10 Powerful Songs Referencing God
Reba McEntire, Mike Posner, and Avenged Sevenfold are among musicians with songs featured on our 10 Powerful Songs Referencing God playlist.
God is good. Better yet, God is great. The all-knowing, all-powerful has been the subject of many conversations. For Christians, he serves as a source of strength. For skeptics, he’s viewed as something that believers waste their time and energy praising and praying to. Interestingly, numerous musicians – some believers and others not – have written songs that make reference to God throughout musical history. This list only touches the surface of powerful songs referencing God, picking only 10 to analyze. Here, believers and nonbelievers alike, are 10 powerful songs referencing God.
1. Reba McEntire, “Back to God
(Sing It Now: Songs of Faith & Hope, 2017)
Reba McEntire blessed the world with her first gospel album in 2017, Sing It now: Songs of Faith & Hope. While the entire album is incredibly uplifting, “Back to God” ranks among the most moving moments. With all the problems that plague the world, Reba asserts, “We gotta give this world / Back to God.” This is a song that certainly appeals to the Christian base, embracing the power of faith and prayer above all.
(At Night. Alone, 2016)
Mike Posner was associated with one song in particular in 2016 – “I Took a Pill in Ibiza.” That record earned Posner a Grammy nomination and served as the centerpiece for his long-awaited sophomore album, At Night. Alone. Nonetheless, At Night, Alone. featured other gems, such as the reflective, spiritual record, “Only God Knows.”
On “Only God Knows,” Posner speaks about the loss of a teacher, mentor, and friend, who died while he was recording the album. According to Genius, the titular phrase were words out of Norman Mamey’s mouth. “Only God Knows” doesn’t make a gargantuan religious statement, but does find Posner asserting God’s omnipotence.
“Only God knows / Only God knows / Only God knows how hard I’ve been trying / Only God knows / Only God knows / Only God knows the trouble on my mind.”
(Dig Your Roots, 2016)
“God, Your Mama, And Me” served as the final pre-release single from Dig Your Roots, the third album by country duo, Florida Georgia Line. “God, Your Mama, and Me” features pop boy band Backstreet Boys. Despite its pop-oriented guests, “God, Your Mama, And Me” is firmly country. It perfectly embodies southern principles, with God and family being two of life’s most important things. The big chorus affirms the “love” spread throughout the record. The prevalence of voices on the chorus gives the record a gigantic, triumphant sound.
“Never gonna run dry, never gonna come up empty / now until the day I die, unconditionally / you know I’m always gonna be here for ya / no one’s ever gonna love you more than / God, your mama, and me / God, your mama, and me / unconditionally, God, your mama, and me.”
The return of Frank Ocean was messianic in itself – not in a blasphemous way of course! Ocean spent a four-year hiatus from issuing new music up to the release of his sophomore album, Blonde. Consistent from start to finish, Blonde easily ranked among the crème de la crème of 2016. While “Nikes” and “Pink + White” ranked among essential gems, the gospel-infused “Godspeed” is as gorgeous as everything else. The harmonic progression, in addition to the lyrics and spacy approach, amplify the grandness of the penultimate cut. An appearance from the ever-soulful Kim Burrell added greatness. After the fact, Burrell found herself in hot water across the board (including Ocean’s mom), but her excellent contributions shouldn’t be written off.
Interestingly, “Godspeed” doesn’t provide explicit confirmation of Ocean’s spiritual status. While it makes biblical reference and features gospel-infused production, Ocean remains vague in his spiritual walk.
“I will always love you how I do / Let go of a prayer for ya / Just a sweet word / The Table is prepared for you.”
(The Divine Feminine, 2016)
Mac Miller makes a couple of references to God on The Divine Feminine. The first of which is “Planet God Damn.” The title alone breaks one of the Ten Commandments. Technically, Miller already did so with his cleverly titled GO:OD AM album from 2015. While the profane title is sinful, “God Is Fair, Sexy, Nasty” is clearly more blasphemous. The final joint from The Divine Feminine closes the album with a bang…no pun intended. Kendrick Lamar guests on the eight-minute juggernaut, which has nothing to do with God and all to do with sex. The last three minutes or so serves as an interlude, featuring Mac’s grandmother expounding upon her relationship.
