In order to get the most out of life, you have to reflect on your past.
That in a nutshell is the best way to observe Mat Kearney’s new album, Just Kids. Kearney has always been a wiz with words. The most obvious reason for this is that Kearney was actually a writer before he ever thought about becoming a musician. But when one has a knack of bringing a unique style which involves restrained rap, acoustic guitar, and the catchiest pop melodies in the business, it is no wonder why he went this rout. And we are all thankful he could bring his original style and meaningful lyrics to the music field.
This, as was said prior, is no different in his 5th studio album. He starts us right off in Heartbreak Dreamer, and later in Black Sheep, talking to us about self-identification and acceptance of yourself. The songs Moving On, Just Kids, and Let It Rain deal with Kearney’s own past. He deals with the issues of forgiving yourself and moving on, as well as the past forming you into the individual that you are. He deals with the tragic issue of loss in the somber tunes Ghost, Miss You, and One Heart. He deals with a couple’s hardships, but also endurance and triumph in The Conversation and Shasta. And of course, he gives some upbeat and pop worthy love songs that can be found in the catchy Heartbeat, Billion, and Los Angeles.
Kearney has always been a stickler when it came to important messages for his audience to learn from. In Just Kids there is a treasure chest full of important topics addressed, as is to be expected. He deals with the importance of forgiveness, repentance, endurance, and love. He gives important advice including the implication of turning to God in times of struggle, making your relationships in life matter, learning to grow up, and even in Heartbeat, his choice of not bedding his love until they are wed. There is bound to be an “anthem” of sorts for each person with an individual struggle to be found in this track list.
What can be an unfortunate truth when it comes to good messaged albums is that good music is traded in for good content. That truth, thankfully, is not valid here. Kearney has combined a perfect blend of his early days of folk and slow rock with his newly hip hop and pop sounds into one phenomenal album. He has pop anthems, slow paced melodies, and acoustic guitar ballads that will keep each and every listener interested. A few shout outs are Just Kids where he displays an unusual slow rap song in which some truly original music artistry is displayed. Others are Billion and Heartbeat where his pop tunes are in full display and used to the fullest. And finally, Shasta, in which we hear a beautiful and meaningful song that slowly brings the album to a close.
In the end, my conclusion with this album is that it is the must-have pop album of 2015 for Christians and for anyone who love great music. The only criticism that one might muster is that the songs might start sounding a bit on the similar side as the album unfolds itself, and each song might have that “single” sound to it. With this in mind though, it is impossible to deny that Mat Kearney has constructed a brilliant album of great messages and music. He has looked back at the struggles and triumphs of his own life, as well as what seems to be his every day experiences, and placed it in the hands of his listeners. It is as if Kearney wants us kids to learn, grow, and be encouraged by his own life and experiences. Which in and of itself, is quite spectacular.