Every now and then, I stumble into a wonderful musical surprise. I’ll be channel surfing on my car radio (yes I still listen to the radio), and I’ll catch a fragment of a lyric that is so startlingly positive that I’ll crank the volume just to make sure I’m hearing it right.
That happened to me last week. The song in question, Alter Bridge’s “My Champion,” was released more than a year ago.
Now, ordinarily, we wouldn’t review something that dated without a really good reason for doing so. Well, here’s your really good reason: This song is really good. How good is it, you ask? So good that I don’t have a single negative thing to say about it. And that’s an occurrence so rare in my music reviewing experience that I wanted to share this inspiring progressive rock track with you—even if it is a year old.
There was a time, lo decades ago now, where upbeat rock anthems ruled the airwaves. Songs like Journey’s ubiquitous “Don’t Stop Believin’,” or Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” among many others.
Creed repackaged that feel-good formula in the late 1990s with hits such as “Higher” and “With Arms Wide Open.” And despite the band’s widely mocked status these days, many of its songs were more redemptive than most of the music of that era.
While it has never enjoyed the commercial success of those bands, Alter Bridge (which features three of Creed’s original members) has kept the inspirational rock fires burning. Neither the band’s sound nor its upbeat message gets the kind of traction that they might have enjoyed 20 or 30 years ago. But listening to “My Champion,” I can’t help but wish that things were different. This song is terrific.
Simply put, the song delivers a message of encouragement and hope to someone who’s struggling. And it’s apparently a message being passed on from one generation to the next: “May this be your victory song,” frontman Myles Kennedy begins. “A song for you when I am gone/Reminding you of what you’re meant to be.” Then he adds, “A gift to bring you clarity/To show you that your destiny/Is not defined by what you’ve failed to see, no.”
Kennedy and Co. acknowledge the possibility of failure (“Sometimes you fall before you rise”) even as they exhort listeners not to let failure have the last word (“You’ve gotta keep fighting/And get back up again/My champion”). They even suggest that some lessons can be learned only when things don’t go our way: “You’ve lost so many times it hurts/But failures made are lessons learned/ … You will survive and be so much more/Than you were.”
The realm of metal can often be a place of anger, alienation and disillusionment. But that’s not the case here. Instead, Myles Kennedy gives us a song, he told blabbermouth.net, that was inspired by the kind, encouraging things that his parents and teachers told him when he was growing up.
“The [song] was actually inspired by thinking back to my situation as a kid,” he said. “I was this really small, underdeveloped kid who had to work extremely hard to keep up with all of my peers. It was very frustrating. I would hear a lot of words of encouragement from parents, coaches, or teachers though. A lot of those things were stored away, and they manifested themselves in this song. I’ve been able to apply some of those concepts in my life a thousand times over since then.”
When was the last time you heard a hard rock band give a shout-out to teachers, coaches and parents who challenge struggling teens to hang in there? Yeah, it doesn’t happen very often.
So if you’ve got a young rock fan in your life in need of a redemptive message, you’d be hard put to find a better one than “My Champion.”
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.