Avril Lavigne captured my heart as a pre-angsty eleven-year-old when one of my friends showed me her song “Sk8er Boi” on the bus. It was just edgy enough that my Christian parents were uncomfortable with it, but not so edgy that I wasn’t allowed to listen to it. In a lot of ways, it was the song that started my journey listening to exclusively secular artists.
You see, Avril has never-- in the slightest-- pretended to be a Christian artist. She was not one of those artists that said, “Well, I am a Christian who makes music, but I don’t directly mention God in my lyrics.” (We could all probably name five of THOSE artists right now…) In the past, Avril has said a lot of R-rated words. Avril has talked a lot about sex.
But Avril Lavigne, after a five-year hiatus, just released a worship song and broke both the Christian music world and the secular music world at the same time.
Here are three reasons why this is monumental. (Song video at the bottom of page.)
1. It actually IS a worship song from a previously secular artist.
I’ve heard Christians complaining that the song isn’t a worship song because it’s not intended to be sung in church and the song portrays Avril’s struggle with lyme disease more than God’s power. This is a very limited perspective on what worship songs actually are.
Worship songs are any songs that directly praise, thank, or cry out to God. They are basically prayers in song form. They don’t have to be sung in church, by a congregation, to be considered worship songs.
Look to the Psalms, the worship songs from David’s day. How many of the Psalms are David CRYING out to God, begging Him to rescue him from his pursuers?
Psalm 69 says:
“Save me, O God,
For the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in the miry depth, where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
The floods engulf me.”
Reminds me a lot of something...the lyrics from Avril’s latest song:
“God, keep my head above water
Don’t let me drown, it gets harder
I’ll meet you there at the altar
As I fall down to my knees”
I rest my case.
2) It is better musically and lyrically than most of the stuff on current Christian radio.
I won’t get into a full musical analysis (don’t tempt me), but in general, this song nicely avoids many of the current CCM cliches. The acoustic piano at the beginning is a welcome difference from the Justin Bieber-esque electronic stuff we’ve been getting from many other Christian artists. The chords move at varying paces which keep the progression fresh, albeit simple. The only criticism I will make is the last two lines of the chorus (the hook) are a little cliche and repetitive. But, in general, it is a step up from the Christian norm.
And the most profound way it is a step up is in the obvious transparency of the lyrics. Being ill with lyme disease for FIVE YEARS is a trial to the degree that many of us will never face. Late disseminated lyme disease can include arthritis, severe fatigue and headaches, vertigo, and many other symptoms. The lyric “I’m too young to fall asleep” particularly lets us glimpse the raw nightmare of being in your early thirties and genuinely being afraid for your life.
I hope that this song inspires other Christian artists to continue writing increasingly vulnerable and transparent lyrics, while also risking a little with their music. For it’s in the risk that we find art, and it’s in our art as artists that we find God.
3) This song was received by her secular audience.
It’s impactful when a Christian artist releases a song like this to their mainly Christian audience. But it is incredible beyond words when an artist who has never pretended in her artist brand to be Christian or to write a worship song releases a song that explicitly cries out to God to save her and her almost exclusively secular audience hears it.
So many people put their identity in the music they listen to. They idolize their favorite bands and artists. A part of Avril’s fanbase will be turned off by this song and potentially reject her music from here on out, so this song poses a risk to her brand. The Christian part of Anvil’s fanbase will be ecstatic. But it’s the people in the middle who don’t know what they believe about God, or even if there is a God, but something in them longs for a life with meaning-- it’s those people who could possibly come to know Jesus through this song. If they worship Avril and they see Avril worshipping God, it could be the most powerful witness to their souls possible.
This song was therapeutic for Avril. It was a beautiful offering to God. And it could be the catalyst that brings someone to Christ. What could be better than that?