It’s hard to find originality in Christian music, especially when it comes to pop-rock, a subgenre suffering dearly from oversaturation by dozens or even hundreds of groups competing for the spotlight, all with similar-sounding heartstring ballads and emotional worship songs. In the process, a lot of groups lose sight of their mission, relying on God as a crutch to get them playtime instead of focusing on pointing people to God.
MercyMe has managed to maintain their sincerity without sacrificing their musical prowess, releasing one of the strongest albums in the genre that has come across these ears in particular. Its strength comes from a strength of songwriting to be sure, with four songs that are easily five stars (the title track, “Gotta Let It Go,” “Shake,” and “New Lease On Life”). However, the thing that really pulls the album together is its lyrical consistency. I’m a fan of concept albums, a rarity that seems to have faded out along with the wild hair and neon colors that accompanied the ‘80s, but this is, in a sense, a concept album. It sticks to one very important theme, lyrically: God has made us new. That’s what gives this album its strength. Not only is it a great set of songs musically, but it has a point. They didn’t just release an album to release more music, but they had a message to give us.
It’s one that’s worth listening to, and they’ve made it a pretty enjoyable process.
Welcome To The New: Groovy guitars, charismatic vocals, and a catchy melody. What else could you ask for? MercyMe starts the album off right, with a track that will stop you in your tracks both musically and lyrically, playing off of the scriptural old/new man analogy with a song that will undoubtedly find its way to summer playlists across the country this year. 5/5
Gotta Let It Go: If any MercyMe song was ever catchy, it was this one. Easily my favorite song on the album, a fist-pumping, energetic anthem telling us to let go of our previous lives, much in the spirit of the first track. Great song, great message. 5/5
Shake: MercyMe certainly isn’t pulling any punches on this album. A dance-worthy tune, “Shake” keeps with the pervading theme of a brand new life, with the line “Brand new looks so good on you so shake like you’ve been changed.” I can’t get this one out of my head. 5/5
Greater: The opening of this song is really cool with the harmonized voices, but the melody is a bit dry. The message is great, however, talking about sticking with the right path, and the melody in the chorus is much better, and is helped by some cool instrumentation. 4/5
Finish What He Started: A true power ballad in a form all too familiar in the recent Contemporary Christian scene, this track has a good message but suffers from a melody that sounds like it could be any of the hundreds of bands competing for space on the Christian music scene. 2/5
Flawless: This song is also a power ballad, but I like it a lot better. It’s nearly as generic and makes a promise that is sometimes overlooked among the overemphasis on the humanity and imperfectness of Christians: “The cross has made you flawless.” It’s got a great melody and a better message. 4/5
New Lease On Life: In a style of rock that sounds more like a ‘90s grunge band than a Christian soft rock group, MercyMe churns out a tune that again contests the catchiest songs of the year again with the consistent theme of a new life under Christ. 5/5
Wishful Thinking: A yearning monologue to God with the backing of an organ, this song both benefits with a classy feel and suffers from a glaring cliché. It gets better, however, when the sax gets introduced. It contains some thought-provoking lines that are less worship songs for a choir and more important questions that an honest person asks, including questions about the role of suffering and seeing God’s grace in it. It’s got cool instrumentation and asks good questions, but it also drags on a bit too long. 3/5
Burn Baby Burn: This one won’t win any records or get a lot of radio play time, but it’s a solid track with a catchy guitar riff, and an interesting play off of the light analogy of the Christian. 4/5
Dear Younger Me: The subject matter in this song fascinates me. It would be easy for the mandatory closing soft tune to be cliché, but this is very thoughtful, which helps to siphon out some of the cliché, including the admission that “The choices that you make made me.” It’s also the most tangible of all songs on the record, staring regret right in the face, something that we’ve all experienced. 4/5