OHW Flood by krin.jpg

Date Aired
November 25, 2016
Running Time
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Todd plays "Flood" on the piano

A one-hit wonder retrospective

Todd: Welcome back to One Hit Wonderland, where we look at bands and artists known for only one song. And I am doing another request here, and...let's see what we got today.

Patreon request from Peter Motolla: "I always enjoy your videos, Todd! I have a OHW request. "Flood", a top-40 Billboard hit by Jars of Clay in the mid-nineties, was the only time this band landed on the Hot 100. "Flood" has the unusual distinction of getting play on both..."

"Flood" by Jars of Clay. Um...does anyone know this one.

Video for "Flood"
Jars of Clay: But if I can't swim after 40 days
And my mind is crushed by the crashing waves
Lift me up so high...

Todd: N...nope. Not ringing a bell. I've never heard this.

Jars of Clay: Lift me up
Dan Halestine: When I'm falling

Todd (VO): Ugh, well, it's very '90s, clearly. One of the '90s-est things I've ever seen. Um...lyrics seem kinda...

Todd: ..spiritually incline... Wait a minute!

Dan: Downpour on my soul

Todd (VO): I think I've heard of these guys!

Todd: They were that Christian band!

Todd (VO): Yeah, yeah, they were that Christian alternative band that was popular for, like, five minutes in the mainstream. I remember them vaguely.

Todd: Aw, man, it finally happened.

Todd (VO): I finally have a chance to beat on that creative wasteland that is contemporary Christian music. Thank you, sir. I've always wanted to take a hammer to this...

Todd: ...zombie genre of gutless, watered-down backwash. I'm gonna tear this piece of crap some new stigmata. Hope you're ready, dude, 'cause I'm gonna stomp this request in the ground for you.

Patreon request continued: "...Clay to bring them to the attention of your well-informed and musically sophisticated viewership. And I'd certainly be willing to throw more money at your Patreon if you ever decide to sell out again. :)
—Rev. Peter Motolla"

Reverend? [Deflated] Heh. I...I may dial that back some.

Todd (VO): Maybe to tread a little lighter than I was going to here. So let's have a...respectful discussion about...

Todd: ...Jars of Clay, the pioneers of Christian alternative rock. [He still can't believe it] Yeah. Wasn't I just reviewing a band of Satan worshipers last week?

Dan: And guilt that overthrow me
Jars of Clay: If I...

Before the hit

Picture of the band

Todd (VO): Jars of Clay were formed in the early '90s in Greenville, Illinois, while the band members were all in the same college. [Picture of Bible] Their name is a biblical reference from [Picture of hands making a clay jar with quote from...] 2 Corinthians 4:7...

Todd: [holding open "Bible"] ...as any biblical scholar, such as myself, would already know. [Beat, then closes book showing that...] This is a Game of Thrones book.

Tosses the book down

Okay, look, I'm a little out of my depth here. I don't know this genre at all.

Clip of church service

Todd (VO): It's...it's...it's been awhile since I've been to church, you know? I was raised in the church, I like to think that I'm at least respectful of people's beliefs, but I wasn't ever exposed to much Christian music. My...my church experience was pretty mellow and mostly positive, if kinda dull. [Christian rock meme] I mean, this genre of music is for people whose upbringing was...

Todd: ...more intense.

Clip of Newsboys - "God's Not Dead"
Newsboys: God's not dead
He's surely alive

Todd (VO): Yeah, I have a lot of friends who have a much more extensive and, in a lot of cases, [picture of sign reading "You deserve Hell"] negative experience with religion, and they're largely who I know anything about Christian rock from. What little I have seen, I feel safe in saying sucks.

Clip of Dan Smith - "Baby Got Book"
Dan Smith: I like big bibles and I cannot lie

Todd (VO): Some of it in funny ways, but mostly, it's just excruciatingly bland. It's seems pretty much for people who have never struggled to find salvation. You know, happy people. And quite honestly...

Todd: ...I just don't like happy people. Don't trust 'em, never have.

