Artist: The Afters
Album: life is beautiful
Label: Fair Trade
Smooth, perky, and trendy.
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Pop Christian band The Afters is just what you’d expect from a group of Starbucks baristas who decide to form a pop Christian band. About a dozen years ago, in suburban Dallas, The Afters was known as Blisse. Today, after winning two Dove awards and undergoing some serious personnel transitions, what Joshua Havens and Matt Fuqua started at Starbucks has become a fairly consistent song factory, if not full albums. So their fans must be pleased to see them release Life is Beautiful, their first compilation in three years. And as its album title indicates, it’s mostly light and somewhat fluffy, with a twist of poignancy thrown in.
One of the first things you’ll notice about this new effort from The Afters is that their sound is straight-up pop. They don’t do little distracting musical tricks, unless you count the free-spirited whistling they throw in every now and again. Their discography seems a bit formulaic – including songs about their kids and an affirmation that their spouse is beautiful, two topics that have become de rigueur within CCM. Nothing wrong with that, of course, except those two themes have become very noticeable across the genre’s spectrum of artists.
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For better or worse, The Afters have enjoyed a considerable amount of exposure in secular entertainment, and indeed, several of their newest songs can be interpreted multiple ways. On the one hand, it could be a husband, father, or friend singing a ballad, or it could be God. This type of poetic license is not new, of course, but it could be considered bad taste or even a slippery slope to try and put words into God’s mouth. The effect, obviously, is that “Christian” music can be more easily adopted by a society with no genuine interest in Christ. Music becomes relative, even if its artists know they’re intending to honor God with it.
Which begs the question: Doesn’t it risk commercializing the Gospel? To the extent that The Afters can craft songs that fit well into otherwise Godless environments – the “crossover” phenomenon – considerable consternation will persist within evangelicalism that CCM apparently refuses to resolve. Perhaps the most potent song on Life is Beautiful is “This Life,”* a truly convicting reminder that life truly is passing us by, even as you read this. Whether it’s tucking one’s daughter into bed, or watching one’s father pass away, The Afters take a respite from their otherwise non-arresting songs and offer a surprisingly stirring anthem on a plaintive theme of carpe diem:
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“For a moment / we are here together / and it hits me / this won’t last forever
we can’t own it / we just get to hold it for a while / this life
we can’t keep it / or save it for another time / this life…”
Seize the day. Redeem the time. Ephesians 5:11 reminds us to “be very careful, then, how we live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
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And also, as The Afters sing, because life really is beautiful!
*This Review First Published 4/19/2013