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Jesus Freak (song)

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"Jesus Freak"
Single by DC Talk
from the album Jesus Freak
Released August 1, 1995[1]
Format CD
Recorded 1995
Genre Christian rock,[2] Christian hip hop,[2] rap rock, grunge[3][4]
Length 4:50
Label ForeFront Records
Writer(s) Toby McKeehan, Mark Heimermann[5]
Producer(s) Toby McKeehan, Mark Heimermann[6]
DC Talk singles chronology
"The Hardway"
"Jesus Freak"
"Between You and Me"

"Jesus Freak" is a song by the American contemporary Christian music group DC Talk. Released on August 1, 1995, it was the lead radio single from (and lends its name to) the group's fourth album. The song was written and produced by Toby McKeehan and Mark Heimermann. Lyrically, the song is about standing up for the belief in Jesus Christ in the midst of persecution. It received largely positive reviews from music critics, including some mainstream music reviewers, and was played on some non-Christian stations. It earned DC Talk three GMA Dove Awards.

Origin and lyrics[edit]

After the success of DC Talk's third album, Free at Last (1992), which was based primarily on hip-hop and pop oriented song writing, the trio decided to innovate their style. Michael Tait, one of the members of DC Talk, said, "I was totally into rock and roll at the time [...] I really wanted to make a rock record."[7] The band decided to focus on more rock-oriented music, with touches of rap and pop interwoven into the mix. Tait later explained, "We wanted to write songs that would hopefully touch a generation."[8] DC Talk member Toby McKeehan, writer of the song's lyrics, wrote the song to be a bold declaration of love for Jesus Christ, even in the midst of persecution.[4] In order to bring the hard-hitting reality of their message to the mainstream, DC Talk combined the raw lyrics with guitar-driven grunge-rock.[5] McKeehan took the song's title from the derogatory 1970s term "Jesus freak" and turned it on its head; he noted that when he was looking up the word "freak" in the dictionary, he saw an entry that said "ardent enthusiast".[1][7] Since the song and album's release, many of the group's fans have donned products with the term "Jesus Freak".[8]

The first time the band performed the song live, McKeehan only had about a verse written.[9] He later recalled, "We had not yet recorded it for our album, but we had a demo with one verse written. We thought it would be safe to try it [in South Africa]. We could not believe the immediate response it got."[9]


30 second sample of "Jesus Freak" from DC Talk's 1995 album Jesus Freak. The sample illustrates the change in style, progressing from a subdued verse to rapped pre-chorus to a grunge chorus.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"Jesus Freak" begins with acoustic strumming of the main riff written in the key of E minor, followed by guitar distortion as the vocals enter. During this transition, the song moves to the key of F minor. During the verses, which are sung by Michael Tait and Kevin Max respectively, a sparse electric guitar pattern, which outlines the chord progression, is played. During each pre-chorus, McKeehan begins rapping about various people who have been retrospectively labeled as "Jesus Freaks", such as John the Baptist. After the second chorus, a melodic breakdown is followed by a dissonant guitar solo. Following the repetition of the chorus, the feedback-laden conclusion ends abruptly.[10]

Musically, the song has been described as alternative rock and grunge,[3][4] with many reviews noting a similarity with the sound of Nirvana.[4][11][12] According to the Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music, "Jesus Freak" is believed to be one of the first songs to link alternative rock and rap rock in CCM.[13]

Music video[edit]

The opening scene of "Jesus Freak" illustrating Simon Maxwell's dark treatment of the video, the filming style, and the Christian symbolism.

