Recently, I have started to become a bit more reflective and introspective- and more specially, the more and more I think about life in general, and the way it has gone for myself and maybe for others I have come in contact with; the more grateful I am to be living in Australia. And I’m sure the same goes for anyone living in the U.S, England, New Zealand, and other English-speaking countries I reckon. Not that other developing countries are ‘bad’ or anything like that, but I’ve recently noticed something. For all of the faults of Trump, for all of the issues to do with Brexit and for all of the turmoil and fallout with the Israel Falou saga; one thing remains constant. And it’s the wide range of music available to us via Spotify, iTunes, Youtube, Google Play, Amazon and other streaming services. In stores where we can buy physical CD’s (yep, they still exist!), the range for albums of different genres is quite varied, and it is in my own opinion that if you were to search for an album to listen to, you’d probably find at least one, but maybe two or three, that you could like straight away. Are there luxuries of music and the wide variety of artists available in countries like China, India and other countries in Africa?

Perhaps, if you dig very hard in many different places; however what I reckon is that even though we may grumble about this or that, we’re actually living with pretty good conditions in terms of entertainment, as there probably minimal (or even none!) restrictions on videos and music. Maybe the only restrictions are for explicit words on Spotify, but anyway, I digress. So as I was contemplating life and the answers to the deepest questions that some of us may want to avoid and run away from; I also realised that the notion that we are probably the most free here in Australia (or in America where probably most of you readers are!) extends to the content of music as well. See artists can sing about literally anything they want to, and they probably won’t be shunned and crucified for it. And while sportsmen as recent as Israel Falou are ‘destroyed’ for being vocal about their faith, I have found the opposite to be true in the music market.

Sure there’s a whole different other world and sphere of influence when we’re talking about Christian music, and then a sub-‘genre’ called worship music; but in terms of mainstream music, I’ve found recently that more and more artists are becoming more bold in the proclamation of their faith through music (such as artists like Tori Kelly and Avril Lavigne). Or if not their faith, at least a semblance of searching and longing for truth and meaning that lies beyond the material and the superficial. While it’s hard in my opinion to find and source the good artists- the influential ones that will say something meaningful (be it spiritual and religious or not!) and will say it in a way that isn’t that poppy, but rather draws us in with double or triple meanings, and let us view a snapshot of the artists’ raw and unfiltered life in a way that’s authentic; there are several artists around that will stand the test of time.

It’s not because of the catchiness of their music though, but because of the lives they lead away from the studio and the stage, and their values they live day to day- not to mention their world view and how they creatively show us songs that can be musically poppy but also lyrically and thematically strong based upon aforementioned world view. All of that extracurricular stuff and the charities they support and everything they do away from the spotlight will undoubtedly bleed into their music- and it is the artists that have something good to say (rather than just something to say!) that will in the end be much more relatable and well worth the listen than others who just keep up with the trends for the sake of it. And with that very long (but necessary!) intro, let me say that while Jon is in the midst of delving into influential artists of the timeless variety, I’m delving into more of the future influencers in terms of music. While I’ve explored Maren Morris’ discography last time, this time I reckon I need to address the big, big question. When an artist is thrust into the spotlight on a grandiose scale, how do they cope with the pressure and include a wide range of listeners while still staying true to the genre they grew up in and are all too familiar with? When an artist has a passionate and overflowing faith in Jesus and is suddenly thrown into the mainstream market, what happens and how does the artist ensure that they still have faith in Jesus in 5, 10, 20 years? If you think that I’m talking about the next Amy Grant…aka Lauren Daigle– then you’d be right!

