Nearly fifteen years after it all began, 2017 finds us celebrating the release of Matthew West's seventh studio album, All In. With a career that long, it's no surprise that some things have changed about the award-winning singer/songwriter's approach to music over the years.
If you go back to the very beginning of Matthew's discography, you'll no doubt hear the passion and talent that has kept Matthew at the top of the charts year after year. Fast forward to present day, and you'll hear those elements come to life in a revived way.
In honor of the new release, we're taking a look at a few ways Matthew's music has changed since his 2003 debut.
Every artist is, by default, a storyteller. Though Matthew has served this role well from the start, in 2010 he took it to a level unlike we've ever seen when he invited fans to send in their stories. Met with an overwhelming response of listeners who trusted him to turn their brokenness into melodical beauty, Matthew began to write songs based on their real-life stories, creating one of his most powerful albums to date and forever impacting the trajectory of his music by giving every song a deeply personal feel. The albums that followed also immersed themselves completely in the storytelling theme, continuing all the way to present day with All In. Matthew's first release in seven years that isn't totally composed of the stories of others, this new record takes a more personal turn to offer songs that tell Matthew's own story ("The Sound Of A Life Changing," "All In," "Broken Things"), while still featuring the hopeful stories of others ("Never Ever Give Up," "Power Love Sound Mind," "Dream Again").
Another aspect of Matthew's music that has never been lacking but has significantly evolved over the years, the songwriting in every release continues to raise the bar for songwriters of all genres. Coupled with his powerful ability to turn the stories of others into chart-topping songs that impact all who hear them, I'm more convinced than ever that Matthew has become one of the best writers our industry has ever seen (I'm not the only one who thinks that though, as Matthew was just awarded his second ASCAP Christian Music Songwriter of the Year award). Matthew's writing has continued to mature with each album, crafting track after track that cuts straight to the heart and beautifully implements elements of life and faith in ways that feel fresh.
Of all the things that have changed in Matthew's music, perhaps the sound is what has evolved the most. While there was never a huge sonic shift, there's been an underlying continual progression in each album that leads us to where we are now with All In--a record that boasts strong pop vibes and the best production we've ever heard from West. Take a listen to debut single "More" in contrast with newest single "Broken Things" and hear for yourself: it just keeps getting better.
While the message of Matthew's music has always been clear, something I've enjoyed seeing over the course of his discography is how that message has become more specific in each record and targeted towards one overarching theme inspired by his current season of life. Take for example naming his 2008 release Something To Say after spending two months completely silent due to vocal problems/surgery. Again with the storytelling, 2010's aptly titled The Story of Your Life focused on the stories of fans, 2012's Into The Light brought healing to stories of dark places, 2015's Live Forever focused on the importance of eternity and this year's All In brings to the forefront Matthew's readiness to go "all in" for Christ.
The Live Show
As you might expect, with so much change in Matthew's music, his live show has changed a bit as well. It's no longer just an artist standing behind a mic, but rather a storyteller inviting a crowd of thousands into the story with him. He may end up in the audience with fans, bringing up a crowd member who designed a special "Hello My Name Is" poster for the evening or singing a song made up on the spot about something random, but one thing is for sure: a Matthew West show is never boring. As for the music itself, it's a testimony to the artistry and talent of Matthew as the songs feel equally fulfilled with nothing more than an acoustic guitar as they do with a full band, making Matthew shine in any live environment as he brings these songs to life from stage night after night.