Back in 1977 when Amy Grant first debuted on the Christian music scene as a tender 17 year old, there were few of the manufactured teen pop stars such as we see today. Grant's popularity was honestly gained through her sweet sincerity and sheer talent.
In the mid-80s, she began to shift away from her gospel roots in order to reach out to more listeners through contemporary pop and rock. From the early 90s and forward, Grant became as well known among secular pop music fans as she was in the contemporary Christian music scene. This musical transition garnered some negative responses from the Christian faithful, but mainly their attention focused on the lyrical content of Grant's new songs, and not so much on the musical arrangements. It is the latter that troubled me the most.
I became aware of Grant's music in the late 80s, and nearly wore out my father's copy of Unguarded before going on to acquire cassette tapes of her previous albums, as well as the more serious follow-up, Lead Me On. When Heart In Motion was released in 1991, I eagerly bought a copy and was quickly disappointed by the candy-coated pop that emanated from the speakers. From that point on, my interest in Grant waned. But what do I know — nearly every album she has recorded since then, including Heart In Motion, has either gone platinum or gold, and has reached the top of the contemporary Christian music charts.
In 2004, A&M Records released Greatest Hits: 1986-2004, which covered the years that her previous compilation, The Collection, did not. Now for the first time, fans will have a true compilation of the best of the past twenty years of Amy Grant's music with the plainly titled Greatest Hits (Sparrow).
The album begins with "Simple Things," off of the album of the same name, and moves backwards through all of her previous albums, highlighting the popular songs from each, and finally coming to an end with "Old Man's Rubble" off of her eponymous debut. Notably, no tracks from her most recent album, Rock of Ages…Hymns and Faith, are included. Given my previously stated opinion of the latter half of Grant's career, it's no surprise that I found myself merely tolerating the first eight tracks of the compilation. By track nine, I was starting to get into it, and when the album ended after track 19, I had found my happy place again.
It's not that those songs are poorly written or badly recorded. In fact, they are so well produced that it does not surprise me that they gained as much popular attention as they did. My disappointment in them is simply heightened by their proximity to the rest of the compilation, which brings attention to the loss of innocence and sincere conviction that exemplified Grant's early work.
However, I am pleased that such a comprehensive examination of all of Grant's music is now available. Perhaps as a result, new and old fans alike will have a chance be introduced to the more serious side of Grant's songwriting, and that can only be a good thing.