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Kings Kaleidoscope: “Beyond Control”

July 29, 2016

written by Erin Diaz

June 24, 2016 marks a day that sparked a bit of a controversy in the Contemporary Christian Music (or CCM) realm – it was the day that Kings Kaleidoscope’s album “Beyond Control” was released, and also the day the word “explicit” appeared on a CCM album.

Hailing from Seattle, Washington, Kings Kaleidoscope claims their style as “an alternative rock hybrid band”. If you’ve listened to Kings Kaleidoscope in the past, you remember that the band is known for their reworking of hymns such as “Come Thou Fount” and “In Christ Alone”. They also have three albums besides “Beyond Control”, the first being released in 2011, and an EP called “Live in Focus” which came out in 2015.

“Beyond Control” is comprised of 13 songs, ranging from a jazzy opening entitled “A Resting Place (Intro)” to more of an alternative rock feel in “Enchanted”. Each song is obviously one to be sang to God, crying out words such as “Break me free to live enchanted!” and “Pray I find my peace, pray I slay the dragon”. Therefore, it obviously comes as a surprise to see the word “explicit” next to a song on the album, especially when the song is entitled “A Prayer”. Perhaps lead singer/songwriter Chad Gardner didn’t realize the implications of this bold word being on his album. Then again, maybe he did.

Amidst the controversy of “A Prayer”, Gardner sticks to his guns. In an interview on “Reel Gospel”, the lead singer states, “It barely feels like I wrote the song. One afternoon I was listening to the first part of that song and all the lyrics just appeared in this app I use on my phone to write lyrics. I bawled my eyes out, just feeling the Holy Spirit’s presence, just writing them down. Just thinking them. Once again, I even had to wait longer to record it, it was so heavy on me. The next day I was able to sing it through, twice. And I lost it both times singing it… It is the deepest fear of my soul and the deepest truth of my soul. That’s how it got written.”

This was definitely a risky move on Gardner’s part (and the whole band, for that matter). The use of one word on this album has the potential to push a lot of listeners away, yet this ultimatum didn’t scare Gardner away. When asked about the vision behind the song by Spirit You All, Gardner stated “I'd say, I'm not trying to change anyone's mind about it or convince anyone of anything. I'm just trying to be honest and vulnerable. I think that's important in art, and important as a Christian. If there's any place that I can share my story and my testimony for what it really is, it should be the church at large. And that's what I'm doing.”

So what does this mean for Christian music? Because of this being a relatively new development, it’s hard to tell right now what will be said about this situation or if much will be said at all. Kings Kaleidoscope doesn’t really fit the mold of the typical CCM band – they’re not exactly at the top of Christian radio’s Most Played list. Therefore, in the Christian realm, how much does this really matter?

To some, it really matters. The band tweeted on July 21st “Friends, @CreationFest has decided to no longer have us this year, hopefully we’ll get to sing these gospel songs another time…” Creation Festival, the largest Christian music festival in the nation, chose to uninvite Kings Kaleidoscope after “Beyond Control” was released. While they do not cite the profanity in “A Prayer” as their reasoning, it is assumed that this was the cause of the un-vitation. This situation shows that “A Prayer” is definitely causing some controversy, but as of now it’s hard to tell how much of a stir this is going to make in the CCM pot.

But if there is one thing that is going to stir the CCM pot, it should be the sound of “Beyond Control”. This album is charged with all sorts of different “feels” – electronic, rock, alternative, and just about everything that will make you take your Beats off, hand them to anyone around and say “Listen up!”. Kings Kaleidoscope makes the type of music that must be shared – they aren’t afraid to stand out, and this album is a perfect example of the risks they are willing to take. Timothy Yap of Hallels encapsulates the band’s music seamlessly by writing, “Kings Kaleidoscope can't be explained. It can be heard. It can be felt. It can point us towards home.”