A lot of people aka the wider world who’s not that familiar with Christian music, suddenly were introduced to Lauren’s emotional, personal, heartfelt honest, encouraging and inspiring music in the middle of last year, when Lauren’s lead single “You Say”, off Look Up Childshot up the mainstream charts– as did the album as well. It was a strange thing that has happened over this past year. Not really strange though, but something that hasn’t happened for a long time. Because “You Say”, for all its Christian references and overt mention of God, kept blowing up and kept rising higher and higher up the mainstream charts. I don’t really know why, and perhaps this song being received so positively by so many people shows us that we as a human race are always searching and actively looking for the real meaning of life beyond the transient and the here and now. And though I reckon the only person that has had an impact on the charts of this magnitude would be Amy Grant way back in the 80’s and 90’s (specifically for her song “Baby Baby” and her album Heart In Motion in 1991- with “Baby Baby” reaching number 15 in the Billboard 200 charts in 1991, and at 24 in 1992), in Lauren’s case, this exposure to the world beyond the CCM bubble has meant backlash and controversy, all of which Lauren is taking in her stride, and is diplomatically answering. I don’t know if her answers are in line to what traditional Christianity teaches, but let me just go back further and dive deeper into Lauren’s story more, so that you can understand context. Because… context is important, am I right?

Growing up in Lafayette Louisiana, Lauren planned to enter the medical field and do mission work, while after a stint in mission work in Brazil, Lauren started attending Louisiana State University for Child and Family Studies- and it was then when she started to sing in the choir. Lauren tried out for American Idol twice (in 2010 and in 2012), with limited success both times. Eventually signing to Centricity Music in 2013 and landing a backing vocal part in Jason Gray’s “Nothing Is Wasted”, I guess you could say that the rest is history when you’re listing all of the things that has led to where Lauren is right now. And while I could go on and on about Lauren’s background (which is what Wikipedia is for!), and while I could also delve into Lauren’s most famous songs, and write a few ‘reviews’ of sorts (of which we have indeed reviewed How Can It BeBehold and Look Up Child on our site!); I realise that all of those things are already done. Just not by me, and that’s ok. Because as we stop to dwell upon and marvel at the steps that Lauren has taken to become a music artist, we can also stop and thank God for putting Lauren in the right place at the right time. For she is a force to be reckoned with musically, and with Lauren’s angelic Adele-like voice being part of the reason why “You Say” rocketed up so quickly, I’ve come to realise that it doesn’t matter who says what online about her, or who gets the credit for saying the most noteworthy and praiseworthy things. I’m sure Lauren would rather the praise being pointed back to Jesus. So that’s what we all need to do. Vertical worship style songs like “First”, “How Can It Be”, “Trust In You”, “O Lord” and “Come Alive” all showcase Lauren at her most vulnerable while worshipping God in its purest form, while the songs on You Say are much more big band-ish and orchestral. Yet what both studio albums do, and do well, is to give her a current sound, and let her be true to herself, which is singing about Jesus without being too preachy. I’m sure that even if you’re not a Christian, you can appreciate Lauren’s authenticity, right?

One of the things I try to do is write from a place of experience. If I was going to create a follow-up album that was pure and true to me, I had to get experience under my belt separate from the craze of highs and lows, and get my life back to as simple a place as I could. Successful as it was, I didn’t just want to regurgitate How Can It Be. I wanted to honor the fans and other people who were on the journey with me through that album, and give them new songs that were valid and beautiful—that could not only reach those who support me but also others who haven’t yet heard me and maybe don’t believe the things I do. I had to return to the beginning, to remind myself why I love what I do. Get out of the expectations and the pressure While we reviewed Look Up Child way back in September, thought it was awesome, and rated the project 5/5, what I will say is this. Lauren Daigle is an artist to watch out for in the coming months and years. Touted by myself, and I’m sure by others, as the next Amy Grant, in terms of mainstream popularity, it will be extremely interesting to see what that instant fame and media attention and scrutiny does to her psyche and her faith in the future. Though I pray and I’d like to hope that her faith in Jesus is so grounded that not even international fame cannot shake it; you never really know the future. Yet as of now, her influence in both the Christian and mainstream media is quite profound and paramount. Why is she influential, you ask, or possibly coming to be more influential than before, considering that her songs are more overt than covert?