The music video for "Jesus Freak" was directed by Simon Maxwell, who also worked on the music video for "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails.[12] Maxwell's treatment of the video, reminiscent of his work with Nine Inch Nails, features footage of Christian imagery such as doves and crosses mixed with stock footage of riots, book burnings, hate crimes, a metallic hammer and sickle symbol of Communism, footage of one of Hitler's speeches and an accompanying Nazi propaganda film projected onto a screen that includes Nazi burnings of "degenerate" materials. Interspersed between the stock footage is video of the band performing the song in a darkened room.[12]

Although the song and video are, on the surface, about expressing one's belief in Jesus Christ, the band later commented that the song could also be a metaphor for the "preservation of standing up for what you believe in – even in the midst of persecution."[4][12]

McKeehan later said that the point of the video was to "push the envelope" for the Christian rock community,[12] and indeed, the song and video proved controversial.[5][12] Although the song and video were an earnest attempt to "declare a single-hearted faithfulness in Christ in an age when such devotion strikes many as the freakiest kind of fanaticism,"[14] some of the more conservative Christian community members disapproved of the video.[12] The song however, was highly successful on Z Music[12] and managed to achieve air time on MTV.[15]

Release and acclaim[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars[2]
Jesus Freak Hideout 5/5 stars[1]

The song was released as the lead-off single for Jesus Freak in 1995 and received positive comments from music critics. The single was released to alternative and modern rock stations, the band's first venture into these radio formats.[16] Due to its dark, grunge sound – during an era when alternative rock was ruling the airwaves – the song was even played on some non-Christian stations.[13] As part of the promotion strategy for the song, InterLinc, a Nashville-based Christian music promotion company, sent out over 4,000 copies of the CD single to youth pastors, along with Bible study material. Commercially the single was successful; it initially charted on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles at number 25 with little mainstream radio assistance.[17] The song peaked at number 10.[16][nb 1]

"Jesus Freak" received largely positive reviews from music critics. The song was even successful enough to garner praise from secular music reviews. Entertainment Weekly editor Laura Jamison, in a review for the Jesus Freak album, said that DC Talk, "successfully, if derivatively, combines textured vocals, aggressive guitar, and solid songwriting, especially on [...] the raucous title track."[11] In a review of "Jesus Freak", the Chicago Tribune said "In considering the group's artistic merits, it's time to bury the over-burdened label 'Christian band' [...] DC Talk deserves to be judged by a different standard."[5]

In addition to "Colored People" and "Between You and Me", "Jesus Freak" was considered instrumental in breaking DC Talk into the mainstream.[18] "Jesus Freak" was extremely successful when it came to the GMA Dove Awards. In 1996, the song won awards for Song of the Year[5] and Rock Recorded Song of the Year.[5][19] The music video for the song later won the award for Short Form Music Video of the Year in 1997.[5][19]

Other releases[edit]

Various version of "Jesus Freak" have appeared on several DC Talk official releases, including the band's greatest hits album Intermission.[20] A live version of "Jesus Freak" was included on the 1997 live release Welcome to the Freak Show (1997).[21] A short, comedic reprise, performed by Michael Tait, is included on the Jesus Freak album.[3] In addition, a remix of the song, available on the "Jesus Freak" single, entitled "Jesus Freak (Gotee Bros. Freaked Out Remix)" features a more hip-hop sound, reminiscent of the band's third album, Free at Last.[1] On August 3, 2010, the single was released as downloadable content for Rock Band.[22]

Cover versions[edit]

The Newsboys have played this song ever since Tait joined in early 2009. The band also released a new recording of the song with KJ-52 on their 2010 album Born Again.[23] On the DC Talk tribute album, Freaked! (2006), both 4th Avenue Jones and Chasing Victory recorded covers of this particular song.[24] "Jesus Freak" has also been covered by Larry Norman.[25] McKeehan, under his stage name TobyMac, also recorded a cover version of the song for his album Alive and Transported. John Jonethis covered the song on his album Lounge Freak.

Track listing[edit]

CD single
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Jesus Freak"   Mark Heimermann, Toby McKeehan 4:50
2. "Jesus Freak (Gotee Bros. Freaked Out Remix)"   Mark Heimermann, Toby McKeehan 4:42
3. "I Wish We'd All Been Ready"   Larry Norman 3:45
4. "Jesus Is Just Alright" (Live) Arthur Reynolds 4:51
Total length:


Chart (1995) Peak
Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles[16] 10

Album credits[edit]


Year Publication Country Accolade Rank
2006 CCM Magazine United States 100 Greatest Songs in Christian Music[5] 2


  1. ^ Due to the nature of the chart, a position on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart corresponds to a place under the main Billboard Hot 100. For instance, "Jesus Freak" charted at number 10 on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart, so it is said that it charted at number 110 on the Billboard Hot 100.