Clip of live performance

Todd (VO): But anyway, I'm getting off-topic. The biblical reference "jars of clay" is about how we have the treasure of salvation, but it's kept in [picture of flower pots] jars of clay, which is a metaphor for our own stupid, fragile, useless human bodies. So, at the very least...

Todd: ...their brand of Christianity seems to be a more humble, less arrogant version than, say, [poster of Saving Christmas starring...] Kirk Cameron's. So...who knows? Maybe it's gonna be okay. [Shrugs]

The big hit

Video for "Flood"

Todd (VO): Okay, Christian music crossovers aren't exactly unheard of, but the line separating them is still very clear and distinct. [Clips of "Higher" by...] Creed, for example, had very religious lyrics, but they weren't on a Christian label, they weren't sold to exclusive Christian markets; Jars of Clay were. [...and "Place in This World" by the latter of...] They weren't like previous crossovers like Amy Grant or Michael W. Smith, who made VH1 garbage.

Todd: These guys were playing on actual rock stations. How?

Dan: Rain, rain on my face

Todd (VO): I mean, if you've ever been station-surfing on a road trip and got tricked into listening to the Christian stations, then yes, you know how quick you notice the edgeless crappiness that distinguishes Christian music from the mainstream.

Todd: And here, we're talking about '90s alternative. You know, the genre of [pic of...] disaffected, alienated heroin addicts.

Todd (VO): A Christian contemporary band making it there? That doesn't make any sense.

Todd: Alt-rock in the mid-'90s had absolutely no interest in matters of God.

Clips of Dishwalla - "Counting Blue Cars"
Dishwalla: Tell me all your thoughts on God
...and Joan Osborne - "One of Us"
Joan: What if God was one of us

Todd: Okay, point taken.

Todd (VO): Yeah, remind me to remember those songs for later episodes. But still, there's a real difference between the questioning spirituality of those songs and the boring Christian message of...

Todd: ..."I love You, God, You're just so great, blah blah blah, love, faith, whatever."

Dan: My world is a flood
Slowly I become one with the mud
Jars of Clay: But if I can't swim after 40 days
And my mind is crushed by the crashing waves
Lift me up

Todd: Actually, in this case, it's not that different at all. If I didn't know this was Christian, I'd never guess.

Todd (VO): I don't actually know anything about Christian rock, but I do know my '90s rock, and it fits right in.

Todd: Imagery of dirt and mud.

Clips of Nirvana - "Come as You Are"...
Kurt Cobain: Come doused in mud
Soaked in bleach

Todd: Feelings of helplessness, begging for support.

...and Soul Asylum - "Somebody to Shove"
Dave Pirner: I'm waiting by the phone

Waiting for you to call me up and tell me I'm not alone

Todd: I mean, this guy doesn't even have that...

Todd (VO): ...mewling, scrubbed-clean Christian music voice.

Dan: Can't feel my feet touching the ground

Todd (VO): This is credible. I can easily imagine hearing this alongside, you know, some of the softer bands like Toad the Wet Sprocket or...or even REM.

Todd: My biggest problem with Christian music is how edgeless much of it is, but this is actually [clip of Hootie & the Blowfish - "Only Wanna Be with You"] harder than a lot of things that were popular in '90s rock.

Jars of Clay: Lift me up
Dan: Keep me from drowning again

Todd (VO): Woah. Out of nowhere, string quartet. I guess that's a little a field of most '90s rock, but it's not that out there.

Todd: I wonder how many people bought the album without any idea that they were religious.

Todd (VO): I mean, the spirituality of this song isn't preachy in any way. It's mostly about his feelings, it's not trying to tell you all the answers. He's just begging for help from God.

Jars of Clay: Lift me up
Dan: Keep me from drowning again

Todd (VO): Although...I'm not sure it makes sense to ask God for help from the flood, [painting of a violent sea battle between heaven and earth] seeing as He's the one who sent it.

Todd: Honestly, that's kind of a question I have about prayer in general.

Todd (VO): To be fair, they said this song is not actually about Noah's flood; it's a metaphor.

Jars of Clay: But if I can't swim after 40 days
And my mind is...

Todd: Kind of a weird thing for a Christian band to use a [painting of Noah on the Ark with the animals] Christian reference that is 100% not literal.

