"This album is about following Jesus wherever He calls us," explains frontman Mike Donehey. "Everyone says let's follow Jesus - let's do all these extravagant things but what we're saying is not to follow Jesus in what we do but to follow Jesus in the WHY we do it."
With numerous No. 1 radio singles, multiple Dove Awards including New Artist of the Year and touring accolades that include Casting Crowns, MercyMe and Chris Tomlin, it would be easy for Tenth Avenue North to get caught up in the success of being an artist. However, since their last album Cathedrals (2014), the group has reached an epiphany that puts all of those stats to the side.
"Over the last year as we started working on this new album, it became clear that most of the themes of these songs point to where we are in our lives right now eight years after our label debut," states Donehey. "We have settled into that maybe God isn't as interested in the success of our career as He is about the posture of our hearts and what would it look like if we lived every day of our lives the way God commanded. One of the most repeated commands in the Bible is 'Do not be afraid,' and the one thing we know is that God does not want us to follow Him in fear."
"It's a pleasure to work with a band who can innovate musically while continuing to deliver a message that's so in tune with what's happening in the world today," shares Terry Hemmings, Provident Music Group President and CEO. "Tenth Avenue North has, once again, delivered a record that speaks truth straight to the heart of the listener."
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An Overflow Of Lyrical Genius| Posted October 04, 2016
For the guys in Tenth Avenue North, releasing albums has never been about just throwing together a random collection of songs. Instead, each project is carefully planned around a central theme, all tracks representing a new season for the band both in the things God is teaching them and in the lessons they strive to share with their listeners.
Their debut album Over And Underneath introduced the world to their now-signature style of blending Scriptural truths with pop elements and catchy hooks. Next came The Light Meets The Dark, which kept impressing fans with this new band's near-flawless ability to deliver emotionally compelling lyrics drenched in profound depth and maturity. The emotional and honest third studio album The Struggle continued the pattern of packing a lyrical punch, much like Cathedrals, an album that focused on the truth that Christ lives within us and since we are His cathedrals, all the earth is holy ground.
Now we find ourselves waiting for the October 14th release of their fifth record Followers-- a lesson in the truth that God doesn't need leaders, He only asks for followers who will mirror the image of Christ Himself who was the servant of all. While the sound of Tenth Avenue North continues to evolve and mature with each album, the lyrical depth and Biblical truth has never once wavered. That is still absolutely present in every song they recorded for Followers, maybe more here than ever before.
Previously released "Afraid" begins the album with a vulnerable cry of honesty. Within the opening lines we get a taste of the sonic growth since the last album, still infused with the poignant and thought-provoking lyricism that seems to come naturally for the group: "Who will I listen to? Fear never told the truth / so I'll wait on You tonight / worry's only wasting time."
Lead single "What You Want" comes with an infectiously joyful sound, playing on frontman Mike Donehey's uniquely gritty falsetto vocals to make a powerful point: "You're changing my heart to want what You want, to love how You love and that is enough / there's no greater plan that I need to follow / You only ask me to follow." It proves challenging to sit still while listening to this one, much like with "Overflow," another pop gem that shows the sonic evolution and maturity of Tenth Ave with a melody that will quickly get stuck in your head (bonus points if you caught the lyrical nod to their debut album in the second verse).
There are many reasons I'm a fan of Tenth Avenue North, but above them all is the way they creatively weave words together, giving listeners a good punch in the emotions. It's often joked about that they're known for their ability to make people cry with their music ("Worn" anyone?), but as much as it's funny, it's also true. From the first live clip of "I Have This Hope" that made its way around YouTube earlier this year, fans were drawn in and yes, tears were present. In what I would venture to call "Worn Vol. 2," Mike's steady and passionate vocals sing out these redemptive lyrics of bold faith in the midst of a struggle: "I have this hope in the depth of my soul / in the flood or the fire You're with me and You won't let go." In the same vein, I would describe "Fighting For You" as Tenth's response to "Worn." Personally, it's a standout moment on the album as the lyrics take on the ever-encouraging voice of God, reminding us that He sees all our heartache and is always fighting on our behalf.
More of the authentically raw songwriting we find inside Followers, "One Thing" is a beautiful track wrapped in the truth that He is more than enough for us even if we lose everything else, similar to how "No One Can Steal Our Joy" speaks of the endless source of joy we find in Christ regardless of our circumstances. "Sparrows (Under Heaven's Eyes)" is a hopeful moment of reassurance for our future that plays on the classic song of the same name. Another introspective offering, "Control (Somehow You Want Me)" is a powerful track that talks of God's love for us: "God, You don't need me but somehow You want me / oh how You love me / somehow that frees me to open my hands up and give You control."
The Bottom Line:
Simply put, Followers is lyrical genius. Just like we've come to expect from Tenth Avenue North, the album is overflowing with authentic emotions and raw, vulnerable, encouraging songwriting. Every line feels honest and saturated in the truth of Scripture. Sonically, the band's signature pop sensibilities hold true within these songs while also showcasing the maturity and creativity that continues to evolve with each album. Coming from 2014's Cathedrals that didn't see as many radio-accessible songs, this album holds songs promise to put Tenth back on top of the airwaves and absolutely proves why they're one of the most beloved mainstays in CCM.
Song To Download Now:
"Fighting For You" (Get it on iTunes here.)