For years, Amy Grant was the doyenne of contemporary Christian music.
Her eight studio albums released between 1977-1988 established her as the defining voice of the genre, and even as she dabbled in pop with 1985’s “Unguarded” album and her Billboard Hot 100 chart-topping duet with Peter Cetera in 1986 (“The Next Time I Fall”), Grant’s core remained in Christian music.
But in 1991, the sweet, bouncy bauble “Baby Baby” stormed through pop radio, hitting No. 1 on the Hot 100 and catapulting Grant into the mainstream.
The album that bore the lead single, “Heart in Motion” (its title taken from a line in “Baby Baby”), would sell 5 million copies, peak at No. 10 on the Billboard 200 and retain Grant’s Christian fan base, with a No. 1 showing for 32 weeks on the Christian albums chart.
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And “Baby Baby” was just the beginning. “Heart in Motion” birthed four additional pop smashes – “Every Heartbeat,” “That’s What Love is For,” “Good for Me” and “I Will Remember You” – before earning Grammy nominations for album of the year and song of the year (“Baby Baby”) at the 1992 awards show.
The 30th anniversary of Grant’s most recognized release was feted with a July 9 double-CD reissue, featuring the original album remastered and a second disc of unreleased songs and remixes of “Heart in Motion” hit singles. On July 30, the album will arrive in remastered vinyl form.
Grant underwent open-heart surgery in June 2020 for partial anomalous pulmonary venous return (she’s doing just fine, thank you for asking) and is also shaking off post-COVID-19 fog after getting sick with the virus in January, an experience that she said kept her “down for about a month.”
In August, she’ll kick off a tour in Beaver Creek, Colorado, and wind across the country through November (husband Vince Gill will be “playing much bigger places,” she said with a laugh, as the Eagles return to the road).
Grant will spotlight “Heart in Motion” at her live shows, but also said the tour is a way “to celebrate that I’m alive and 60.”
She also disclosed – with much pride – that the inspiration for “Baby Baby,” her then-six-week-old daughter Millie, is now pregnant with her own baby (baby).
Calling with a cup of coffee nearby from her home in Nashville, Tennessee, Grant reminisced to USA TODAY about the “Heart in Motion” period.
Grant’s previous album, “Lead Me On,” was suffused with introspective lyrics and Americana rootsiness, which made the detour to the polished pop of “Heart in Motion” surprising to longtime fans: “I’ve gone back and looked at some old interviews, since (the album came out) a lifetime ago. And in my favorite one I said that I went from asking big, deep questions (on ‘Lead Me On’) and touring to the biggest crowds ever with that record and then I was pregnant with Millie and the environment of our home was so happy and light and silly and fun and that’s just what was reflected (in the music). For me, it was just a joyful time in my life and it felt very uncomplicated.”
Daughter Millie doesn’t say much publicly about “Baby Baby”: “She is someone who holds her cards very close to her chest, so I guess I’ll never know how she feels about it! But I do remember that she went on a school trip to France and came back and said very quietly, ‘You would have been surprised that I got up in a karaoke bar and sang ‘Baby Baby.’”
The song “Ask Me,” about sexual abuse, marked a potent moment on the album: “That song was inspired by two friends of mine and the shock of what their childhoods were like. One was from high school and one from after college and at that point, I was many years into both friendships. I look back at little signals that were weird to me that I didn’t understand. I remember being so glad we had a song that could address (the topic). One of the most powerful things from that tour was that song in particular would start and you would see a lone figure stand up. And then another and another. And to me it felt like, what an opportunity for somebody to be seen.”
Grant experienced full-fledged pop stardom for several years, with high-concept videos and mainstream appearances: “I just moved into every new circle kind of wide-eyed and waiting. I have sort of a slow reactive. It’s not even caution. I don’t know what it is. Like a lot of creative people, I’m an introvert who presents as an extrovert. So whenever another door opened, I sort of crept through the door. I just remember taking a lot of deep breaths and going, ‘How in the world did this happen?’ I do remember many times being someplace really special or unique and feeling such waves of gratitude, like, how is it possible that a few three-minute songs created an environment where I’m standing at the top of the Empire State Building at dawn and granting a wish to a child who is losing his eyesight? I remember touring in Europe and the record label needed a fifth video (for ‘I Will Remember You’) and they sent a massive private plane for me and flew me to some coast in Spain and I’m on a rock in the Mediterranean Sea and they’re yelling, ‘Wave your arms! Wave your arms!’ and I’m thinking, ‘How did I get here?’”
The 11 tracks on the album form a cohesive remembrance for Grant: “All of them are a beautiful, sweet memory for me. There is such an inclusiveness and a hopefulness. I love the feeling of ‘we’ and ‘us’ that I hear in those songs. You listen to (the first line of) ‘That’s What Love is For’ – ‘Sometimes we make it harder than it is’ (laughs). There’s such an honesty and pureness. Everything feels uncontrived to me. I really do believe that the best thing about music is the ability to lead us and to steer us.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Amy Grant landmark album 'Heart in Motion' turns 30 with reissue