Lauren Daigle’s Brilliant New Double Album, Christian Pop and G.K. Chesterton
Christian singer Lauren Daigle has just released a glorious record. Simply entitled Lauren Daigle, it uses pop, soul, hip-hop, gospel and 1970s-style acoustic ballads to showcase Daigle’s raspy, powerful voice. A double album of twenty-three tracks, it’s a joyful triumph.
It is also an important record for me. It resolves one of the small issues I’ve long had with Christian pop music, which is typically and understandably triumphant. It celebrates the victory of Christ over death and suffering, which is theologically sound and the ultimate cause of our happiness. Yet that narrow focus can sometimes make for blandness.
Of course, secular pop music and rock and roll can be nihilistic, vulgar and demonic, so you don’t want to go too far in the other direction. (Although interestingly, the acclaimed British band Radiohead were in influenced not by the occult but by Dante’s Inferno.)
I’ve long felt that all the best pop music is Christian, whether it explicitly says so or not. Most of it is about love. And the God I love. Yet it is also free to engage in other topics — politics, friendship, personal experiences. I want the same broad range for consciously Christian artists. Radiohead wrote a song about surviving a car accident: “In the deep deep sleep of the innocent/I am born again.” This is not far from Christian rock. Taylor Swift also breaks out the church choir on several of her songs.
Music That Acknowledges the Troubles of the Fallen World … and the Final Victory in Christ
The middle ground in music for me has always been the great music traditions of black America — jazz and blues and gospel. These musical forms, which came out of the church, acknowledge the sorrows of our sinful nature and the troubles of the fallen world, but they also anticipate the final victory of Christ. The tension between those two truths is the story of our lives here in this vale of tears. They are also the genres most represented on Lauren Daigle.
In one of the most astonishing passages from his classic Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton argued that what makes Christianity so singular — and so true — is that it allowed God Himself to despair: “Why have you forsaken me?” Chesterton elaborates:
Christianity alone felt that God, to be wholly God, must have been a rebel as well as a king. Alone of all creeds, Christianity has added courage to the virtues of the Creator. For the only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point — and does not break. In this indeed I approach a matter more dark and awful than it is easy to discuss; and I apologize in advance if any of my phrases fall wrong or seem irreverent touching a matter which the greatest saints and thinkers have justly feared to approach. But in the terrific tale of the Passion there is a distinct emotional suggestion that the author of all things (in some unthinkable way) went not only through agony, but through doubt … . He passed in some superhuman manner through our human horror of pessimism. When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God.
A Triumphant Record That Ponders the Cross We Carry
I don’t want to give the impression that Lauren Daigle is a dark record. It is the opposite of that. “New” charges with a hip-hop beat, Daigle celebrating a born-again friend who has let go of bad habits. The silky, gorgeous “21 Days” floats in strings and encourages a time of prayer and getting to grow closer to God. The gospel numbers are magnificent and Daigle’s voice is a wonder — at once pleading, reassuring, indomitable and vulnerable. “Kaleidoscope Jesus” is lovely, rejoicing in love, nature, mercy, friendship, light and “all the colorful ways” that Jesus “comes to meet us.” Daigle ponders the crosses we stumble under, but there is no more uplifting and spirit-filled record out than this one.
Yet there is also an engagement with the turmoil of the world on Lauren Daigle. The epic “Ego” is so forceful with its choir and self-directed anger, thematically if not musically, it could be a punk rock song.
I’m done wrestlin’ with my ego.
Lord knows it all feels so hollow.
If you wanna go high, then you gotta bow low.
If you wanna go deep, gotta rise above the shallow.
I’m done wrestlin’ with my ego, ego, ego, ego
Ego, ego, ego, ego.
Then there’s “Don’t Believe Them.” Chesterton calls Jesus a rebel, and it is here that Daigle shows the same by challenging fellow Christians.
There are two sides to every story.
The truth leaves where it don’t belong.
It’s a tricky line that we’re walkin’
When we got so many people talkin’
And nobody thinks that they’re wrong.
How you gonna love someone if you don’t forgive them?
How you gonna hear what they say if you never listen?
How you gonna stand up when the world wants you kneelin’?
How you gonna live out the words you’re preachin’
If you don’t believe them?
These lyrics wouldn’t be out of place on a Radiohead record. Lauren Daigle is an incredible talent, and Lauren Daigle is a brilliant record. It sets a very high mark for all musical artists, not just Christian ones.
Mark Judge is a writer and filmmaker in Washington, D.C. His new book is The Devil’s Triangle: Mark Judge vs the New American Stasi.