"new" Newsboys as Good as Ever
Posted February 01, 2010
Ever since Michael Tait joined Newsboys, there has been much anticipation to hear what the new Newsboys would sound like. That time has come with the Born Again EP which has 5 songs off the upcoming full release of the same title. The EP kicks off with the title track which is boldly named pronouncing not only the status of a Christ follower's life, but the rebirth of Newsboys themselves. Born Again is a classic pop/rock anthem featuring the unmistakable driving guitar of Jody Davis that dominates the song and never lets up. Tait's vocals boldly proclaim 'This is what it is/This is who I am/This is where I finally take my stand/I didn't want to fall/but I don't have to crawl/I met the one with two scarred hands/Givin' Him the best of/Everything that's left of/The life inside this man.' "One Shot" is stylistically similar to "Born Again," and is also forefronted by a raw guitar sound but backs off in the verses and the bridge where keys and synths take over. Davis' voice harmonize well with Tait and it's nice to finally hear Jody's backing vocals prominently for the first time since Love Liberty Disco. Lyrically "One Shot" reminds us that everyone just has 'one shot/to prove what they're all about.' Both "Born Again" and "One Shot" are songs that are clearly Newsboys with their full sound and in-your-face lyrics that beg to be sung along to.
"On Your Knees" and "I'll Be" are more mid-tempo pop/rock ballads. "On Your Knees" reminds me of classic Newsboys ballads such as "Million Pieces," "Believe," or "Beautiful Sound." While musically it is slightly generic in the verses, Michael Tait's vocal work carries the song to an amazing bridge where the song really shines and more distinctive sounds come out. "I'll Be" is a song sung from God to the listener with strong encouragement of 'You will find me at the point of your breaking/behind all the noise/when your world is darkest I can still see/'cause when there's nothing left/I'll be.' Musically "I'll Be" is beautiful with prominent string work that is reminiscent of Jeff Frankenstein's string arrangements on Love Liberty Disco and multiple Newsboys remixes, amazing vocals from Tait, and perfectly placed backing vocals, that unfortunately are Tait's and not Jody Davis'. Both of these songs feel like they would fit onto an album of Michael Tait's short-lived band "Tait," but at the same time are not at all out of place on a Newsboys record.
The weakest song from the Born Again EP is certainly "When the Boys Light Up." Musically the song is an interesting mix of hip-hop and pop/rock and it somehow works pretty well. It would fit right in on a TobyMac album and it is hard not to want sing along with and bob your head with the beat. The issue with ""Light Up" is in the lyrics. The second verse directly references Tait's entry into the band and how the 'boys are back for the second act.' I have never been a big fan of artists that write songs that are about their own success as "Light Up" does. The song is clear that their success if from God and that the band is only the 'conduit,' but it still takes little creativity to write songs like this and listeners do not relate to having the success of a major recording artist. This problem is magnified that Newsboys last two albums have featured songs with similar messages in "Wherever We Go," and "The Way We Roll." Also, while some of the lyrics of the song are pretty clever (I suspect Steve Taylor had a hand in them) others fall flat such as 'up and down like a yo-yo, mama."
Overall the Born Again EP is an excellent collection of music. The music and production is top notch and offers a good mix of harder in-your-face songs as well as more encouraging pop songs and even some hip-hop thrown in. Lyrically the EP is not quite as strong as it is musically as it at times lacks some creativity, but overall the lyrics are still quite good with both strong proclamations of what it means to be Christians as well as thoughtful and inspiring encouragements. If the rest of Born Again is as good as the songs on the EP, it should be an album that is hard not to select on your digital media player.
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