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It Goes Like This ...

  • reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Feb
It Goes Like This ...
Sounds like … predictable piano-based Christian pop with a hint of blue eyed soul and lyrics that only scratch the surface of what Krippayne is capable of producingAt a Glance … though Krippayne credits the 70s sounds of Billy Joel and Elton John for this album's inspiration, they're nowhere to be found amidst the generic contemporary Christian pop sound

Scott Krippayne's songwriting has been a staple in Christian adult contemporary music for ten years now — his first independent album was released in 1992. He has since released five full-length albums (a pair for Word and three on Spring Hill) that have earned him a consistent fan base and a handful of hit singles, but he's perhaps best known in the Christian music community as a songwriter for the likes of Avalon, Point of Grace, FFH, True Vibe, John Tesh, Sandi Patty, and Jaci Velasquez. Clearly the man has a handle on just what it takes to make a catchy Christian pop single, though one of his challenges has been to consistently step outside of that genre's comfort zone.

Such a concern remains at the heart of his latest effort It Goes Like This … , a ten cut collection that shows Krippayne putting pen to paper on all accounts. For this album's sound, he claims to go back to his formative years, citing influences of legends like Billy Joel and Elton John. While it's true all three artists are accomplished piano men, Krippayne's songwriting bears absolutely no resemblance to either of those endearing superstars. Instead, Krippayne succumbs to the clichéd Christian pop of such Christian music staples as Mark Schultz, Clay Crosse, and Ronnie Freeman. Not that there isn't an audience or appeal to that sound, but like many of his his contemporaries, Krippayne offers little (if anything) that hasn't been done before, strictly adhering to Christian pop formula.

Take, for instance, the song "Jesus," which is rumored to be a potentially strong radio single. It's nothing more than predictable and risk-free Christian pop. The programmed drum pattern, the chucky guitars, and the sterile production are all present, topped with Christian pop clichés of Jesus being our only hope that are void of art or originality. Album opener "Long Before the Sun" begins with some rhythmic playfulness that keeps it from sounding monotonous, but it too evolves into typical pop. Krippayne also shows some energy with funky piano chops on "Life," which he co-wrote with up-and-coming teen songwriter Paige Lewis. Perhaps it's her youthful energy that provides a breath of fresh air to its instrumental aura, though lines like "You are life, you are life / I could not breathe without you / You are life, you are life / My world revolves around you" are yet another example of Christian commonplace.

If it's truly piano-driven pop ballads you seek, there's "The Least I Can Do" and "He Was Here." Both wallow in soggy, nearly identical arrangements, a sagging soul-tinged croon, and messages of Christ's crucifixion and ever present majesty, respectively. The melodramatic framing of sappy strings and synthesized accompaniment on "You Are Still God" could also be considered stale if Krippayne didn't successfully infuse it with personal experience. This is an example of pop clichés being outshined by heartfelt and encouraging lyrics. By bringing to light the struggles he and wife Katy had when their son Tyler was born with digestion difficulty, he connects with the listener, especially families experiencing trauma at any level — "Help me have faith in the knowledge that you're greater than what we go through / And when I reside in the valleys help me keep trusting in you."

The fact that this album is falsely advertised is the first problem; no serious fan of Billy Joel or Elton John will consider this similar by any stretch of the imagination. The second frustration is that Krippayne is capable of much more, but no longer seems interested in expanding his artistic horizons. His best albums, 1995's Wild Imagination and 1997's More, showcased varied sounds, strong musicianship, and clever writing. One might suggest that producer Charlie Peacock had a lot to do with the catchy pop hooks of those albums, but there were still examples of strong songwriting on Krippayne's last couple albums as well — songs like "I'm Not Cool" from the All of Me and "The Coffee Song" on Bright Star, Blue Sky.

There's enough evidence on his past solo efforts to suggest that Scott Krippayne could easily grow into another Michael W. Smith or Steven Curtis Chapman with the right producer and song selection. Krippayne, however, seems content to rest on his artistic laurels and write formulaic Christian pop, rather than grow into a stronger songwriter with increasingly refined musicianship. Top all of that off with what sounds like an inferior and scaled-down production compared to his past albums, and it gets hard to find much reason to recommend It Goes Like This … . Those looking for entertaining piano pop should check out Mark Schultz's self-titled debut or The Swift's recent self-titled release. Those looking for Krippayne's finer examples of songwriting are best served by revisiting his previous efforts, which are far better realized than this release.