Amy Grants Humble Beginning to Iconic Crossover Artsit; by Philip Mayaab
This week is a little different on Vinyl Revival, mostly because the album we're playing was not easy to find on vinyl in the United States, in fact, I had to get my vinyl copy of it from a dealer in Germany. That notwithstanding, I was thrilled as could be when the album arrived, and even though I wanted to play it on VR, I was wondering if that was such a good idea...this is not your everyday CCM album. I took a photo of the record, and asked our CCM Classic Facebook community if I should play it on Vinyl Revival, and most everyone who responded said yes. So here we are, with the best selling album ever recorded by a Christian artist as our featured album this week. In the event that I haven't already given it away, we are featuring Amy Grant's iconic Heart In Motion as our feature LP.
Now before I get too deep into this, let's get one thing straight - this is not a CCM album, it is a pop album, and by that, I mean a mainstream pop LP. Even though the Christian music community and fans supported this album to the hilt, it is still, as it was then, a pop album. Of course the reason we're playing it is because Amy Grant is one of the biggest artists in the history of Contemporary Christian music, and because all of the songs on this album that were definitely suitable for Christian music fans to listen to, and if you disagree about us playing it, that is perfectly fine. Open debate on subjects such as this are perfectly healthy, so if you would like, please leave us some comments below this post. or you can even contact me on social media.
Now that we have all that out of the way, let's get to our album... I'm sure that most of Amy's fans would readily tell you that this is not her best album of all time, she has several that I would rank above Heart In Motion on a list of her recordings. However, this is the album that she will most likely be remembered for until the end of time, and with good reason. It took just over three months for this album to be certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, and that was for selling over one million copies. On November 17, 1997, Heart In Motion earned a quintuple platinum award plaque - five million copies sold. It is the only album by a Christian music artist to ever do so, and that's a record that may never be broken.
While Motion may not be a purebred CCM recording, it is a very important milestone LP in the genre's history, because first and foremost, it made an international superstar out of Amy Grant, and I mean on the pop stage. From the moment that Baby Baby the album's first single hit the airwaves, Amy had achieved the goal that she and her management had been working toward for several years, and that was to become a household name in the mainstream music market. Let me just throw this in before I go any further, even though the majority of Amy Grant's commercial success is due to the fact that she writes and sings great songs, there is also part of the equation that falls squarely into the lap of her management team, and Mike Blanton and Dan Harrell are masters of their craft. They (and a pretty sweet distribution deal with A&M Records) helped get Amy's image and music into places it had never been before, and she was a direct benefactor of their hard work. The videos from the album were all over both MTV and VH1, there were marketing campaigns for the album bigger than any of her previous recordings, and she exploded onto the pop scene in the spring of 1991. People could not get enough of her, and while Heart In Motion was flying off store shelves all around the world, the tour for the album played to sold out arenas everywhere. The crowds were bigger than she had ever played to before, the entire world was finding out what Christian music fans had known for many years - that Amy was not just hype, and she had a lot of substance to back up the accolades that were coming her way.
Life should've been great right? Well, in some ways, it probably was, and in other ways, not so much. Traditionally minded Christians had a field day off Heart In Motion. All of a sudden, we began hearing the same familiar phrases that came up in 1985, when the album Unguarded was released, and she hit the pop charts for the first time with Find A Way. Things like she's leading young people astray and my personal favorite she's sold her soul for secular success (that last one still makes my blood pressure soar every time I hear it). In 1985 however, her music was still decidedly Christian (despite the fact that references to Jesus and God were cut drastically), and CCM radio stations were still playing all of her radio singles, but with this album, the five singles released were all pop songs, and some Christian radio stations decided they would not be promoting Heart In Motion on their airwaves, which gave haters even more ammo to use against Amy. Not to mention the fact that two of the album's videos showed Amy with a man who definitely was not Gary Chapman, her husband at the time. The same people who took umbrage with the fact that she had jumped ship to pop music really blew a gasket when they saw those videos...it was ugly!
