Monday, November 21, 2011

Album Review: Newsboys: God's Not Dead

Album Rating: B-
In the late 1990's dc Talk and the Newsboys were two of the biggest Christian bands ever. dc Talk's Supernatural and the Newsboys Love Liberty Disco were poppy enough to make the radio, rocked hard enough to be respected by the metal heads, were "honest" enough to earn both bands some indie cred, and were religious enough to not ostracize the normal religious right wing market. After years of being irrelevant and being scoffed at Love Liberty Disco and Supernatural made Christian music relevant not only to their evangelical audience but relevant to the left wing hipsters who scoff at the mention of any "higher power." dc Talk versus the Newsboys was the Christian music version of Russell versus Wilt, the Christian music version of Brady versus Manning, the Christian music version of Alba versus Simpson, it was NWO red versus NWO black, and most importantly it was one of the hottest music debates of the late 1990's. Christian music had finally gone mainstream, had finally gone indie, had finally gone metal, and most importantly had finally in a weird way gone bipartisan.

The debate cooled down a little bit in the early stages of the 21st century as both bands were taking a well deserved break. The debate ended in 2001 when dc Talk decided to go solo and Christian music was once again irrelevant to mainstream America. Instead of being hip and cool, Christian music produced songs that gave fifty year old housewives false hope like "I Can Only Imagine" and "Mercy Said No." The Newsboys continued to make quality music but without their main competitor they could not single handedly save an entire genre. Love, Liberty, and Disco had been replaced with a supernatural shrug from anyone who was not a diehard Christian music fan. Christian music had once again become the punchline genre for anyone who was not screaming "Glory hallelujah! Won't you wash my sins away?" every Sunday at some sort of church.

Then a walk on water type of miracle happened when former dc Talk singer Michael Tait decided to join the Newsboys in early 2009. Christian music finally had its first super group and for the first time in a decade had a chance at mainstream relevancy. Christian music finally had the lethal combination of the nu metal feel of dc Talk and the Australian Beatles feel of the Newsboys. Even though it sounded good on paper and on evangelical bumper stickers the new Newsboys intially struggled to balance their many influences. Tait did not have the voice for the Newsboys's biggest hits and the band did not feel right playing dc Talk's style of music. Could the Newsboys combine these influences and make Christian music somewhat relevant again?

God's Not Dead sucessfully combines the best parts of Supernatural and Love, Liberty, Disco without ever really sounding overdone. The innocent pop of the Newsboys and the hard rocking style of dc Talk are combined on just every track. It is fair to call God's Not Dead the worship version of the most sucessful Newsboys and dc Talk songs. "The King is Coming" has all of the optimism of the average Newsboys hit while having enough of a rock feel to pass as a dc Talk song, "God's Not Dead" sounds like an arena version of "What If I Stumble?" combined with "Fall on You," "All The Way" gives this version of the Newsboys a unique feel, and "Mighty To Save" and "More To Enough" are covers of Christian hits with the Newsboys mainstream twist on them. The album does a great job of succesfully combining the best of the Newsboys and the best of dc Talk without sounding over done or even pretentious.

The problem with God's Not Dead though is that it often sounds like a greatest hits album instead of really sounding like a cohesive album. The cover songs kill the flow of the album, five of the songs sound almost exactly the same, and the album never really seems to have a clear message or gain a lot of momentum. Individually the tracks are a great combination of the talents of dc Talk and the Newsboys, but the album fails to really ever feel like a cohesive album. Supernatural's purpose was to make a hard rocking relevant Christian album that show cased the talent of three unique singers. Love, Liberty, Disco was always meant to give Christian music fans the "summer of love" feel that Sgt. Pepper's did. Both of these albums had clear musical purposes that they almost achieved. The failure of God's Not Dead is that its only goal seems to be to find a way to combine what was great about dc Talk and the old Newsboys. So even though the album is made up of great songs, it ends up feeling like a collection of misplaced songs instead of feeling like an actual cohesive album.

I have "blind faith" that the new Newsboys can make Christian music relevant again though. As I write this pretentious review God's Not Dead is one of the first albums on the "what's new?" page on Spotify. It is surrounded by albums by R.E.M., Gym Classes Heroes, The Supremes, The Beach Boys, David Nail, and Tegan and Sara. It can be said that the Newsboys have made Christian music relevant again without even making a cohesive album. It is logical to think that when the Newsboys make an album with a clear purpose they can give the average guy like me a reason to listen to Christian music again. It is logical to think that when the Newsboys find the perfect formula for making relevant music they can assure people that Christian music is not dead. And maybe one day they will be good enough to assure the mainstream public that God isn't dead. So ring that victory bell........


1. The King is Coming
2. God's Not Dead (Like A Lion)
3. Your Love Never Fails
4. Here We Stand
5. Savior of the World
6. Forever Reign
7. More Than Enough
8. Revelation Song
9. Pouring It Out
10. Mighty To Save
11. All The Way
12. I Am Second

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