The younger generation of Christians is embracing music with a harder edge, according to a popular magazine for Christian teens that announced in its latest issue its readers' top music choices.
For the past few years, singers from traditional pop/rock favorites claimed top positions in Ignite Your Faith's annual readers' choice awards, dubbed the Golden Ear Awards.
But this year, a majority of the 5,000 magazine readers who voted, aged 13 to 18, leaned in favor of hard rock bands bumping down pop and soft rock groups. The results are published in the April/May issue.
The trend is most evident in the award's Best Vocalist category.
John Cooper of Skillet won the Best Male Vocalist – a title that bounced between Jason Dunn (Hawk Nelson), Matt Thiessen (Relient K) and Jeremy Camp in previous cycles of the awards. Trevor McNevan of Thousand Foot Krutch placed second.
The Best Female Vocalist category welcomed its first ever winner from a hard rock band: Lacey Mosley of Flyleaf. The frontwoman beat out former holders of the title, Tricia Brock (Superchick) and Alyssa Barlow (BarlowGirl).
"That one surprised me most," said Todd Hertz, managing editor of Ignite Your Faith, to The Christian Post. "I did not think our readership would go in that direction."
Meanwhile, pop artist Rebecca St. James, who placed third in that category in 2006, moved down to fifth. Any lower than fifth would have placed her only in the honorable mention list.
Hertz, who oversees the Entertainment part of the 100,000-circulation magazine, said he sees three main factors that account for the readers' shift in musical preferences.
One factor is loyalty, he said.
Skillet fans, who call themselves "panheads," are "ferocious in their loyalty to this band," explained Hertz. "They are always flocking to support this band."
The fans are loyal to the point that they voted for John Cooper's wife Kori Cooper in the Best Female Vocalist category even though she was not a nominee and for Skillet in the Best New Artist category when the rock band has been around for years, he noted.
Secondly, Hertz said the recent results show a shift in the types of music that appeal to young people these days.
"I think it comes from mainstream culture. Harder rock appeals to younger kids, whether it helps get out the feeling or emotion...I'm not sure what it is," he shared, adding that what was once considered rock is now considered Pop music.
And lastly, the magazine's managing editor believes the iPod culture has allowed teens to access a variety of musical genres instead of only hearing songs selected by radio stations.
"Christian music is more diverse than it's ever been," Hertz added.
Voting for the Golden Ear Awards were held last November.
The magazine, part of Christianity Today International, is currently gathering votes for its Golden Remote Award, which recognizes the most redeeming TV character. Voting will be open until May 8 with the results announced in the Sept./Oct. issue.
In February, readers weighed in for the Golden Nacho Awards, selecting the most redeeming movies. Those winners will be revealed in the June/July issue.
According to Hertz, a bulk of the content from the magazine caters to young readers' entertainment interests.
Last November, Ignite Your Faith launched "THE HEROES OF ROCK," an online cartoon series starring popular bands. The first episode's special gueststars Superchick members who performed their own voiceovers. The latest episode, slated for release at the end of April, features Hawk Nelson and a special music artist, whose identity is yet to be revealed, said Hertz.
The winners for Best Vocalist are listed below:
Best Male Vocalist
1. John Cooper, Skillet
2. Trevor McNevan, Thousand Foot Krutch
3. Matt Thiessen, Relient K
4. Jeremy Camp
5. Jon Foreman, Switchfoot
Honorable mentions: Mark Hall, Casting Crowns; Jason Dunn, Hawk Nelson
Best Female Vocalist
1. Lacey Mosley, Flyleaf
2. Alyssa Barlow, BarlowGirl
3. Tricia Brock, Superchick
4. Krystal Meyers
5. Rebecca St. James
Honorable mentions: Plumb, Bethany Dillon
Christian Post reporter Katherine T. Phan contributed to this report.