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Friday, December 11, 2009

Out There!: "Place In This World" by Michael W. Smith

I'm taking you back to my high school days for this edition of Out There! Back in the Fall of 1991, for my advanced honors history class project, we had to present one of our favorite songs and explain why it mattered to us. You probably just read that sentence and wondered how I could ever be in an advanced class. I look back and wonder the same thing myself. Anyway... While other kids were following the trends and choosing bands like Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, and En Vogue to speak about,I once again stuck to my hard rock attitude. So naturally I spoke about Extreme and their third hit single from Pornograffiti, Get The Funk Out. I almost got in a bit of trouble before I even began as my teacher and fellow student thought I had used the F word. But this isn't really about me thinking outside the box. Because there one other unique fellow in my class that thought more outside the box than I did. His name was also Michael, and he was probably the first hardcore Catholic I had ever known. The upperclassmen rode this kid like a mule because he claimed everything he did was in the name of the holy lord. He had strict rules about sex, kissing, and hugging. Obviously he didn't understand all of the fuss was about and naturally was friends with all of the hot chicks. So naturally for the history project, he chose to speak about music related to his religious beliefs. He was one of the first to present and talked about some guy neither I nor my history teacher had even heard of. The artist was Michael W. Smith, and the genre gain was Christian contemporary. While Michael was going on and on about the holy message of the song, I had to keep my head down in my arms in an attempt to hold back laughter. I never even figured that Christian contemporary music and pop music were actually one and the same. Being less knowledgeable about music and ignorant about any religion other than Judaism back in 1991, I really had no interest to learn anything about Christian contemporary music. After class, I told my brother about what had transpired which led to a few more laughs. But the name of Michael W. Smith resonated in my brain for years after as my interest began to peak over the years.

Flash forward to the late 90's. I was starting to notice that Michael W. Smith's name would show up on late-night commercials for Christian contemporary and pop music compilations from Time Life. As I began to build my music collection via scanning the Billboard charts, I was surprised to see that Michael W. Smith actually had recorded a bunch of tunes that charted. And I wanted to not only add these just because, but I wanted to understand why his music was so popular to religious Catholics. The one song in particular that appeared to be his biggest hit was that song which I was introduced to back in 1992. It's called Place In This World, which I'm happy to say has slowly but surely become one of the most beautiful songs that I've ever heard. And this is coming from a rock & roll Jew whose main obsession is with hard rocking bands like AC/DC and KISS.

Place In This World was actually released in 1990 and had crossover success. Although the song had very little airplay on pop music radio, it peaked at #6 on the Billboard Top 100, and went all the way to #5 on the Adult Contemporary chart. Here's another shocker for you, two years later in 1992, Michael W. Smith would hold the #1 song on the Adult Contemporary chart with another classic, I Will Be Here For You. He probably is the most successful crossover artist from Christian contemporary music to pop ever with possibly the exceptions of Amy Grant, and Stryper (just kidding!) Even though the tune was a Christian-based song, unless you real dove into the lyrics, it sounded like a simple pop tune you would hear from say an artist like Peter Cetera or Michael Bolton. I'm a sucker for a good melody or an uplifting tune, which is why I fell in love with the song. Even if the message is clear in the song that you need to pray and read the bible to discover what your role and purpose is in the world per God's will. I'm sure my mom would be glad to hear me praising Christian music. But a great song is a great song no matter what.

Ladies and gentlemen.. For the second consecutive time, a Christian contemporary song! Place In This World!!!

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