Todd (VO): It's like if they sang, "we have a friend in Jesus," and Jesus was a metaphor for [picture of a friendly...] the mailman or something. But anyway, yeah, I get it. I am pleasantly surprised here.

Todd: Of course, this is One Hit Wonderland, so...

Todd (VO): ...it's time to figure out why a band with that much crossover appeal eventually retreated back into the comforting world of the church.

Todd: Were they horrified and corrupted by the sinful world of the flesh?

The failed follow-up

Todd: When we talk about how Jars of Clay followed this up, we need to clarify what we're talking about because Jars of Clay had two separate careers. [Brief clip of Jars of Clay accepting Dove Award for New Artist of the Year] One as Christian artists, where they were megastars with 11 #1 hits, [Billboard article: "Jars of Clay grow bolder with 'Afraid'"] and that of crossover artists in the secular market, where they were...

Todd: ...less successful. So first, let's look at their main career path in worship music, where their follow-up was called [meme of...] "Love Song for a Sav..." Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope.

Live performance of "Love Song for a Savior"
Dan: She fall in His arms
The tears will fall down
And she'll pray
I want to fall in love with You

Todd (VO): Oh, this is bad. Ugh. Whatever points they gained for "Flood," they just lost with me.

Crowd: I want to fall in love with You

Todd (VO): This is the preachy, anodyne crap that I was afraid this was gonna be. I hear they use this in ads for [logo of...] ChristianMingle.com, which is creepy.

Todd: "I love you, Jesus" songs are all creepy.

Todd (VO): They're creepy in exactly the way from that South Park episode.

Clip from South Park - "Christian Rock Hard"
Cartman: Whenever I see Jesus up on that cross
I can't help but think He looks kinda hot
Crowd: ...fall in love...
Dan: Keep it goin' now

Todd (VO): Also, why do you want to fall in love with Jesus? Don't you already love Jesus? Ew. Eww. Icky. Gross.

Todd: But anyway, let's check into the more interesting facet of their career: the mainstream rock band.

Behind the scenes footage of band

Todd (VO): Obviously, most of their hits were not suitable for the rock stations, so their label never tried to push them there, but there were a couple of songs that did manage a tiny bit of airplay. Here's one of those few, it is called "Crazy Times."

Video for "Crazy Times"
Dan: You're cold that way
And that's why you say

Todd (VO): Oh, yeah, I remember this one. [Singing] 'Cause I am barely breathing...

Todd: I can't find the a... No.

Jars of Clay: It seems it's always the crazy times
Dan: You find you'll wake up and realize

Todd (VO): God, this is so '90s. Gotta dig that plaid porkpie hat.

Todd: Are we sure this wasn't just an evangelical side project for Collective Soul?

Dan: You spiral down
You've broken your crown
You don't feel like a queen

Todd (VO): I'm...not finding any religious themes at all in this one. I read that Jars of Clay didn't want to be a band that sang strictly about their faith, but about their lives so as not to put people off. I don't think that's always been true of them, obviously, but I can see where they're going; you really have to dig to find any spiritual message here.

Todd: Apparently, Christian bands could get away with that in the '90s.

Todd (VO): I don't know, it's no "Flood" though. That's probably why it only barely crept onto the modern rock stations. It just didn't resonate with people the way that the profound, gripping lyrics of Gavin Rossdale did.

Clip of live performance

But despite their decline in mainstream appeal, they still managed to go on tour with, like, Matchbox Twenty and Sting, which, there was actually a Christian backlash about.

Todd: Because what kind of a message does that send, hanging out with those purveyors of sin?

Clip of Matchbox Twenty - "Push"
Matchbox Twenty: I wanna push you around
Rob Thomas: Well, I will

Todd (VO): "I wanna push you around"? This promotes violence! [Screenshot from Music-News.com: "Sting talks tantric sex"] And Sting.

Todd: Well, let's not even go there.

Did they ever do anything else?

Todd: They were a Christian band good enough to cross over into the mainstream. Yeah, what do you think? Of course they did.