It really didn't matter much though, because the first four singles reached the top ten on Billboard's Hot 100 pop chart, and the fifth hit the top 20 as well. Those five singles kept Amy Grant on the pop charts for 17 months grand total, still an impressive musical feat. For Amy's management however, things were just starting to heat up. Three months after the release of Heart In Motion, Amy's longtime friend Michael W. Smith, another of Blanton and Harrell's artists, hit the top ten on the same Billboard chart with Place In This World, and the following year, yet another B&H artist, Kathy Troccoli, scored a top 20 pop hit of her own with Everything Changes, so this album really was a landmark album in CCM history, one of many that Amy Grant has enjoyed.
Chances are that if you are reading this, you're probably one of the five million plus people who own at least one copy of Heart In Motion (I own three different copies myself), so I don't need to explain the songs to you. You can tune across a radio dial at almost any time, and hear one of the five hit singles from this album, even now. Baby Baby hit the top spot on Billboard's chart, and finished the year as the 10th biggest pop record in the USA. Every Heartbeat, the follow up, ended its chart run at number 2. That's What Love Is For and Good For Me (which is my personal favorite track from the album) went to numbers 7 and 8 respectively, and I Will Remember You, the final single hit number 20. The album itself topped out at number 10 on the Top 200 album chart, and the rest is history. Some of the Christian radio stations who wouldn't play the pop singles from the album did latch on to Hope Set High, the album's closing track (it's the only song on the album that mentions Jesus), giving the LP some extra exposure, although it really didn't need it at that point. Interestingly though, despite that backlash from some Christians, and the stations who refused to play some of the songs, the album hit number one on the Billboard Christian Album chart (shock, shock), proof that the majority of Amy's longtime fans were still all in with her.
So in closing, let's be honest here, not every CCM fan likes Amy Grant...there are those who don't care for her voice (I get it), there are others who simply view her songs as fluff (I get that one too), and then you have the crowd that just likes to criticize her simply because she's Amy Grant (you should be ashamed). If you happen to fit into that last group, let me ask you a question...did you find yourself offended when other Christian artists hit the pop chart? Does it bother you when Bob Carlisle's Butterfly Kisses plays on pop radio, or when you hear Jars Of Clay's Flood or Sixpence None The Richer's Kiss Me come across your car radio? If it doesn't, your criticism of Amy Grant loses all of its legitimacy. If you're going to hold one artist's feet to the fire, you better hold the rest of them in contempt as well - it's that simple. Regardless of people might think of Amy Grant and this album, the numbers never lie, and five million people can't all be wrong. There are some terrific songs on this album, and they still stand the test of time, even 28 years later. The music on Heart In Motion is suitable for a Christian of any age to listen to (my daughter loved Baby Baby when she was just a toddler), and the songs about love and relationships are written from a solid Christian point of view, and I believe that history will be kind when it remembers this album. As I said, she's released better albums, and we can have that debate sometime in the future, but one thing is for sure, Heart In Motion was and still is a landmark achievement by one of the most iconic artists that Christian music has ever known. So let's go back to the early 90s, and enjoy this outstanding album in all its vinyl glory, this week on CCM Classic's Vinyl Revival.
Side 1 -
1. Good For Me (Tom Snow, Jay Gruska, Amy Grant, & Wayne Kirkpatrick)
2. Baby Baby (Amy Grant & Keith Thomas)
3. Every Heartbeat (Amy Grant, Wayne Kirkpatrick, & Charlie Peacock)
4. That's What Love Is For (Michael Omartian, Mark Muller, & Amy Grant)
5. Ask Me (Amy Grant & Tom Hemby)
6. Galileo (Amy Grant, Mimi Verner, Gardner Cole, & Michael Omartian)
1. You're Not Alone (Dennis Morgan, Simon Climie, & Rob Fisher)
2. Hats (Amy Grant & Chris Eaton)
3. I Will Remember You (Amy Grant, Gary Chapman, & Keith Thomas)
4. How Can We See That Far? (Amy Grant & Tom Hemby)
5. Hope Set High (Amy Grant)
back to list