It was brought to my attention that yesterday was the 30th birthday of the Amy Grant album Heart in Motion. As a result, I’ve found myself thinking about it more in the last 24 hours than I have in the last 5 years. When it was released in 1991, I was already an Amy Grant fan. I had been exposed to her music in the 8th grade at a confirmation camp (it was honestly the only good thing that came out of that experience) when they had us listen to the Unguarded album. Even then, Grant was flirting with crossover success, with “Find A Way” landing on the pop charts. But Heart In Motion is where she really exploded on to the pop charts in spectacular fashion. “Baby Baby” hit number one and the album spawned 4 more Top 40 hits. To this day, it remains her best selling album and the best selling Christian album of all time.
I’ve listened to the album a few times since I realized it was turning 30 and I was surprised to find that it really holds up. Sure, the cheesy 90s production is a little dated, but it’s solid pop music. I’m certainly glad that she recorded “Baby Baby.” It’s a fun little song that endears itself to me almost entirely due to the fact that it has not just one but TWO key changes. It doesn’t get much better than that, folks. It is eminently singable and in the end, completely inoffensive. I had a friend who lived on the same dorm floor as me the spring that album came out who borrowed the CD from me almost the instant I got it. I never felt like Amy Grant really fit her personality either, but hey, you just never know about people. The album really was chock full of radio-friendly singles – “Every Heartbeat” being the very obvious follow up to “Baby Baby.” It also contained the line “you’re not asking for the world/I’m not asking for perfection” which one of my friends at the time (who, oddly enough, became a VERY born again Christian) changed to “I’m not asking for your erection.” My sister had a very serious love/hate relationship with the singles from this album, taking great issue with the last one, “I Will Remember You”, although they were all played well into the ground by the local radio station so I think that fact, in the end, was what soured her on the whole thing.
At that time in my life, I definitely identified as Christian. I was going to church every Sunday since I played the organ for various Lutheran churches in the area. But even then, I recognized that this album was not in the same vein as Grant’s more explicitly religious albums. When I was reading about it the other day and saw the best-selling Christian album statistic, I thought “is this even a Christian album?” I mean, of course it is in the respect that it is about universal themes of love and kindness, but Jesus only makes an appearance by name in the last song, “Hope Set High” and frankly, it seems like a little bit of an afterthought compared to the pop goodness of “Baby Baby”, “Every Heartbeat”, and “You’re Not Alone.” I do remember grumblings back then that Grant had abandoned her Christian values and sold out by recording a secular pop album. But that was nothing compared to the beating she would take among her most devoted fans when she divorced her husband and subsequently married Vince Gill.
I’ve always wondered what Grant thinks of the LGBT section of her fan base. Having recorded secular pop music, she certainly caught the attention of other young gay boys like me that were trying to reconcile their faith in God and the teachings that our parents told us must be so with the realization that there was something different about us. Mostly, I think she skirts around the topic when asked about it, but a part of me hopes that she is supportive, even if it is only quietly. I’m past the point in my life of quiet support for the community in which I am now a part, but I also respect other people’s journey.
For my money, I still love Unguarded the most – never have religion and pop music blended so effortlessly. Even now, as someone not particularly religious, I can still enjoy the album. But “Baby Baby” is just too darn cute to ignore.