“Heaven in the Real World” is probably the album I have listened to more than any other in my lifetime. I figure about 500 times or more. It encouraged and inspired and comforted me over several years.

Steven Curtis Chapman was one of the first CCM recording artists. This was long before Christian music took its long fall into ego, money, and self-promotion.

With some artists, it is their youthful optimism that really is the driving force of the music. Steven Curtis Chapman’s youthful optimism and simple faith and his guitar-driven melodies were the key to his success.

As he got older, and with the tragedy of one of his children accidentally running over and killing one of his other children with his car, his soul apparently refused to make the transition of incorporating the darker hues of adult reality into his music and lyrics.

So now, for me, the giddy optimism of someone in their 20s, even if or especially if it is performed by someone in his 50s, no longer translates for a listener in his 50s.

The lyrics and the optimistic music seem disingenuous and simplistic.

The album he released immediately following his personal tragedy was so awful and so joyless it was unlistenable. It’s like a person who feels he has to always be optimistic and happy tried to do an optimistic album when what he should’ve been doing was a sincerely lamenting and sorrowful album.

It is sad to see that his art has not matured and has not grown.

His songs now to me seem like a person protesting against reality instead of accepting the full-orbed truth about life. It seems that Steven Curtis Chapman always wants to turn the darkness into a lighthearted thing.

In all of the thousands of hours that I listened to this man, I never realized his accent was so strong or that he had such a manic energy. He reminds me of the real Mel Gibson.

Well, there is still time, probably. Hopefully, he will grow as a ,eperson and allow his music to mature along with him. He definitely needs to take a new direction.

If he does, if his music can survive the transition, it would be fascinating to see the work that he might produce.

Curtis Smale