Myself When I Am Real
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Sep
In just a few short years, Bebo Norman has cemented himself as one of Christian music's most beloved new songwriters. He hasn't had tremendous radio success, with only three Top 20 singles (two of them cracking the Top 10) to his name, including "Holy Is Your Name" from
They say artists often are defined by their third album. That makes Myself When I Am Real a momentous release (if you exclude his independently released
I wonder, however, if I'm the only one initially confused by Bebo's lyrics. He's widely considered Christian music's most eligible bachelor these days, and his singleness is a regular topic in his music as well as his interviews. Four of my female friends (three of them single) independently listened to
"Long Way Home" was written about the hard work and effort that goes into making a strong marriage, but it easily can be mistaken for a long-term faith journey. Bebo would give his soul "Just to Look at You," but it's not a new wording of the worship song "Open the Eyes of My Heart" – he's singing about longing for the woman he'll marry someday. Contrast those songs with "Back to Me," which is about God's celebration of a prodigal's return, even though the lyrics suggest an earthly reconciliation: "Oh my love, don't you cry / I won't leave you alone tonight / So put your hand back into mine / And I will hold you until the end of time." The song "Our Mystery" sounds like a song of strong commitment between husband and wife, but it's really about the strong love of God. To confuse matters more, there's "So Afraid," which deals with both subjects by expressing the fear of lifelong loneliness experienced by single adults and the sufficiency of God's presence in all our lives.
Once you become well acquainted with the words, there's little room for debate. You probably can blame Bebo's poetic introspection for his sometimes vague lyrics, and given the choice between that and bland clichés that spell out the song too clearly, I'll happily put up with a little confusion. Still, I wish there were more to the songs than romance, earthly or heavenly. Bebo has yet to match the lyrical genius of "The Hammer Holds" from his first album - I'm sure the poor guy gets that "complaint" a lot. Bebo's intentions are just as often quite clear on the album. He sounds absolutely fragile on "My Love," which considers the possibility of finding romance, only to lose it because of his high-profile career. "Falling Down" paints the portrait of a young woman struggling to make sense of the world, crying out for God's peace and salvation offered by God; it nicely compliments Dave Matthews's "Grey Street." Bebo expresses a similar desperation for God on "Beautiful You," except in this case the perspective is of one who already knows the Creator, recognizing his complete dependence on him. Really, I'd characterize only two of the songs on this album as "worship." "Under the Sun" is one of those praise songs that looks ahead to a day when "every tongue will confess and every knee will bow" to glorify the Lord. And then there's the first single, "Great Light of the World," a terrific song of intimate praise and reverence which fans already are acquainted with from Bebo's spring 2002 tour with Third Day