Clip of "Two Hands"

Todd (VO): Yeah, they're one of the biggest Christian rock bands of all time, as far as I can tell, so [promo pics of...] eat that, Stryper! Get lost, Steven Curtis Chapman!

Todd: And other acts I've never actually listened to.

Todd (VO): And despite them being a little softer-edged than I like my rock, yeah, I'm finding that a lot of their stuff holds up.

Clip of "Unforgetful You"
Dan: I never minded calling You a King

Todd (VO): Okay, not this one, this one sucks.

Dan: Unforgetful You

Todd (VO): This one is another "Hey, God, You're the greatest thing ever" song. I don't like those. God's a very needy, insecure guy, is what it seems like. If I were God, I'd get sick of it. Although I do think it's interesting that, even in the world of Christian rock, the difference between [brief clip of "Flood"] 1995 and 1999...

Todd: ...is stark.

Todd (VO): [singing to tune of Smash Mouth - "All-Star"] Hey, now, you're a God-star
Get your Lord on
Go pray

Clip of "Five Candles (You Were There)"

But yeah, they have been working pretty continuously. They have a lot of albums, some of them are rock, some of them are more traditional hymn stuff. Most of them didn't strike me as all that interesting-looking, but...

Todd: ...one of them did catch my eye. [Cover of...] Their eighth album from 2006, Good Monsters, which they call their first "rock" album.

Clip of "Work"

Todd: Yeah, feel that, it's almost a little Foo Fighters-y even.

Dan: Do you know what I mean

When I say I don't wanna be alone?

Todd lightly headbangs and puts up the horns until he realizes...

Todd: Boy, this is an inappropriate gesture.

Clip of "Good Monsters"
Dan: All the good monsters open their eyes

Todd (VO): And then there's this, the title track, and this one appears to be about the good people who don't speak up when they see bad shit going down.

Jars of Clay: Not all monsters are bad
But the ones who are good
Never do what they could, never do what they could

Todd (VO): Now, that's a message I can get behind. And apparently, they mean what they say about the need to stand up for people because, a couple years ago, the frontman went on this long tweet rant about how [screenshots of tweet from Dan...] opposing gay marriage makes no sense, [...GLAAD article: "Christian band 'Jars of Clay' frontman comes out as ally in 3 days of tweeting"...] everyone should be allowed to marry, same love, and all that.

Todd: It was 2014, I know, the stance was basically controversial nowhere [...and Christian Today article: "Jars of Clay frontman faces backlash for comments on homosexuality: 'Conservative argument doesn't hold up to scrutiny'] except with Jars of Clay fans.

Todd (VO): Yeah, when your fanbase is made up of Evangelicals, that's kind of a big deal. They got [shot of Political Outcast article: "The Jars of Clay Apostasy: Lead Singer Tweets Betrayal of Jesus"] some pretty furious attacks on that one, so that was kind of a gutsy move.

Todd: Makes me...makes me wonder if I was a little too hard on Christian music. [Leans forward and prays] Hey, God. Um...I've been respectful enough...this review, right? I'm not...going to Hell or anything, am I?

God: [against heavenly choir] My child, I forgive you. I...I don't really listen to Jars of Clay anymore, anyway. I'm more up on Christian hip hop now. You checked out Lecrae?

Todd: Um...no, but, um...I'll be sure to check him out.

God: I know when you're lying, Todd!

Todd: Sorry, sorry, it's...it's not my genre, okay?

Did they deserve better?

Todd: Did they deserve better? Well, all will receive their just rewards when the Lord calls them home. But they seem like they've done well enough.

Jars of Clay: But if I can't swim after 40 days

Todd (VO): The fact that they crossed over at all is shocking on its own for a Christian band. I don't think they were trying at all to be mainstream; that was just a bonus. It was a good time for Christian rock, unlike nowadays when the market appears to have dried up for everyone except the blandest, least creative bands in the world. So I give Jars of Clay the highest praise I will ever give a Christian music group: I could almost mistake them for a real band.

Todd: Okay. Uh... I'm good, right? Good?

Crosses himself

Video ends

Closing tag song: John Jonethis - "Flood"

"Flood" is owned by Silvertone Records
This video is owned by me


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