The Most Popular Christian Album on iTunes is by a Gay Critic of Church Culture February 11, 2021

The Most Popular Christian Album on iTunes is by a Gay Critic of Church Culture

The most popular Christian singer in the country right now happens to be someone who’s openly gay, married to another woman, and critical of her faith. Oh, and the album (titled “Preacher’s Kid“) comes with a Parental Advisory warning label.

Grace Baldridge, known professionally as “Semler” (her middle name), has the top-selling Christian album on iTunes. That’s obviously a metric that can be manipulated with a coordinated campaign, but this one appears to be a grassroots effort more than anything else. What’s especially interesting is that, as explained by Religion News Service‘s Emily McFarlan Miller, you likely won’t find Semler’s music in churches or Christian radio anytime soon because it’s far edgier than the music that those venues typically promote.

It carries a parental advisory for explicit lyrics and at turns lacerates youth group lock-ins and short-term mission trips — staples of an evangelical Christian upbringing — while professing a complicated faith.

The Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter has described the album as a “project about coming out as a queer person of faith” and its success as “an underdog story.” One commenter likened its rise on iTunes — driven by something of a social media campaign among LGBTQ-affirming Christians and ex-Christians — to “GameStopping” the Christian music industry, referencing the sudden rise in GameStop stock after Reddit users bought shares en masse to drive up its value.

If her name is familiar, it may be because Baldridge hosted a docuseries for Refinery29 called State of Grace that focused on the intersection of being LGBTQ and Christian. But the album’s success was a surprise even for her.

Christian artists who come out of the closet tend to lose a good deal of business in an industry that cares just as much (perhaps even more) about image as it does quality music. Baldridge has the upper hand in being authentically herself from the get-go, meaning she can’t really be “cancelled” by groups that would never book her to play or record with them in the first place. Having a devoted fan base certainly helps stem the loss of support from the Christian music industry.

But maybe that influence can work the other way around. The Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) industry is well known for its cookie-cutter personalities and repetitive melodies and lyrics. If any CCM artists feel threatened by Baldridge’s success, perhaps they could come out with better quality and more thoughtful music.

(Featured screenshot via YouTube)


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