[ by Ben Forrest | next page > ]
The Year of Our Lord 2001 was, obviously, one in which the death of more than 3000 people due to terrorist acts in the United States, overshadowed everything. But it was a big and interesting year in Christian music as well. The industry continued to grow, showing a sales increase of 13.5% despite an overall drop in music sales of roughly 3%. This, of course was bolstered by several big-name releases by Steven Curtis Chapman, the three members of dc Talk, and big debuts from MercyMe and The Benjamin Gate. Here we offer you the biggest stories of 2001.
Ja'Marc Davis Sentenced to 5 Years in Minimum Security Prison
This is undoubtedly the saddest story of the year, and one that we were reluctant to report. Ja'Marc Davis, former frontman of the techno group Raze was arrested and charged with molestation and several offences of a sexual nature stemming from a sexual relationship with one of the group's back up dancers, who was then 13 years old. Davis plead guilty to three of the charges, all felonies, and had the remaining seven dropped. Davis had expressed extreme lament for his actions, and had the support of several character witnesses, but was sentenced to three consecutive 10-year jail terms. All but five years were suspended. The presiding judge, Jefferson Sellers, said, in his ruling, "good people do bad things, and there are consequences."
Davis had already been seeking help for his problem, and it is expected that he will continue to do so. We need to continue to pray for him, the victim, and the victim's family.
DC Talk Goes Solo
This has been talked into the ground, but we'll say it one more time: dc Talk is not breaking up. Though the three members of that Platinum-selling group embarked on the creation of individual side projects (for reasons that really aren't clear), the group remains intact, and is currently touring together in the United States. The news broke early in the year, before I arrived here at cMusicWeb.com as a news writer, but gathered excitement with the seven-song EP Solo (an album that, surprisingly, went on to be nominated for a Grammy). Michael Tait, who gathered with friends to form the band Tait (the band was named after Tait's father...but since they share the same surname, one wonders why it wasn't named "George." Or whatever Tait's father's name might have been) to record Empty, which spawned several top ten singles, and earned praise following the Sept. 11 attacks. Also of note is the fact that one of the tracks, "American Tragedy" includes a sound bite of at woman using the word "n---er." Interestingly, the band avoided controversy.
Tait's Empty was released in July, but the enigmatic Kevin Max (who some have called an egomaniac) followed with Stereotype Be, whose pervading theme may be summed up with the chorus from the song "Be" ("Be yourself / If you don't who's going to?). While it may have been the least accessible of the three dc Talk solo albums, our former senior writer, Josh Shepherd, liked it. Read his in-depth review.
Toby McKeehan (alias tobyMac) was the final of the Brothers to enter the fray, with Momentum in November. The album contained his smash hit "Extreme Days" and the hits "Somebody's Watching" and "J Train." The album sparked a return to emceeing for McKeehan, whose "white chocolate" rapping was once the driving force behind the band. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart, and at #110 on the Top 200. Mac was also featured in USA Today, and MSN's music site. Watch for a full review of Momentum soon.
Creed Releases Weathered
Arguably the biggest release of the year, Weathered hit stores on November 20, selling more than 887,000 copies and grabbing on to the top spot on Billboard's Top 200 chart. It remains there even today, fighting off debuts from heavy hitters such as Ludacris, Garth Brooks, Busta Rhymes, Kid Rock and Jewel, and resurgent albums from Linkin Park, Nickelback and Ja Rule. The album has since gone on to sell more than 5 million copies, and was one of the top selling albums of the year despite the fact that it was released only 6 weeks before year's end. Such grand success is particularly sweet for the band considering the beating they've taken from peers and critics in recent years.
"Our success has come relatively quickly," says drummer Scott Phillips. "And a lot of people resent us for that. Human Clay went way above and beyond what we all expected it would do, and a lot of people tried to knock us down because we were on top at that point.
"We lived through a weathering process, he continues. "You get knocked down, so you get back up again and keep going. All that stuff really came out of the blue, and I feel like we've handled ourselves well by not retaliating in a negative way, but in a positive way. And if people want to say stuff, they'll say stuff, and there's nothing we can do about that. We just gotta go out and do what we do."
So, frankly, Limp Bizkit (Fred Durst was one of Creed's most vocal critics over the past year) you can take your slander and shove it up your...yeeeeeah. Check out Rick Foux's review of Weathered.
Relient K and the Abercrombe & Fitch Controversy
Gotee recording artists Relient K were one band that didn't escape controversy this year. The group had reached an agreement with clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch to have their music sold in A&F stores, and have their videos play on in-store monitors and on the abercrombiekids.com website. They were forced to pull out, however, after harsh criticism from many in the Christian community.
Bill Johnson, president of the American Decency Association, was perhaps most vocal. "I am very disappointed and very troubled that a Christian band [or any Christians] would feel comfortable aligning themselves with a corporation so blatant in targeting our youth through sexually erotic images," he said. A&F is notorious for having catalogues featuring scantily clad models. Johnson even went so far as to say that he'll be advising people not to buy Relient K records, calling the partnership a serious error.
Bob Smithouser of Focus on the Family was also critical of the deal: "I think the issue here is about confusing young people. The Christian teen audience knows what Relient K stands for, and when they see the band is connected with Abercrombie & Fitch, then they think that Abercrombie & Fitch must be all right. I am reluctant to get kids jazzed about Relient K and that's a shame."
Gotee president Joey Elwood saw the move as a great ministry opportunity, and defended the band, saying, "For me, it's no different than us putting our [products] in other stores that are selling materials we consider inappropriate. We know people are coming into these stores and we want to offer them an option."
Interestingly, the band and label stood to gain no monetary compensation. The only commercial benefit for them was exposure (no pun intended).
P.O.D. Releases Satellite
P.O.D. was undoubtedly one of the biggest newsmakers of the year, and is bringing new meaning to the term "crossover band." The group's sophomore release, Satellite, debuted on the infamous September 11, and captured the 6th spot on Billboard's Top 200; it stayed inside the top 10 for more than a month. The album sold more than 200,000 copies in its first two weeks of release, and at year's end was approaching double platinum status. To put that in perspective, the group's major-label debut, The Fundamental Elements of Southtown, took two years to achieve single platinum status ("platinum" indicates 1,000,000 copies sold).
The group and the album got unprecedented "love" (to use rapspeak) from secular media outlets as well. The first single from the album, "Alive," hit #1 on MTV's TRL, and was hailed as an anthem that would help heal a shocked nation following the September 11 attacks. Rolling Stone magazine gave Satellite a 4 (out of five) star rating. The album was hailed by many Christian critics (including our own Rick Foux) as the album of the year. Satellite was nominated for a Grammy (and, typically, in a non-Christian category: "Best Hard Rock Performance"). Read our review of Satellite.
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