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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

I Choose You

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Oct
I Choose You
Sounds like … guitar-driven adult contemporary pop that now more closely resembles the work of Avalon, Crystal Lewis, Nichole Nordeman, and Natalie GrantAt a glance … Point of Grace has the right idea by simplifying their sound a bit, but the songs they're singing are as formulaic as everTrack ListingI Choose YouDownWho Am IWorthlessJustifiedGod Is in ItMake It RealDo It AgainWaiting in the WingsFor All You've DoneArrival at the CityMe AgainThis Is Your Land

With more than 5 million albums sold and an astounding 24 consecutive #1 radio hits to their credit, they're easily one of the most enduring acts in Christian music. But recently, the future of Point of Grace became uncertain. After their last studio album in 2001, Free to Fly, the quartet focused their attention on building families while launching their popular Girls of Grace conferences for teenage girls in 2002. The following year, Terry Jones retired to spend more time with her family.

Still, Shelley Breen, Heather Payne, and Denise Jones decided to continue, adding the vocals of Leigh Cappillino, a former member of Truth and a featured worship leader from the Women of Faith conferences. She's a fine replacement for the group, but more interestingly, Point of Grace sees the lineup change as an opportunity to slightly alter their sound for their latest studio effort, I Choose You. They set out to make an album that could be performed live and still sound like the record; no overproduced pop with stacked vocals. A refreshing idea, the willingness to try something new after a decade-it's not as if they're switching to heavy metal or something.

Actually, it might surprise Christian music fans to learn that half of I Choose You was produced by David Zaffiro, lead guitarist of '80s Christian metal band Bloodgood. However, he also co-wrote "Amazing" on Point of Grace's Steady On album, and his own solo work in the early '90s offered similarly tame guitar-driven pop. Wayne Kirkpatrick produced four of the more acoustic pop flavored songs, while Mark Hammond (Nichole Nordeman) and Brent Bourgeois (Streams) helmed two other tracks. Additionally, Point of Grace and company made a concerted effort to utilize fresh songwriting talent, rather than rely on the usual Christian AC pop tunesmiths. Regulars like Scott Krippayne and Jess Cates do make contributions, but we're also introduced to work by Matthew West, John Waller (According to John), and Sam Mizell (Jessie Daniels).

The problem is Point of Grace hasn't stepped far enough outside of the box to attract non-fans (or new ones), yet perhaps just enough to alienate some of their soft adult contemporary base. I Choose You isn't really "rocking," but it is a little more aggressive-the subtle difference between Point of Grace and Avalon. While it's admirable that Point of Grace has taken a more performance-oriented approach to their music, it's also stripped them of the production that's characterized their style for so many years. Like Nordeman, Crystal Lewis, or Natalie Grant, they're simply good voices singing to the usual Christian AC pop.

More frustrating are the songs, which sound uninteresting and lack depth despite the different crop of songwriters. "Down" is a slightly funky soft rocker about trying to reconcile the mysteries of God with rational thought, and "Whom Am I" similarly wonders with humility what we really know relative to the Almighty. There's a ballad that blandly reveals that our lives are "Worthless" without Jesus in our lives, "God Is in It" basically lifts Philippians 4:8-9, and "Justified" is a simplistic summary of grace and forgiveness. The title track begins promisingly, observing that "everybody's worshipping something" in the world today, but then it becomes another flimsy declaration of worship.

Some cuts do work a little better, like the cover of Dana Glover's soulful "Make It Real." It's got a good Southern roots pop sound, but it's soaked in generalities: "Open your heart/'Cause that's when you start to truly feel." "For All You've Done" fares better as a gently recorded hymn with thoughtful lyrics: "Oh cleanser of the mess I've made/Your boundless love for me portrayed/I watch as all my cares erode/And from my soul these words explode." And the album wraps up with "Arrival at the City" and "This Is Your Land," a somewhat artful and ethereal vision of heaven that starts with a reading from Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.

It's often been said that music like this is intended to "preach to the choir," but that's too often used as an excuse for weak and lightweight material. There are just too many examples of better-crafted pop written for the Church. With their slightly stripped down sound, I Choose You is a step in the right direction for Point of Grace, but they could afford to stretch themselves further … starting with choosing less formulaic songs.