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Jesus Freak (song)

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"Jesus Freak"
Dctalk jesusfreaksingle.jpg
Single by DC Talk
from the album Jesus Freak
ReleasedAugust 1, 1995[1]
Songwriter(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. Musically, the song has been described as alternative rock and grunge, with many reviewers and critics noting a similarity to the sound of Nirvana. It received airplay on both contemporary Christian music and alternative rock stations, formats that rarely interact. "Jesus Freak" 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 songwriting, the trio decided to innovate their style.[7][8] 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."[8] 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."[9] 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.[10] 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][8] Since the song and album's release, many of the group's fans have donned products with the term "Jesus Freak".[9]

The first time the band performed the song live, McKeehan only had about a verse written.[11] 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."[11]


"Jesus Freak", which follows a "three-part repetitive" song form that is common to the rock genre (i.e. chorus, verse, bridge), opens with four acoustic guitar scraps, establishing the time signature (4/4) and the tempo (roughly 107 bpm).[4] Following this brief count-off, an acoustic guitar begins strumming the main riff in the key of Eb minor; the guitar is accompanied by faint vocals singing the song's chorus (i.e. "What will people think when they hear that I'm a Jesus Freak?/What will people do when they find that's it's true?").[4][12] The guitar then abruptly switches into overdrive, and modulates into the key of F minor.[12] Throughout this portion of the song, the chorus riff is repeated twice on electric guitar, but no main vocals are heard.[4]

During the verses, a sparse electric guitar pattern, which outlines the chord progression, is played.[13] The opening portion of the first verse, according to Jon Radwan, describes "a change in self-concept".[14] The second portion, rapped by McKeehan, describes the story of a street preacher who, "stood on a box in the middle of the city and he claimed he had a dream".[15] The first portion of the second verse discusses self-sacrifice and "the killing of an old self that feared social judgement" for being a Christian. The verse then shifts into a rap about John the Baptist,[16][17] re-reads "John a Christian martyr instead of a Jewish political dissident."[18] A repetition of the chorus follows, succeeded by a melodic breakdown and a dissonant guitar solo. Following a final play-through of the chorus, the feedback-laden conclusion ends abruptly.[12]

Musically, the song has been described as alternative rock and grunge,[3][4][19] with many reviews noting a similarity with the sound of Nirvana.[19][20][10] Radwan argues that the song contains "direct allusions to hit songs by Nirvana", and that the drum flam entrance to the song and the chord progression in the verses recall "Smells like Teen Spirit" and "Heart-Shaped Box", respectively.[14][17] 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.[21]

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.[10] 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, footage of the Russian Revolution, 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.[10]

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."[10] McKeehan later said that the point of the video was to "push the envelope" for the Christian rock community,[10] and indeed, the song and video proved controversial.[5][10] 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,"[22] some of the more conservative Christian community members disapproved of the video.[10] The song however, was highly successful on Z Music[10] and managed to achieve air time on MTV.[23]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Jesus Freak Hideout[1]

"Jesus Freak", which served as the lead-off single for the album of the same name, was released in 1995 to alternative and modern rock stations, the band's first venture into these radio formats.[7][24] Because the song – which is defined by a dark, grunge sound – was released during an era when alternative rock was ruling the airwaves, the song was played on some non-Christian stations.[21] 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. The single initially charted on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles at No. 25 with little mainstream radio assistance.[25] The song peaked at No. 10 on this chart.[24][nb 1] The single also peaked at No. 1 on CCM Magazine's rock chart.[7]

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."[20] 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.[26] In 1996, the song won GMA Dove Award for Song of the Year[5] and Rock Recorded Song of the Year.[5][27] The music video for the song later won the award for Short Form Music Video of the Year in 1997.[5][27]

Other releases[edit]

Various versions of "Jesus Freak" have appeared on several DC Talk official releases, including the band's greatest hits album Intermission.[28] A live version of "Jesus Freak" was included on the 1997 live release Welcome to the Freak Show (1997).[29] 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.[30]

