Sunday, November 15, 2020

"Honestly" by Stryper

Song#:  3319
Date:  11/07/1987
Debut:  93
Peak:  23
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Glam Rock

Pop Bits:  Stryper wasn't the first Christian metal band, but they were the first to secure hits on the mainstream charts and the first to have albums go gold and platinum. Headed up by brothers Michael and Robert Sweet, the California-based group began to take shape in the late-70s. They eventually became Roxx Regime and began to make a name for themselves in the local clubs. Their growing popularity helped to get them signed to Enigma Records and in 1984 they changed their name to Stryper and released the EP The Yellow and Black Attack. It did well enough (#10 Christian Albums) to convince Enigma that the band needed to record a full-length debut album and in 1985 they released Soldiers Under Command. As expected, it did well in the Christian music market and peaked at #5 on the Christian Albums chart. What wasn't expected was the band's appeal to a mainstream audience with the LP getting to #84 on the Pop Albums chart. With that result, the band then set out to really knock down doors with their follow-up album To Hell with the Devil. Released in the fall of '86, the LP got off to a slow start, but as '87 rolled around it was able to reach #3 Christian and #32 Pop with sales strong enough to make the album go gold. Over a year after the LP was originally released, this song started to get attention with a little help from MTV. The power ballad was issued as a single and it started to gain airplay at Pop radio. The song was able to climb the chart and peak just outside of the Top 20. The success of the song helped the album sell even more copies and in January of '88 it would be the first Christian rock album to go platinum.

ReduxReview:  I was and still am not religious in any way, but that doesn't mean that I can't appreciate gospel/Christian music. I've owned records by secular-leaning acts like Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith along with contemporary Christian artists like Rich Mullens. Recently I've enjoy the band MercyMe, especially their 2004 hit "Here with Me." Stryper was another artist that I bought. I liked this song when it came out and ended up buying the album. Even though the band was popular, they had a tough time gaining acceptance from the two crowds they played to - hard rock and Christian music fans. While some hard rock/metal fans thought bringing Christian messages to a genre that was known for its dark elements was absurd, many in the Christian community considered the band posers who were using the genre as a marketing ploy, especially as they toured with bands like Ratt and got their videos played on MTV. Yet there were enough fans on both sides and elsewhere to break the band wide. This power ballad came along at just the right time. It fit right in with ones from other glam/metal bands that had started to infiltrate the mainstream. It also helped that the song's lyrics were not overtly Christian and could be interpreted in different ways. I liked the song back then, but I don't think it has held up well over the years. I find it a bit cloying now, however I still appreciate the way the song builds along with the melody. Stryper certainly shook things up and showed that no matter what or who you believe in, you can make music that is appealing to a variety of people.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Stryper's name was based on the bible verse Isaiah 53:5, which says "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." It was that last section that inspired the band's name. Starting with their EP, their logo was done in black and yellow stripes and featured "Isaiah 53:5" beneath it. That logo would be used on their first few albums and revived on later ones.  2) The Sweet brothers' parents, Phil and Janice, had both been in the music business as singer/songwriters. Phil would end up having success with a song he co-write with Fred Imus (brother of radio personality Don Imus) titled "I Don't Want to Have to Marry You." It was recorded by country stars Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius in 1976. The duet would reach #1 on the Country chart. Brown had already been an established country star with three Top 10s to his credit. Cornelius was just getting her career started. She signed on with RCA Records and got paired up with Brown for this song and a full duets album by the same name. A follow-up single reached #2 and it wasn't long before the pair began to tour together. Four more duet albums would follow that yielded four more Country Top 10s. As the 80s began, both artists became absent from the charts.


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