Music Review: Newsboys, "Born Again Special Preview EP"
Record Label: InPop Records
Album length: 5 tracks
Street Date: January, 2010
When was the last time we heard so much about the Newsboys? With the well-publicized exit of longtime singer Peter Furler and entrance of dc Talker Michael Tait as the new lead vocalist, the Newsboys made headlines about this sudden and surprising personnel change. But with the push for a new album, one would ask what affect the new singer will have on the end result releasing this June, titled Born Again. For those who attend this year's Winter Jam tour, they can find an early answer in a special preview EP sold exclusively on the tour.
Right from the start, "Born Again" blasts through with an uncompromising pop flare. This is the first original Newsboys song ever with Michael Tait on the microphone, and it's an epic experience to hear for the first time, to say the least. It's a straightforward, but appropriate, opener to the EP, as well as one of the better tracks. "On Your Knees" follows, contrasting the former track with a simple ballad about a girl discovering her need for Christ. "When the Boys Light Up" and "One Shot" continue with energy and unmistakable Newsboys-catchiness that scream "showstopper," while "I'll Be" is another slower ballad that efficiently exercises Tait's vocal range and scope. Overall, the vocal quality has not been sacrificed, with Tait still in his prime; it's truly remarkable to see Tait still holding his own after all these years, and it's great to have his talent back in the game.
As a whole, this EP's five new tracks really demonstrate what a whole new direction the Newsboys are taking. After one listen, it should be obvious to the listener that when Furler left the band, he took a distinctive sound with him, and this reviewer would be lying to say Tait continues the Newsboys vibe where it left off. Gone are the pop rock worship-based melodies that made these Australians successful, as well as the clever, sometimes bizarre, lyrical musings Furler made famous. Instead, we are treated to an extremely radio-friendly pop sound without any absence of edginess and attitude backed by a whole new voice to the band. It's a textbook example of why replacing the lead singer can be so affecting to a band's original sound; these songs were written with a brand new musical philosophy, as well as the addition of Tait's vocals, in mind. This isn't to say that this dramatic change is an inherently negative one, but anyone expecting just a "Furler-less" Newsboys will be getting more than for what they bargained.
Lyrically, this EP is a mixed bag. "Born Again" has a message that's not all that unique, but it's hard not to like its simplicity and anthem-sized vision. "On Your Knees" and "I'll Be" also do an effective job of avoiding tackiness while delivering inspiration and thoughtfulness. However, "When The Boys Light Up" and especially "One Shot" have a few pitfalls. The former includes some confusing lyrics ("Up and down like a daytime drama/up and down like a yo-yo mama") as well as a cheesy explanation in the song of Tait's involvement in the band. "One Shot," on the other hand, is almost a complete miss; besides a somewhat recycled message, out-of-place lyrics ("You're a student at the college of the Ivy, but filling up a pop machine with Hi-C") as well as some will-be dated lines creep in ("Things change, just like the Twitter that you update, or your Facebook status on your front page, but there's no comment you can leave to change my mind"). With these songs' lack of lyrical complexity, it only brings to mind how much better lyrical content the Newsboys have written previously.
Clearly, the Newsboys are taking a giant step away from their classic, recognizable sound, and this EP is our first taste of this new approach. While I can't deny these new tracks have some flaws, it's nonetheless very enjoyable material, and it only interests me further to see how the full album results this summer. For better or worse, this is a whole new Newsboys, as well as a new chapter of Christian music history that has begun.
"Born Again Special Preview EP" Track Listing
Born Again (3:11)
On Your Knees (3:28)
When The Boys Light Up (3:06)
I'll Be (3:31)
One Shot (3:32)