Definitely Winning It
Posted July 31, 2017
By MarcusHathcock_NRT, Staff Reviewer
With the collection of songs, titled In It To Win It (listen here on Spotify), we're not taking a look at an album, but rather a collection of the best songs penned by the very talented, multifaceted artist Chris Cron.
Cron is by no means a newcomer to music, as he fronted the now-defunct Warner Bros.-signed pop/rock band Melee--an outfit that traveled the globe and had a sizeable overseas following. When that band dissolved, Cron faced a profound crisis of identity as he sought to regain equilibrium in a post-Melee era.
With the In It To Win It collection, we are treated to a number of strong vocal performances by Cron, yes, but beyond that, we're given a tour of his lyrical prowess, his pop/rock mastery, and his spiritual development.
His time in Melee gets some exposure in this collection. The song that's arguably the band's best, "Built to Last," uses guitars and piano to fuel Cron's voice as he praises a rock-steady romantic relationship. "Drive Away" has an early 2000s pop/rock vibe that delivers a story about a wayward love drawing an unsuspecting beau into ruin. Final track, "For A Lifetime," is an Ecclesiastes-type of reflection on the futilities of life, and despite that heavy subject material, has a happy-go-lucky piano-pop vibe. It also foreshadowed the deeper subject matter Cron would dive into later into his career.
That subject matter these days is about the fallout of the Melee days, from resolving to be a better husband ("In It To Win It" and "Never Tear Us Apart"), to grappling with the fallout of a friendship that ended unexpectedly ("Atlas"), to making the massive decision to leave Orange County for a new life in Nashville ("I'll Stand").
Vocally, Cron soars on "Never Tear Us Apart," which has an old soul/R&B feel to it. He has a hopeful tone on "I'll Stand" and a fragile vibe on "In It To Win It" and "Atlas." Production-wise, the singles run the gamut from big and full ("Never Tear Us Apart") to the completely stripped down ("Atlas"), and "In It To Win It" has a fun Casio-keyboard demo feel for its background--feeling fun and accessible, rather than pedestrian. In any environment, Cron adjusts his vocals to fit the musical landscape, being something of a chameleon and a shark at the same time--blending in, but showing unquestionable assertiveness.
We get a different view of Cron as a songwriter--and a versatile one at that--through the five tracks in the collection that he penned for other artists. He proudly showcases two tracks from Kerrie Roberts' first pop-worship record, the ebullient Boundless, released earlier this year. The David Thulin Radio Mix of "True North" is a strong enough offering that Cron thought it deserving of Track 2 status on the collection. Lyrically speaking, "True North" is about declaring how in an uncertain world, God gives our lives direction--a theme no doubt powerful to Cron in his spiritual development.
The similarly themed "Rooted," uses simple piano--Cron's weapon of choice--to deliver Roberts' passionate vocals, as well as lyrical imagery about coming out of tough times into brighter days--something that's definitely a part of Cron's story. While we aren't sure if Cron himself wrote this particular line--he co-wrote the song with Roberts and Justin Morgan--it speaks to Cron's story of redefining his identity and purpose in God: "You lift these broken branches / Graft me into the vine / Oh God of second chances / I know You're leading me into harvest time."
We can't forget chart-topper Joel Vaughn's song "If I Trust In You," which Cron helped write. "Can I give, You, the rest of my life, the best that I am, the sacrifice? Can I give You the last of my doubts? Will my faith hold up, or will it drop out?" These questions, as well as the central question about whether God will hold up those who trust in Him, reflects an honest faith journey Vaughn and Cron share. The melody (as well as the prominent piano), follows Cron's general vibe.
Perhaps the biggest stylistic surprise of this collection is the inclusion of "Here He Comes" by Joseph Habedank, but although Southern Gospel seems a far cry from Cron's steady diet of Brit-style piano pop, it's what has taken most of the artist's time post-Melee. He is a songwriter for Daywind Records, one of Gospel music's most prominent labels, and has worked with the big-name Habedank and others. "Here He Comes" has a cinematic, apocalyptic, symphonic production vibe to it, but beneath the frills is a lyrical cleverness that is vintage Cron. The only thing missing is a piano. Also, don't miss Cron's contribution to Long Hollow Wave's All For You album with "This is Love," another show of Cron's versatility.
The Bottom Line:
Chris Cron is one of the best-kept singer-songwriter secrets in music, period, and his participation in the Christian music industry provides it with a definitive creative boost. Whether it's his strong, unique singles or his contributions to powerhouse artists in the genre, Cron contributes catchy hooks and thoughtful prose about life, love and faith, as seen in the In It To Win It collection.
Song to Download Now:
"I'll Stand" (But just listen to the whole collection here.)
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