This is a companion to my Christian background; both share some details in common, but feature different emphases. I recommend interested visitors to read both. In short, each relatively briefly describes experiences in my life through different lenses, much as each of the Gospels relate Jesus’ life and influence through different lenses. However, just as one eye doesn’t function quite as well on its own as it would with the other, so may one story here not be quite as effective without the other.
Life all around has been an interesting, adventurous journey so far. Well, I guess we could all say that about our own lives, right? However, can many of us say that music has bolstered us in life, carried us through crucial highs and lows? Maybe, or maybe not. In any case, it’s something about my life that I could proclaim from rooftops…or not. I’m not that daring, ha. Yet, I am daring enough to share my testimony here, as it relates to music’s impact on my life. I’ve been an avid music fan for slightly over a decade now, and it’s that love for music that has led me to charting my own favorite songs, to starting my own web site, and part way to becoming a Christian, to strengthening spiritually as a Christian, and to wanting to help others strengthen as Christians, or even become Christians.
Origin Of My Love For Music And For Charts - 2000Note: Listed years are approximate dates when the chapter occurred in my life.
Back in early 2000, I discovered radio station 95.5 The Beat, then a Top 40 station (now WSB newstalk radio). This was the station that catapulted my love for music. However, that summer, I discovered the station would air a countdown each Sunday, Hollywood Hamilton’s Weekend Top 30. I instantly fell in love with it for a couple reasons: 1) because it gave me a chance to hear songs I normally wouldn’t hear on the station, and 2) it gave me a chance to keep track of how some of my favorite songs were ranking on a national chart. I guess I’m a stats/numbers addict…well, not really, but perhaps close to it.
Beginning Of My Own Charts - Autumn 2000
Within weeks of discovering that top 30, I thought of starting a chart of my favorite songs, specifically, a hand-written weekly Top 200. Yes, I was weird and maybe insane, haha, and actually, I still feel weird. I don’t think the average person keeps a favorite song list, much less a Top 200.
I maintained my weekly Top 200 for several months, before downgrading to a Top 100 in Summer 2001, and adding retirement rules, a la MTV’s former flagship show Total Request Live (TRL). When I first started watching TRL, songs would be retired off the show after 65 days, to allow room for new songs. I figured implementing a similar rule on my chart would be good, since dozens of old songs had accumulated, that I wasn’t hearing anymore. So, I set a rule to retire songs from my chart, after ranking on it for 35 weeks, or 8 months. This worked well for the next year, and my love for music only grew. At this time, though, I mainly cared about songs’ sound, and (when girls sang the songs) how hot the singers looked in their music videos, haha. That wouldn’t change for about another 3-4 years.
Changes - 2002
Nevertheless, things overall changed drastically in Summer 2002, when my family stopped being able to afford the satellite TV service we subscribed to at the time. That was the least of my worries, but still a sizable one, for it meant no more MTV in the household, and therefore meant a loss of a steady stream of new music. I feared just music on the radio wouldn’t be enough to sustain my chart, and anyway, my motivation to keep charting, died for a time. So I stopped charting.
Between the rest of 2002, and the first months of 2003, my passion for music overall slipped away. Late in 2003, though, I entered a significant high point. I experienced a rebirth of passion for music and charting, just weeks after I stumbled online upon my first ever true friend in this world, Lauren, who would gently lead me to an eventual spiritual rebirth as a Christian, mainly by being my friend. I didn’t realize it at this time, but I think God was planting some seeds in my life, and/or perhaps watering existing ones. Whatever happened, however it happened, I was growing little by little. And after Lauren introduced me to Christian music in November 2003, my music tastes would eventually grow, too.
