|Straying From Tradition | Posted March 29, 2017
What do you say to properly introduce a band like MercyMe? The legendary Dove Award-winning/GRAMMY-nominated group behind chart-topping hit "I Can Only Imagine" has been impacting the hearts of millions with their music for over two decades now. Countless number one hits, gold records and successful tours into their career, the CCM mainstays felt it was time for a change. That change was gently ushered in by their last studio project, aptly titled Welcome To The New, that began introducing us to a side of MercyMe that carried a more pop sound than we had previously heard from them.
Now with follow-up Lifer, the pop flavor stepsfully to the forefront as it seems MercyMe's new sound is here to stay. A ten-track collection of songs that talk about what it means to be committed to Christ for life, their ninth studio album is one that will leave you both surprised and encouraged.
Album opener "Lifer" and the tracks "Happy Dance" and "You Found Me" stray far from the traditional MercyMe sound, and though I suspect it will take longtime fans a while to get used to the change, the new upbeat style isn't necessarily a bad thing. Continuing the theme of trying new things, "Grace Got You" is an infectiously catchy track that may surprise listeners with its rap bridge (from CHH alumni John Reuben) that showcases the creativity and diversity of this project.
While much of this album is geared toward the new sound, bits of old-school MercyMe still shine through. "Best News Ever," "Heaven's Here" and "Hello Beautiful" stay upbeat while featuring all the signature elements that have made MercyMe the success they are today: profound lyricism, frontman Bart Millard's silky smooth vocals and well-crafted melodies.
Album highlight "We Win" carries all the deep theology that fans can count on hearing from the group, creatively packed into a four minute track. Closing song "Ghost" is another high point, a brilliantly written ballad with a simple melody that captures the listener's attention from beginning to end.
Co-written by Bart Millard and Tim Timmons, current single "Even If" is definitely the standout moment on Lifer. A powerful ballad, this song carries a faith-filled message of believing Christ's goodness even if He doesn't fix our problems the way we pray for. "I know You're able and I know You can save through the fire with Your mighty hand / but even if You don't, my hope is You alone," the beautifully simple yet profound chorus proclaims before ending by borrowing a bit of classic hymn "It Is Well" to perfectly seal the concept.
The Bottom Line: Where previously we would hear an album that held a few radio gems hidden between deeper cuts, Lifer feels almost opposite with the majority of the album aimed toward a radio-ready sound. Although it's not what we're used to from MercyMe and not completely what I had expected from the next step in their musical journey, it's still a record well worth hearing. It might not rank as their best project to date, but Lifer is certainly an album of creativity and sonic development that leaves me curious to hear where this new direction will take MercyMe next.
Song To Download Now:
"Even If" (Get it on iTunes here.)
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