"I Can Only Imagine" is a song by Christian rock band MercyMe. Written and composed by lead singer Bart Millard, it was originally recorded for the band's 1999 independent album The Worship Project before being included on their 2001 major-label debut album Almost There. The song was the last to be written for The Worship Project; in writing it, Millard drew upon his thoughts about his father's death. Lyrically, it imagines what it would be like to be in front of God in heaven; it opens with just a piano before building to include guitar and drums. After being released on October 12, 2001, as the second single from Almost There, "I Can Only Imagine" became a major success on Christian radio; it spent two weeks at No. 1 on the Radio & Records Christian AC chart and became the most-played Christian single of 2002. It became an unexpected mainstream hit in 2003, peaking at No. 71 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 5 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart while also hitting top 40, adult top 40, and country radio charts. The song returned to the charts after its story was adapted into a 2018 film of the same name, peaking at No. 1 on the Billboard Christian Songs chart and No. 10 on the Billboard Digital Songs chart. "I Can Only Imagine" received positive reviews from critics. Particular praise was given to its lyrics, and some critics called it the best song on Almost There. It received the Dove Awards for Song of the Year and Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year at the 33rd GMA Dove Awards, also garnering Millard the award for Songwriter of the Year; he also won the Songwriter of the Year award at the 25th American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Christian Music Awards. In 2004, CCM Magazine ranked it as the fourth-best song in Christian music, and it has since become the most-played song in the history of Christian radio as well as the best-selling Christian song of all time; it has been certified quadruple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and as of April 2018, it has sold over 2.5 million copies.
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