Some people reckon they’re famous when they’ve reached a million facebook friends, or a billion twitter followers. Or maybe even half a million youtube subscribers. In the case of Lauren Daigle, her presence on a variety of music talk shows (The Ellen Show, The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, and Jimmy Kimmel, performing “Still Rolling Stones”, “Look Up Child” and “You Say” respectively) has most likely cemented her status in mainstream music as the ‘It girl’ right now. Having also already been a mentor on an episode of American Idol this season, and slated to appear in various music festivals across this year and next year (of which Lollapalooza comes to mind!) where Christianity isn’t really represented nor recognised as something to be positive and hopeful; Lauren definitely is going places, and her influence and growing popularity continues to climb and climb. More people are noticing her music, and it will be intriguing to see where Lauren’s reach takes her with regards to studio album number 3. Will Lauren go back to Christian roots, or create a more seeker-sensitive and mainstream type project? It’s anyone’s guess, but for now, all we can do is bask in the awesomeness of Lauren Daigle and see God work in her life as she spreads the good news to every creature who will listen.

One of the more recent ordeals though, that Lauren has had to endure, is in the form of people online criticising her mainstream popularity, by saying that just because Lauren guested on Ellen, a self-professed homosexual, it means that she’s not a Christian anymore. And while all of us may have views on this issue, I reckon it is in Lauren’s response where she truly shines, and has me believing that she will be influential for an entire generation- not just to Christians. While you can read my views on Lauren’s comments on homosexuality in my Flashback Fridays post from last year (of which is a highly contentious issue, yet I reckon doesn’t water down her level of influence!); let me end my Momentous Mondays post now, with a quote from Lauren about her mission as a Christian going out into the world in how it relates to her performance on Ellen, and also with a quote from my own post from last year. And now…surely we can’t refute her passionate faith in God now, can we?

‘…therein lies my ‘2 cents worth’ or basis for my ‘rant’, and in essence the message of this short blog- some commenters on Youtube are saying nasty things about Lauren because of her performances on these shows. Like she is somehow losing her Christian faith for associating with Ellen and with Jimmy Fallon, and with people who watch those shows and hold the same views that they hold. Like somehow Lauren is ‘becoming more like the world’ instead of showing Jesus to the whole world, just by going on these shows…the question that everyone has on their lips, which they are probably not even voicing, is ‘Is she still a Christian’? I believe she is; How Can It Be is her debut album; and if the lyrics are anything to go by here, then Lauren is a woman on fire for Jesus. But if this is true though, then does anything else matter? Her views on sexuality, politics, the economy, and other issues may be different to yours, but if you’re still serving the same God, on the whole does the divergent theological differences really matter? I don’t have the answers if you’re expecting a crystal ball with the answers to the whole universe being given to all of us; yet this whole…thing, is a launching pad where we all can discuss in a healthy environment and learn from each other if we’ve got it wrong for one reason or another.  And as we admire Lauren Daigle’s singing and her reach on both Christian and mainstream markets, let us be happy for her as this means that the gospel and the message are being exposed to people who wouldn’t necessary hear the gospel on a regular basis…’

I think the second we start drawing lines around which people are able to be approached and which aren’t, we’ve already completely missed the heart of God. I don’t have all the answers in life and I’m definitely not gonna act like I do, but the one thing that I know for sure is I can’t choose who I’m supposed to be kind to and who I’m supposed to show love to and who I’m not, because that’s the mission right? Be who Christ was to everyone.

One may think that because of Lauren Daigle’s controversial and contentious beliefs in that she is unsure about whether homosexuality is a sin or not; she doesn’t deserve to be called a ‘true Christian’ nor even an up-and-coming influential artist. But I reckon just as God spoke to Balaam through his donkey, so too can He us anyone to speak into our lives- yep even Lauren Daigle, who has different theology to some of us. While we may disagree with and not like the direction her music is going (towards the mainstream)- yet I for one am intrigued as to where God leads her; there’s no denying Lauren’s passion for Jesus, especially in “You Say”- she is a Christian doing ‘worship’ in the marketplace, and winning souls to Jesus that way. So instead of tearing our sister-in-Christ down, let’s build her up and support wherever God is leading her into. As Christianity right now is in a war with the world, we need all of the ambassadors for Jesus that we can get!

Does Lauren Daigle make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Influential Artists of the next 5-10 years’ list? Is there any song (other than “How Can It Be”, “Trust In You”, “Still Rolling Stones”, “You Say” and “Look Up Child”) that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

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