Christian rock bands don’t often find mainstream media outlets profiling them. But Skillet, a popular group among the faithful, was the focus of an intensive New York Times article this week.
Perhaps it was Skillet’s record sales that attracted attention. After all, as the Times notes, only three bands had albums that sold over one million last year. Black Keys and Mumford & Sons were the first two. The third? Skillet.
While the first two ensembles have had massive secular success, it’s fascinating and noteworthy to consider that this third, a Christian group, has also been able to make such a widespread impact on the music scene. It’s not the first time that a faith-based band has seen a hit or two, but Skillet’s impact is much more long-standing.
It’s not only Christians who are buying Skillet’s albums. Somehow, the band has been able to attract non-believers as well. Many times, crossover groups frustrate Bible-believers and are seen as abandoning the faith. But in this case, the band has been able to appeal to both sides of the aisle — a rarity in the modern music world.
Lead singer and bassist John Cooper, 38, told the Times his secret.
“That is a little bit of a trick. I tend to write songs I believe in,” he said. “That get my message across in the best way possible and leave it as nonthreatening as possible.”
The newspaper has more about this universal appeal:
Skillet’s success seems to signal a growing acceptance of Christian rock at a time when rock is generally declining in cultural importance. While it is not unusual for Christian acts to score an occasional hit on mainstream radio, Skillet has become a regular presence there, emerging as a leader among Christian bands that have crossover appeal, among them Thousand Foot Krutch, P.O.D., Flyleaf and Switchfoot.
Mr. Cooper composes squarely in the heavy-metal vein and sings in an angry yet melodic rasp, recalling 1990s Nu Metal bands. His lyrics touch on Christian themes — struggle, salvation, a relationship with a heroic savior — but seldom mention Jesus. He makes no open overtures to win converts.
It’s not as though Skillet avoids speaking about the Christian savior. In fact, the Jesus is a centerpiece of the band’s message. And Cooper recently said in an interview with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) that, “We’re always talking about Jesus at our shows. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing with.”
On one side, of course, you have those who believe that the band isn’t openly Christian enough, as it sometimes takes looking deeply into the lyrics to see the faith-based undertones. But others contend that Skillet’s balance is fine and that they have a viable, coveted and special place in both the secular and Christian music scenes.
Watch a recent performance by Skillet, below:
As for critics, there are certainly stories worth noting that show that, despite not overtly proselytizing, the band has made an impact in spreading its faith.
In his BGEA interview, Cooper spoke about a husband and wife who once worked in the porn industry. After hearing Skillet’s song, “Hero,” the husband decided to research the band, the two ended up going to a show where they heard about Christ — and then they changed their lives around.
“They were saved and they got out of that industry and have gotten into church,” Cooper said of the story. “It’s something only God can do. And we are so honored He is using our music to do it.”
And “do it” they are. The band has reached many non-believers and continues to. After all, Skillet has had at least nine songs on the Billboard Rock chart over the past seven years. Despite success, media coverage of the band isn’t rampant.
While not a major fixture in popular culture, Skillet’s following is substantial. And use of social media has helped to expand and sustain that. From gathering millions of Facebook fans to creating opportunities to engage the public (they produced a music video for their song “Sick of It” after inviting fans to submit photos and then including them in a YouTube clip for the tune), they’ve been innovative.
Watch the video they created using these images, below:
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