Ranking of Carman’s music videos by absolute majority

How do you explain Carman?

The CCM icon who deceased on Tuesday night after a battle with cancer, was someone you are very familiar with, or not at all. He had a nice singing voice but was much more interested in a kind of rhymed spoken word preach rap that had its own character. It was hugely popular with a certain demographic of Christianity – it sold millions of albums when people were still doing that and set a record most people ever attend a Christian concert by a solo artist.

And yet, if Carman (last name: Licciardello) will be remembered for at least one thing, it’s definitely his music videos. You are wild. Sometimes they show Carman as an MC Hammer-type dance machine. Sometimes they show him as a pompadoured rockabilly showman. Sometimes he was a stern-looking spokesman for the Moral Majority, or a hard-nosed hillbilly, or a proletariat champion. Mostly he was a stormy revolutionary, bringing God’s violent judgment on a world on the fast track to hell.

But the videos have never been better than when they took on an operatic splendor and showed the forces of good (Carman) holding their own against a demon horde that looked like they’d been recruited along the way the Nightmare on Elm Street’s wrap party.

These videos aren’t the best CCM music videos of all time, but they are most CCM videos of all time and they demand to be rated accordingly. If you’re familiar with Carman’s work, you’re probably already hooked. If not, soon you will be.

10. A witch’s invitation


Not Carman’s greatest moment, but a good introduction to what he did. Not quite a spoken-word jam, but not quite a song — “A Witch’s Invitation” falls into a musical genre unique to Carman, and that’s hardly the weirdest thing about this video, which begins as what appears to be one neighbor’s friendly invitation to have a little conversation about faith before things go wildly wrong.

In this story, we see how the day after Halloween, Carman (our hero, always) is invited to a house that looks like Walgreens’ holiday aisle, with a Ouija board, a dungeon, and dragons Player Guide and, most frighteningly, herbal tea. This house belongs to the eponymous “witch” who has everything but red horns and a pointy tail.

These are Carman’s younger days, so we can excuse the fact that there’s no bloodshed or violence other than a claymation demon dragging an old man to hell. But no fear. Things pick up speed from here.


RIOT (Righteous Invasion of Truth) doesn’t have the Shakespearean credentials of other videos on this list, but what it lacks in plot development it more than makes up for in sweaty dancers. This video shows Carman and his working-class comrades enslaved in some sort of smoke factory. Carman escapes, breaks everyone else’s restraints, and then it’s time for a class-conscious dance RIOT

The second best thing about this video is that Carman and his sweaty dance troupe, The Man, pounce with the power of funk. the best thing is that it literally begins with Carman giving us Webster’s definition of an insurgency.

8. No monsters

“Hey, you put ‘No Monsters’ at number eight even though it’s the song you used to dance to every day in your bedroom as a little boy?”

Yes. As a child you thought as a child, you danced as a child. Now that you’re an adult, you see this video really doesn’t last to the end, when Carman uses the Bible to chase a bunch of ’50s movie monsters (and a walking alligator?) back into the TV.

7. God is sublime

A flight as a metaphor for salvation? It’s an intriguing premise, perhaps inspired by CS Lewis’ The Big Divorce but much more likely inspired by Carman saying, “You know what would be cool?”

In this case, Carman is our plane’s “first officer” into the sky, while the pilot himself is a sparkling cloud of gas whose identity is left to the viewer’s imagination. As befits Carman’s worldview, the passengers on this plane are either huge Carman fans or Satanists, the latter of whom is being forced to repent of his witchcraft by the power of the sacred dance.

6. revival

OK, here’s an interesting concept for a music video. The live audio of Carman’s re-enactment of a conversation between Satan and a demonic servant is played over footage of two actors in demon masks uttering the words, becoming increasingly panicked at the presentation of a Carman concert. These clips are interspersed with footage from a indeed Carman concert whose righteous power seems to destroy hell, culminating in the explosion of Satan’s throne? More music videos should end with Satan’s throne exploding.

5. The courtroom

This conspiracy follows a poor man brought before the divine bench where Satan (the prosecutor) accuses him of being a sinner. God (the judge) is almost convinced to send the guy to hell until Jesus (the defender) steps in to remind the judge that all sins are forgiven.

God seems to find Satan’s argument very convincing, which challenges some of the theology here, but that’s not what’s amazing about this video. The amazing thing about this video is that Carman UNITES in EVERY ROLE. He plays Satan the accuser in a sparkling red blazer, flowing ascot and small goatee, Jesus the defender in a lily-white suit, and God the judge who is incidental to the story. That is a a lot of responsibility for a man in a music video, but full credit goes to Carman for his dedication to each and every role.

(This is a good time to address the elephant in the room: Hat Carman actually Talkin’ like a Philly meat packer, or is it affect? One of the great mysteries of the 90s.)

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4. It is now our turn

The narrative is a bit loose here, but this is Carman’s furthest foray into the complex web of modern education. He suggests that the problem with American schools is that they stopped beginning their days with prayer in 1962, ignoring the fact that prayer existed in schools long before Brown v. the Board of Education desegregated public schools . So the argument is decidedly absent here, but even if it were true, Carman and Petra dancing around the school hallways between periods probably didn’t help.

3. Great God

This isn’t Carman’s most music video but it is the quintessential Carman music video. Although he exercises much moderation in how many roles he throws himself into (two), they are the most important roles in the entire film.

You know, no one would blame you for just assuming Carman wrote the treatment for “Great God” on a napkin at the minute brave heart The credits started rolling, but this music video is actually older brave heart by two years. Was Mel Gibson actually inspired to do it brave heart because of Carman’s “Great God?”

2. Commission 3:16

Where to start with this James Bond riff? Carman’s identity: “Agent 3:16.” His “Q” character: gets weak at the knees when Agent 3:16 jokes about getting married. His enemy: Josef Armin, “a very dangerous man” with an insidious plan to make everyone sad.

Nobody but Carman in the video seems very interested in what’s going on, so it’s good that Carman is like that very in. Who among us wouldn’t want to star in a James Bond short film of their own? Some of us dream of it. Carman went out there and did it. That makes it one of the greatest Carman videos of all time. It’s almost as good as…

1. Satan, bite the dust

This won’t surprise anyone familiar with Carman’s work, but man, it’s all here. Carman’s rap/talk hybrid. the Nightmare on Elm Street masks. Swift musical justice, here represented by a real gun. Carman’s enemies, represented here by demons explicitly identified as various vices such as alcoholism and, uh, infirmity. The fact that cowboy Carman actually shoots Satan outside an old saloon. More is not possible most.

For decades, Carman’s legacy was secondhand to a specific type of early ’90s youth group culture that perfectly embodied an entire era of American Christianity. This era shapes ours to this day, for better or for worse. Carman, like many Christians of the time, was drawn into the culture war, but he did not view it solely in cultural terms. For Carman, Christianity was a cosmic opera in which all Christians played a part in an apocalyptic war between good and evil. He wasn’t the only one who felt that way, but he’s had a lot of success by making it as literal as the budget would allow. Those who grew up fans of his work probably feel very differently about the very sad news of his death, which came far too young. But there’s no denying that the impact he left was unique. He didn’t even break the mold. There was no form to break.

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