Lauren Daigle’s Look Up Child has been sitting pretty comfortably on top of iTunes’ Christian charts with very few breaks since its 2018 debut. But its reign has been interrupted by Semler, whose Preacher’s Kid cracked the top spot on Tuesday. The artist described the album as a “project about coming out as a queer person of faith.”
It probably goes with out saying that an openly queer artist hitting number one on iTunes’ Christian charts is pretty rare. For that matter, it’s also pretty unusual for an album marked “explicit” to hit number one on this particular chart (iTunes doesn’t keep track of these records but they may well be unprecedented). Preacher’s Kid, which released earlier this month, accomplished all this without radio play or even a label, making the feat that much more remarkable.
Semla is music moniker of Grace Baldridge, a singer/songwriter and, true to the album title, PK with a keen interest in the adolescent experience of American Christianity. Semler’s songs chronicle a coming of age spent wrestling with the competing messages of youth group purity talks and bursting hormones. Album standout “Jesus From Texas” is a bracing, furious reckoning with America’s spin on White Republican Jesus and the women in Baldridge’s life whose relational connection was complicated or even severed by this warped idea of a Savior.
Elsewhere on the album, Baldridge alternates between taking aim at misguided efforts from church culture (“The mission trips are scams; they do more harm than good” and “We’ve got faith-hungry pastors making bank in Hollywood”) and clinging to a stubborn faith (“What I’d give for just an inch of your peace. I wanna fall but I’ve got bruises on my knees”)
And then there’s “Youth Group,” a tragicomic ode to church lock-ins which are ostensibly about having fun while learning more about the Bible but just as often leads to a collision of competing teen urges. “This one’s for the kids who had their sexual awakening at the youth group lock-in,” Baldridge yelps. “It must have been confusing and I hope you’re doing well.” It’s a funny line that soon lapses into a mournful reflection on the leftover trauma from that era. “Now we’re grown up and we’re f***** up,” Baldridge sings with an earnestness that echoes in the bones. “Is there still a God we can trust? If you’re out there, I’m waiting. If you’re out there, I’m praying.”
It goes without saying that this is pretty new for the iTunes Christian chart, what with all the swearing and sex. But as the album’s success proves, Preacher’s Kid is clearly striking a nerve. On Twitter, Baldridge celebrated the achievement by saying “just cried with my Mom over facetime about how much this would’ve meant to my teenage self.”
You can listen to Preacher’s Kid here.