- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2004 1 Apr
- Where You Lead Me
- Everything Impossible
- Here With Me
- In the Blink of an Eye
- When You Spoke My Name
- A Million Miles Away
- Caught Up in the Middle
- Never Alone
- Shine On
- Keep Singing
When reviewing MercyMe's 2002 album,
With great success comes more flexibility for artistic freedom, and as much as everyone would love for MercyMe to match or top the success of "Imagine," the pressure is generally off. Still, this is a band that wants to shed its pop ballad reputation. Despite an impressive live show over the last six months, they relied on cover songs to open (Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight") and close (U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name") the show. It's indicative of a desperate need for MercyMe to stretch itself sonically.
So here comes
MercyMe doesn't quite come off as artful, energetic, or dynamic, but their sound is clearly better than ever. It's more apparent in a live setting, but Bart Millard is a tremendous vocalist, and the band has embraced a fuller pop/rock sound that makes things more interesting than their previous acoustic efforts. There are indeed some more upbeat songs to be found, such as "In the Blink of an Eye," "Caught Up in the Middle," and "A Million Miles Away." Yet while these tracks have a faster tempo, they don't establish MercyMe as much of a rock band. This is less a dramatic makeover than it is a fresh update to the wardrobe while keeping the same fashion sense—and that should suit fans of the last two albums just fine.
The songwriting, however, creates a sense of monotony. Millard's often referred to as a poetic lyricist, but it seems that more often than not that he's good for one original concept or phrase, surrounded by straightforward words of worship that are not especially unique. Past hits like "Spoken For" and the opening/closing lyric of "Word of God Speak" are both examples of this. The strange part is how the song-by-song explanations provided in
The other critique with MercyMe is that they're beginning to sound like they're repeating themselves. The beautiful ballad "Homesick" is both similar to and an improvement on "Imagine," the difference in how it focuses on persevering on earth in anticipation of heaven. There's also the rich and melancholic piano-driven "Keep Singing," about pressing on and praising God in light of tragedy. It's understandable that there are new songs about loss and hope, considering Millard lost nine close friends and family members in 2003. But what about "Everything Impossible" and first single "Here with Me"? Both are worshipful songs that struggle with comprehending the mystery and enormity of God's love. Or "Unaware" and "Caught Up in the Middle," which both concern making everything else in life secondary to the Lord?
Together for a decade now, MercyMe has yet to display the artistic growth one would hope for after a string of successful tours, radio singles, and albums.