Some things never change in the industry, like Michael W. Smith albums selling like hotcakes (literal hotcakes, given his recent partnership with Cracker Barrel restaurants). From his most recent Hymns II release to the worship and Christmas albums of the last several years, “Smitty” remains an icon in contemporary Christian music, but newer listeners might not realize the full scope of his pop power. Here’s five must-see (and hear) videos to get you caught up!

“Secret Ambition” (click the “play” button above to watch on this page)
Michael W. Smith’s early ‘80s releases were a mixed bag, but 1989’s i 2 (EYE), his fifth solo album, signaled a stronger pop direction and the beginning of a memorable string of hits. “Secret Ambition” revealed an aggressive, edgier side, and the music video, with an unflinching portrayal of Christ’s life and passion, is arguably the most memorable in CCM history.

“Place in This World”
To make a list of pop hits without “Place in This World” would be… well, wrong. Smitty’s first major crossover is a straight-up early ‘90s power ballad complete with epic electric guitar solo. Is it a song about Jesus? About a girl? About feeling generally lost and insignificant? We’re still “roamin’ through the night” to find the answer.

“I Will Be Here For You”
After Smitty’s major CCM-to-mainstream crossover success, 1993’s Change Your World was probably the most straightforward pop album of his career, packed with catchy hooks and love songs. “I Will Be Here For You,” one of the most memorable tracks, is a standout ode to love and friendship. You might be tempted to sway with your iPhone in the air to this one.

“Cry for Love”
So much going on in this video. The pleated pants! The dizzying rooftop scenes! The mysterious woman in a jar! Try not to have the hook stuck in your head after watching this. (Bonus: If you ever wanted to know what 8-minutes of Smitty in the club sounds like, check out the somewhat obscure Rocketown Club Remix.

“Don’t Give Up”
There are plenty of beloved singles to choose from on 1998’s Live the Life, from the title track to “Missing Person.” But let’s go out on a limb here… “Don’t Give Up” deserves to be remembered as a pure, fun dance-pop tune. With a sing-along hook and optimistic groove, it’s a bright spot in this album’s moody vibe.

*** BONUS, from the Editor! ***
“Secret Ambition LIVE!” This is from 1993. Not quite sure what the tambourine men were doing, but the homage to U2‘s Zoo TV Tour‘s set is impressive—and who knew Smitty was such a good Michael Jackson impersonator?! (wait for it…watch until the very end!). Seriously, this is really good—definitely worth a watch!

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