(The Stage, 2016)
“Where’s the fun in freedom when it renders you slave?” Oh boy! On “God Damn,” Avenged Sevenfold aren’t focused on the Most High. Sure, like Mac Miller, they take God’s name in vain, but they have a different, socio-political message.
“Pledge allegiance, no flag / God nation, goddamned / The devil dances with the scorned / And how the fire keeps us warm / Tunnel vision, no man / Damnation, god damn / Can’t see the forest for the trees / Can’t heal the wound before we bleed.”
(The Stage, 2016)
“Creating God” is the second Avenged Sevenfold to grace this list. Once more, Avenged Sevenfold aren’t focused on God himself. The band makes reference to the power of a god, but don’t focus on G-O-D. Powerful lyrics initiate:
“Standing in the shade of altruism, answering the call / Came a modern messiah to save us all / Something far beyond the work of fiction, Positronic brain / A world that’s void of all the anguish and suffering, pain…”
The central lyric of the record confirms this higher power:
“We’re creating god, master of our designs / We’re creating god, unsure of what we’ll find.”
This newly created messiah is something else. Cleary, not in the vein of which Reba sings on “Back to God.”
(The Storm, 2016)
Instead of using God, Tech N9ne uses Jesus in the title for “Need Jesus,” assisted by Stevie Stone and JL. Depending on religious beliefs, the two are interchangeable – part of the Holy Trinity. But that’s beside the point here. Tech N9ne raps about perceptions here more so than his spiritual walk. He does use spiritual references to intensify his message.
“I don’t know why they wanna call me up every Easter Sunday to the altar / Maybe the music I am doin’ is never gospel, sinner is what they call ya…”
Safe to say, he is unapologetic. He gives no…
“My mother was a Christian but I used to go with the wicked for the stick and what’s the problem…”
(22, A Million, 2016)
After a lengthy hiatus, Bon Iver (aka Justin Vernon) returned with 22, A Million. The crowning achievement of the superb alternative effort was “33 ‘God’.” Justin Vernon’s voice is haunting – the timbre of his pipes is stunning and the vocals beautifully produced. Mystical, “33 ‘GOD’” dabbles in romance, a potential/failed hook-up, reminiscing back on younger/youth days, and religion and the lack thereof. Numerous themes can be interpreted from a diverse set of lyrics. An overt reference to God confirms Vernon’s religious skepticism:
“We find God and religions too / staying at the Ace Hotel.”
Contextually, this aforementioned lyric likens the potential hook up to spirituality, clearly triggering an agnostic/atheistic sentiment. Many devout Christians wouldn’t liken a human relationship to one with God. Regardless of his spiritual status, Bon Iver shares a captivating song with the world.
(The Human Condition, 2016)
So…many of the songs this powerful list aren’t particularly spiritually-driven. Reba has the strongest case, hence her inclusion from the jump. Florida Georgia Line had something going… After the skepticism of the penultimate track “33 ‘GOD’,” pop up-and-comer Jon Bellion infuses much-needed spirituality on “Hand of God.” “Hand of God” appears on The Human Condition, the underrated debut from Bellion featuring hit single, “All Time Low.”
“Hand of God” isn’t a sermon – it’s certainly not a Biblical tour de force – but Bellion acknowledges his shortcomings and the power of God.
“I am just a man, I am just a man / Who lusts, gives, tries / Sometimes I lose my way.”
That power is amplified greatly at the end with the addition of a gospel choir (the Andraé Crouch choir) and incorporating lines from previous songs from The Human Condition.
Photo Credits: NASH Icon, Island, Big Machine, Frank Ocean, Warner Bros., Capitol, Strange Music, Jajaguwar