Restarting Of My Charts - Autumn 2003
I began charting my favorite songs again in September 2003, a Top 30 that would expand to 40, but I only hand wrote it for a few weeks. In November, I figured out how to use Microsoft Office Excel to make my charts, which greatly simplified the charting process because I could just save the previous week’s chart as the current week’s, and then rearrange and add songs as necessary. More importantly, however, during the final week of 2003, something interesting happened: I debuted two Christian songs, MercyMe’s Word Of God Speak, and Stacie Orrico’s More To Life. Just the week before, I had stumbled upon Christian radio station 104.7 The Fish, and gotten hooked on it, even more than I did with 95.5 The Beat or Hollywood Hamilton’s Weekend Top 30. There’s something about Christian music, that to me could never be duplicated in the bulk of mainstream music I had enjoyed listening to, which is positive messages. Also, Christian music deeply reminded me of Lauren, since she loves it. So, 2004 was an eventful year on my chart, as Christian music gradually established a presence alongside remaining mainstream songs. But June was an important milestone, the start of my online charts.
Beginning Of My Web Site - Summer 2004
In June 2004, I searched the Internet, curious to see if there are any other people besides me who enjoy charting their favorite songs. Well, I stumbled upon Alaska Jim’s Music Charts, a site that hosts links to people’s personal music charts. To my surprise, I wasn’t the only one weird enough to keep a weekly music chart! Which made me excited. So, I then figured out if I could just upload my Excel charts up to the Internet…not the best thing to do, I determined. Consequently, I discovered how to use Microsoft Office Word to start making my charts each week, as Web pages, and it turned out to be easier to use than Excel. I also set up a Yahoo! Geocities account, set up a basic home page, and began uploading my latest chart each week thereafter. For about two years, my site stayed essentially the same, except for minor cosmetic changes. However, my spiritual life and charts themselves changed almost entirely during those two years.
Decline Of Mainstream Music On My Charts - 2004 To 2005
Throughout 2004, Christian songs very slowly replaced non-Christian songs on my chart, nevertheless definitely influencing the top half of my chart. However, the dusk of 2004 also marked the end of myself as a non-Christian, which I discuss more in my Christian background. On December 29, 2004, I, a self-exposed sinner, offered my heart in repentance to Jesus, not knowing anything about what I’d undergo in the next year, few personal convictions and tests of faith that probably would had crumbled me emotionally, had I not had something solid to lean on, God.
New Christian Station, And Introduction To Christian Countdowns
First, in February 2005, I discovered another local Christian radio station, during a moment of immature impatience. I had needed to use my family’s desktop computer, but someone else in the family was using it, and taking longer than I anticipated, if I’m remembering correctly. Whatever was happening, it upset me foolishly much. Annoyed, I reluctantly found something else to do temporarily, listen to music using my portable radio/CD player. But, for whatever reason, nothing on the radio really caught my attention. Stations I normally loved, weren’t really airing anything great at the moment. So I kept blindly changing stations, and eventually stumbled upon one playing a Christian song, MercyMe’s Homesick, I think. It wasn’t on 104.7 The Fish, though, I realized when I looked at my player’s screen. This station I had unknowingly tuned into was Victory 91.5, and I quickly found out that it had been airing a Christian countdown, Jon Rivers’ 20: The Countdown Magazine (20TCM).
Oh wow, was I excited when I found out about 20TCM, especially since I had never known until now that national Christian radio countdowns exist. I was so thankful to God for my discovery of this station, and yet so humbled by how it happened, by me being impatient about something so petty. I think it’s interesting, the way God can bring blessings out of our bad moments. This unexpected blessing resulted in an explosion of new Christian songs on my chart throughout the rest of the winter, while at the same time accelerating the decline of mainstream music on my charts. Even more unexpected to me, was how I literally lost interest in all mainstream radio, from one week to the next, when I discovered Victory 91.5. It suddenly failed to capture my interest anymore. Also, as a new Christian, I thought I should refrain from it anyway, particularly the oft-explicit rap and R&B I had sometimes listened to. Lyrics at first never mattered much to me—I could pretty well ignore crude lyrics or just not pay attention, but now I became more sensitive to them, especially to the ones that objectify or otherwise degrade women, and then have the nerve to talk about “loving” said women. True love is never made! Not if God is true love and the source of it; to me, true love is given away, which in turn makes the phrase “make love” such a sickening misnomer. Okay, and now I’m getting off my soapbox… Anyway, listening to crude songs would now kind of make me feel “dirty” or impure inside. So, to avoid that feeling, I stuck with Christian music, and my love and appreciation for it only increased as 2005 progressed.