REVIEW OF STEVEN CURTIS CHAPMAN’S “#1s VOL. 2” ALBUM
Steven Curtis Chapman is a frequent flyer to the penthouse of the Christian chart. In fact, he is such a regular chart topper that he has become a fixture in the genre; it's hard to imagine Christian radio without Chapman. While many artists dream of having just one number one hit single, Chapman has 47 of them. Even his festive offering "Christmas Time Again" reached the pinnacle of the charts during the holiday season late last year. Number ones aside, Chapman is also Contemporary Christian music most awarded artist amassing a total of 5 Grammies, a whooping 56 Dove Awards, 2 Platinum albums and 7 Gold albums. While many artists struggle to find enough hits to justify a "Greatest Hits" collection, Chapman is able to have a compilation collection of not just hits but number ones! And he has so many number ones that one collection is not enough! Last year, Sparrow Records released the first installment; months later this follow-up arrives. Rather than arranging Chapman's number one hits chronologically, "#1s Vol. 2" gives us a nice cross section of 14 of his chart toppers from Chapman first ever number one in 1989 "His Eyes" to his latest non-festive number one 2012's "Do Everything." However, unlike the first volume which offers a special version of his hit "Cinderella" to the chagrin of the ardent fan, nothing unreleased is thrown in here to entice the faithful Chapman follower to purchase what he or she has already owned.
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So, what is the secret of Chapman's reign atop the charts from 1989 to today? A listen through this collection of 14 represented number ones with 1 coming from the 80s, 7 of them coming from the 90s and 6 from the new millennium, reveals three secrets to Chapman's success. First, there is a consistency that runs right through all these tracks despite coming from the different dispensations of his career. While many a lesser artist would have chased trends or try ways to re-invent his or her music, consistency is Chapman's strategy. If you listen to his first number one song "His Eyes" next to his latest "Do Everything" they don't sound too distinctively apart even though both tracks are separated by a time gulf of 23 years. Like grits, peanut butter sandwich and roast beef, there is a consistency in Chapman you can count on. Regardless of how the whistle and bells might change with time, Chapman sticks to what he does best-- carefully crafted songs of strong melodic structures written with his faithful guitar at the sound's center. His light weighted 70s styled rock has a transcending appeal, pleasing the older generation who don't want to have their ears busted, yet it has such a fresh contemporary edge that he is embraced by youngsters half Chapman's age.
Second, Chapman takes the issues central in Scripture and he makes them central in his songs. In the 90s when many Christian artists were making crossovers to the secular market with cutesy generic love songs, Chapman did not domesticate the subject of his songs. In 1991 Chapman even stepped out of h1is comfort zone and released the revolutionary "For the Sake of the Call." While many of his peers were singing about "Baby baby," Chapman sings about dying to oneself and following Christ. This is a theme so vital to being a Christian yet bereft in so many Christian songs. When one would have expected Chapman to tone down but he gushes out in 1994 with the thumping "Heaven in the Real World." On this stately pop tune, Chapman courageously pinpoints the crux of what is wrong in our violence-filled society-we have turned our backs to God! While many preachers and singers would talk about enjoying this life with all its health, wealth and prosperity, Chapman teaches in his 1997 hit "Not Home Yet" that our life here on earth is only temporary.
Third, Chapman sings with his heart and soul invested in each syllable of his songs. At the end of the day, those who sing in order to be the next big thing will not last. It's only those who take the time to listen to their hearts before giving them expressions in music can go on for the long haul. Even after Chapman has lost his daughter through the tragic accident, the fact that he came back with 2008's "Yours" is just remarkable. Amidst his anger and pain, to write and sing such a gorgeous acoustic-driven ballad of self surrender to Jesus is just Godly. Deep in Chapman's heart, you can sense his love for Jesus through songs such as 2003's "All About Love" and 1997's "Let Us Pray." And no song sums up Chapman's attitude towards life, music and worship better than the words of "Do Everything:" "As you do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you/Cause he made you to do/Every little thing that you do/To bring a smile to His face." This, my friends, is the key to Chapman's success.
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