The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
TobyMac’s new album, Eye On It, made a little music sales and Christian music history last week when it landed at No. 1 on Billboard Magazine’s Top 200 album sales chart.
T-Mac’s fifth non-seasonal studio album was the No. 1 album in the land last week, the first time since 1997 and only the third time that a Christian album topped the overall best-seller charts, and we’re going to do some qualifying of those other two. The last No. 1 was LeAnn Rimes You Light Up My Life: Inspirational Songs, which topped the chart for three weeks. But Rimes was already an established star in the pop and country markets with No. 1’s to her credit in mainstream music. Shortly before that, Bob Carlisle’s Butterfly Kisses went to No. 1. Carlisle is a Christian market artist, but the title song, a father’s reflections about his daughter on her 16th birthday, was a pop culture phenomenon in its own right. The album was actually a reissue of the album it originally appeared in on, Shades of Grace, which was retitled for the re-release.
So, it is fair to say that TobyMac is the first Christian music artist to take an album to No. 1 based on his own starpower and the music he has made.
It’s a mark that has been a long time coming. Numerous Christian artists such as Casting Crowns have sniffed No. 1 in recent years. And TobyMac’s former band, dc talk, made its own history with its 1998 release, Supernatural, which debuted at No. 4, at the time an unprecedented bow for a Christian band.
“Depending on whether you see the music industry’s glass as half-empty or half-full, this either points to a long-running genre that has built a healthy audience or simply done a better job holding on while most other music sales have tanked,” wrote Ben Sisario of The New York Times. “According to Billboard, 27 percent of TobyMac’s sales came from Christian retailers and bookstores.”
You could also attribute it to a savvy releases strategy as late August is a fairly light time for new music releases, making it an easier week to make a run at No. 1. Eye On It’s main competition came from the hip-hop collective Slaughterhouse, whose Welcome to: Our House bowed at No. 2, and Alanis Morissette, who hasn’t been a chart powerhouse since the mid-1990s and saw her Havoc and Bright Lights come in at No. 5.
It is fair to say TobyMac’s music has endured a lot longer in the faith-based market than Morissette’s in the mainstream.
If someone was going to bring contemporary Christian music a No. 1, it is entirely appropriate it is Toby McKeehan who has played a huge role in dragging along a genre that is often behind the times. Read the rest of this entry »
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich