See the Light
- reviewed by Jim Perry Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Aug
Solomon once wrote that there's nothing new under the sun. See the Light, the second album from True Vibe, both refutes and reinforces this statement. Jonathan Lippman was the founder of multi-platinum seller 98 Degrees, but he forsook the fast-paced mainstream superstar lifestyle and founded True Vibe in an attempt to use his talents in ministry. Since then, he and his three band-mates have made appearances at multiple sporting events and have appeared onstage and on tour with popular secular groups. They were even featured on MTV's "Making the Video" for the title song to the soundtrack of On The Line, starring Lance and Joey of N*Sync. Lest you think they're simply hopping on a bandwagon to success, consider the fact that the group refused an opportunity to have their song "Jump Jump Jump" released as a mainstream pop single because doing so would have required dropping references to God and Lord.
True Vibe is working hard to shed the boy band stereotype, writing a majority of the new songs themselves in an attempt to reflect who they really are. On this sophomore project, they've achieved a significantly more mature sound, both vocally and instrumentally. This is basically well-produced adult contemporary in the same vein as 4Him and Newsong, with the programmed pop sounds of The Backstreet Boys. There's more emphasis on the instrumentation, with vivid guitar tracks and warm piano. Some songs soothe the soul with beautiful string and vocal arrangements, while others get the foot moving with a driving beat and energetic production.
It's their lyrics that aren't especially new. Though the writing is more mature than on the debut album, there are no profound theological statements or moving poetry. It's as though what's written is just what's needed to make the point of the song. But while the message might be simplistic, songs such as "You Are Holy," "Pray," and "Forgiven" orient the listener's mind on God and remind us of how simple it is to rely on him. As member Jason Barton states, "We want [listeners] to experience something more than 'good feelings;' we want them to have an encounter with God." In addition to their increased songwriting efforts, the guys of True Vibe participated more in the production element on this album. Considering that similar pop artists usually sing someone else's songs and rely on the sound of the producer, this is rather impressive.
There are several weak points in the songwriting, however. "Supernatural" uses clichés such as, "Your absolute possession of my mind / Hit me like a hurricane," and plays-on-words such as, "I want to make your wish my soul command." There are a couple other lines throughout the album that illuminate nice truths, but also make me cringe a bit. "Supernatural" also incorporates a Latin feel, which doesn't fit the piece or the band's style.
Despite these negatives, there are even more reasons to buy this album. "See the Light," written by Barton and veteran songwriter Scott Krippayne, is a nice opener that encourages us to evangelize the lost. "You Are Holy" is an excellent worship song that doesn't rely on fancy phrases, but on the simple joy of lifting one's voice to God. The song "More" is significant if you pay attention. The chorus says, "There is more love than we can imagine / There is more grace than we'll ever know." This song reminded me how much I need God, and how much he has for me if I abide in him.
"Forgiven" could have been as memorable as Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is" if True Vibe had relied more on the vocal and musical aspects of the song and taken it easy on the production. The constant programming and pop noises distract a little from the sheer power of the music. Though the song "Stay" contains insightful lyrics from Nathan Gaddis, it suffers from too many sound effects, too much electronic synthesis, and a rap from KJ-52 that seems out of place. "Complete" is one of the best songs on the album. With the nylon-string guitar, gorgeous piano, layered vocals, and enveloping atmosphere, it ought to send listeners directly into the presence of God.
Overall there are terrific melodies and musical structures throughout