  1. ^ a b c d John DiBiase (November 1, 2006). "dc Talk, "Jesus Freak Single" Review". Jesus Freak Hideout. Retrieved April 20, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "((( Jesus Freak (single) > Overview )))". Allmusic. Retrieved October 28, 2008. 
  3. ^ a b c Farias, Andree. "Jesus Freak: 10th Anniversary Special Edition". Christianity Today. Retrieved January 15, 2007. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Radwan, Jon. "Music and Mediated Religious Identity: "Jesus Freak"". Journal of Media and Religion 5 (1): 1–23. doi:10.1207/s15328415jmr0501_1. Retrieved July 20, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Taff (2006), p. 6.
  6. ^ a b c Jesus Freak (liner notes). DC Talk. California, USA: ForeFront Records/Virgin Records. 1995. 
  7. ^ a b Taff (2006), p. 8.
  8. ^ a b Taff (2006), p. 9.
  9. ^ a b WOW #1s (liner notes). Various Artists. California, USA: Provident Label Group. 2005. 
  10. ^ DC Talk (2001), p. 100.
  11. ^ a b Jamison, Laura (December 22, 1995). "Jesus Freak Music Review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 6, 2009. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h Atwood, Brett (November 11, 1995). "DC Talk Aims to Turn Heads with Clip". Billboard. p. 85. Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  13. ^ a b McNeil (2005), p. 99.
  14. ^ Taff (2006), p. xii.
  15. ^ Brown, G. (May 6, 1996). "Rock With a Message: DC Talk Puts God up on the Charts with 'Jesus Freak'". Denver Post. Retrieved July 27, 2012.  (subscription required)
  16. ^ a b c "Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles". Billboard 107. November 25, 1996. p. 107. Retrieved October 20, 2012. 
  17. ^ Price, Deborah (October 21, 1995). "DC Talk's 'Jesus Freak' is at the ForeFront". Billboard. p. 16. Retrieved July 27, 2012.  (subscription required)
  18. ^ "Jars and Butterflies: The Joys of Mainstreaming". Billboard. April 25, 1998. pp. 38–40. Retrieved July 21, 2010. 
  19. ^ a b "--- 40th Annual GMA Dove Awards on Gospel Music Channel ---". GMA Dove Awards. Retrieved July 20, 2010. 
  20. ^ Steven Losey. "((( Intermission: The Greatest Hits > Overview )))". Allmusic. Retrieved July 22, 2010. 
  21. ^ Rodney Batdorf. "((( Welcome to the Freak Show > Overview )))". Allmusic. Retrieved July 22, 2010. 
  22. ^ ""Jesus Freak" - dc Talk // Rock Band". August 3, 2010. Retrieved August 4, 2010. 
  23. ^ Tim Sendra. "((( Born Again > Overview )))". Allmusic. Retrieved July 20, 2010. 
  24. ^ John DiBiase (July 20, 2010). "Freaked! A Gotee Tribute to dc Talk's "Jesus Freak"". Jesus Freak Hideout. 
  25. ^ "Larry Norman-Jesus Freak". Inc. Retrieved July 28, 2010. 
  26. ^ Jesus Freak CD single (liner notes). DC Talk. California, USA: ForeFront Records. 1995. 


  • DC Talk; et al. (2001), Intermission: The Greatest Hits (Piano/Vocal/Guitar Artist Songbook), Hal Leonard Corporation, ISBN 0-634-03043-4 
  • McNeil, W. K. (2005), Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-94179-2 
  • Taff, Tori (2006), 100 Greatest Songs in Christian Music, Integrity, ISBN 1-59145-210-4 

External links[edit]