Various Artists

Whatever It Takes

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Cassie Bernall was a victim of the horrifying 1999 Columbine High School shooting rampage. Her death took on an almost legendary status in Christian circles, thanks to a widely publicized exchange in which the gunmen asked Bernall whether she believed in God -- she said yes, and they shot and killed her. Although the same exchange took place between the gunmen and another girl (who survived), and although the factual nature of the story was later called into question, it had enough power to make Bernall a virtual martyr. In the wake of her death, a non-profit cottage industry has sprung up around her memory -- which, depending on your perspective, is either a way to spin an extraordinary and dramatic tragedy into a positive good, or an odd marriage of grief and capitalism that might seem disturbingly manipulative no matter how well-intentioned. Which brings us to Whatever It Takes: The "She Said Yes" Music Project. Proceeds from the album go to the Cassie Bernall Foundation, which essentially benefits Denver-area youth groups, as well as an orphanage in Honduras dedicated to her memory. The album's title track was written by Bernall herself and is performed here by the Kry; there are also plenty of big names in Christian music contributing original material, including DC Talk, Jennifer Knapp, Jars of Clay, Delirious?, Audio Adrenaline, Rebecca St. James, and many more. Anyone inspired by Bernall's story will find it difficult not to feel the same way about many of these songs. Yet if one takes a larger perspective, the album is also another cog in a veritable merchandising machine; the sheer scope of this sincerely motivated attempt to find utility (and revenue) in tragedy makes it hard to shake the feeling of exploitation, no matter how noble the ultimate cause.

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