Jesus” and Lecrae with singer/songwriter John Legend on “Drown.”
“[With collaboration] you are knocking down societal and genre walls, brick by brick,” said Joel Smallbone of For King and Country. “I think that’s part of the reason people love it.”
The collaboration often involves mainstream artists who already were fans of CCM.
“I love Christian music,” Jimmie Allen, 2021 CMA Awards New Artist of the Year, said. “I listen to K-Love and Air1 all the time.”
Collaborations have multiple benefits, Smallbone and his brother, Luke, say. For starters, they open a door to a new audience, a way for Christian artists to reach a new set of fans.
Listening to others
“When you’ve got a different voice on your song, there are people who follow that artist and then [they] start listening to your songs,” Luke explained.
Other songs naturally lend themselves to collaborations — “God Only Knows,” for instance.
“We had this song that felt universal,” Joel said. “And it felt like it was bigger than our two voices. And so what do people respond to? They respond to rhythm. So Timbaland was just so magnificent in bringing his own beat.”
Music fans also “respond to the beauty of different voices,” Joel added.
That’s where Dolly Parton enters the picture. In December 2019, she teamed up with For King and Country for another version of “God Only Knows.”
“Dolly was a long shot,” Joel admitted. “We were going for a hole-in-one there. And by the grace of God, she loved the song, and she came back and put her heart into it.”
New voices can give a song new meaning, Luke said.
“That’s a lady who has been in entertainment for 60 years,” he marveled. “So when she says ‘God only knows,’ you can hear her going, ‘I’m thinking through what I’ve been through.’
“That’s part of the charm of it: You take the same song, and someone else can sing it, and it can mean something different to you.
“I think that’s the power of a voice.”
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