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A little over a week ago on April 17, 2018, Walmart announced their decision to not sell Stryper‘s new album God Damn Evil (Frontiers Music SRL, April 20, 2018—buy) in stores or online (READ full story). Even though the chain offers its fair share of popular music complete with “Parental Advisory / Explicit Warning” labels, the megastore’s management is sticking to their plans in refusing this retail opportunity. Just before the band headed to Italy to play a round of shows during what proved to be a very a successful opening week for God Damn Evil, we caught up with front man Michael Sweet on the issue:

CCM Magazine: Reacting to Walmart’s decision not to sell the album, you said, “The odd thing is of all the chains out there—we assumed Walmart would be one to understand exactly what our point & purpose is…” What specific reasons gave you the assumption that Walmart would be on board?
Michael Sweet: Walmart seems to be a little more about “family values” and we just assumed that they would get our point, especially considering who we are and the history of the band. We’ve always shared a positive message and there’s no denying that. They decided to not carry our album in stores yet they still carry loads of CD’s plastered with “explicit” stickers. It seems a bit odd to us.

CCM: Seven of the Top 10 albums on iTunes currently have an “Explicit” rating—including Kendrick Lamar’s current album entitled Damn., Beyonce, and the Hamilton Soundtrack—all titles that Walmart is carrying in-store & online. In your opinion, is this a double-standard?
MS: Absolutely! Although, we’ve always faced an uphill climb and it hasn’t been easy over the past 34 years. I guess to a certain degree we’ve come to expect it—the opposition, that is.

CCM: In 1986 Stryper released To Hell With The Devil, do you remember any similar types of backlash with that?
MS: Of course. Christian chains wouldn’t carry the original artwork so we caved and released a different cover. We were torn. Maybe we should have done so this time around? But when you start changing your art to try to please everyone then you start playing a game you’ll never win.

CCM: Aside from the Walmart issue, where have you particularly seen the album embraced and any memorable standout moments during the pre-release and first week of sales in regards to this release?
MS: Aside from a select few who have questioned our motives and use of the phrase/title, we’ve had nothing but support and very positive comments from most. It’s supposed to shake the cage and make people talk and think. That’s what we’re all about.

Note: Stryper’s God Damn Evil debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Christian Album Sales, #2 on Billboard‘s Top Christian Albums, #3 on Billboard’s Top Current Hard Music Albums, #5 on Billboard’s Top Independent Current Albums, #7 on Billboard‘s Top Current Rock Albums, #12 on Billboard‘s Top Current Physical Albums, #14 on Billboard‘s Top Current Albums, #21 on Billboard‘s Top Current Digital Albums and #77 on Billboard Top 200. In addition, God Damn Evil soared to #1 on the iTunes and Amazon Hard Rock charts immediately upon release.

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About The Author

Kevin Sparkman
Managing Editor

After both on-stage and front-office experience in the Christian recording industry, (including co-founding Exit 3 Entertainment, Inc. and General Manager of hip-hop label Beatmart Recordings), Sparkman returned to Salem in 2014 from a Dir. of Communications position in the United Methodist Church. He became the Managing Editor of CCM Magazine in January 2015.

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