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.[31] On the DC Talk tribute album, Freaked! (2006), both 4th Avenue Jones and Chasing Victory recorded covers of this particular song.[32] "Jesus Freak" has also been covered by Larry Norman.[33] McKeehan, under his stage name TobyMac, also recorded a cover version of the song for his album Alive and Transported.[34]

Track listing[edit]

CD single
1."Jesus Freak"Mark Heimermann, Toby McKeehan4:50
2."Jesus Freak (Gotee Bros. Freaked Out Remix)"Mark Heimermann, Toby McKeehan4:42
3."I Wish We'd All Been Ready"Larry Norman3:45
4."Jesus Is Just Alright" (Live)Arthur Reynolds4:51
Total length:18:08


Chart (1995) Peak
Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles[24] 10
CCM Magazine Rock Chart[7] 1

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 No. 10 on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart, so it is said that it charted at No. 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 (2009), p. 6.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Taff (2006), p. 6.
  6. ^ a b c Jesus Freak (liner notes). DC Talk. California, United States: ForeFront Records/Virgin Records. 1995.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  7. ^ a b c d Radwan (2009), p. 5.
  8. ^ a b c Taff (2006), p. 8.
  9. ^ a b Taff (2006), p. 9.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i Atwood, Brett (November 11, 1995). "DC Talk Aims to Turn Heads with Clip". Billboard. p. 85. Retrieved July 19, 2010.
  11. ^ a b WOW #1s (liner notes). Various Artists. California, United States: Provident Label Group. 2005.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  12. ^ a b c DC Talk (2001), p. 100.
  13. ^ Radwan (2009), p. 7.
  14. ^ a b Radwan (2009), p. 9.
  15. ^ Radwan (2009), p. 10.
  16. ^ Radwan (2009), p. 11.
  17. ^ a b Radwan (2009), p. 13.
  18. ^ Stockton and Gilson (2019), p. 31.
  19. ^ a b Radwan (2009), p. 1.
  20. ^ a b Jamison, Laura (December 22, 1995). "Jesus Freak Music Review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 6, 2009.
  21. ^ a b McNeil (2005), p. 99.
  22. ^ Taff (2006), p. xii.
  23. ^ Brown, G. (May 6, 1996). "Rock With a Message: DC Talk Puts God up on the Charts with 'Jesus Freak'". Denver Post.
  24. ^ a b c "Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles". Billboard. Vol. 107. November 25, 1996. p. 107. Retrieved October 20, 2012.
  25. ^ Price, Deborah (October 21, 1995). "DC Talk's 'Jesus Freak' is at the ForeFront". Billboard. p. 16. ProQuest 227094743. (subscription required)
  26. ^ "Jars and Butterflies: The Joys of Mainstreaming". Billboard. April 25, 1998. pp. 38–40. Retrieved July 21, 2010.
  27. ^ a b "--- 40th Annual GMA Dove Awards on Gospel Music Channel ---". GMA Dove Awards. Archived from the original on March 23, 2011. Retrieved July 20, 2010.
  28. ^ Steven Losey. "( Intermission: The Greatest Hits > Overview )". Allmusic. Retrieved July 22, 2010.
  29. ^ Rodney Batdorf. "( Welcome to the Freak Show > Overview )". Allmusic. Retrieved July 22, 2010.
  30. ^ ""Jesus Freak" - dc Talk // Rock Band". August 3, 2010. Archived from the original on June 24, 2012. Retrieved August 4, 2010.
  31. ^ Tim Sendra. "( Born Again > Overview )". Allmusic. Retrieved July 20, 2010.
  32. ^ John DiBiase (July 20, 2010). "Freaked! A Gotee Tribute to dc Talk's "Jesus Freak"". Jesus Freak Hideout.
  33. ^ "Larry Norman-Jesus Freak". Retrieved July 28, 2010.
  34. ^ TobyMac (November 10, 2007). Alive and Transported (CD). ForeFront Records.
  35. ^ Jesus Freak CD single (liner notes). DC Talk. California, United States: ForeFront Records. 1995.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)


External links[edit]