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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Simply Nothing

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Aug
Simply Nothing
Sounds like … soft and mellow acoustic pop along the lines of Justin McRoberts, Shane & Shane, Damien Rice, Bebo Norman, Shaun Groves, and Jadon Lavik, with some programmed pop and hip-hop elements that bring to mind Paul Wright and Jason MrazAt a glance … the lyrics are inspiring and the music is beautiful, but Shawn McDonald doesn't invest enough of his self into his songs, resulting in an album that's not particularly original or unique soundingTrack ListingTake My HandGravityHold OnSimply NothingBeautifulDon't Walk AwayAll I NeedTake This LifeHave You EverHere I AmYahwehOpen Me

Six years ago, Shawn McDonald of Eugene, Oregon never imagined he'd become a recording artist, much less a Christian. Problematic as a child, McDonald moved out of his parents' house and immersed himself in a life of using and dealing drugs. With felonies hanging over his head, he searched for spiritual answers before Christianity finally turned his life around. Equipped with transparent faith and a moving testimony, it wasn't long before McDonald inked a deal with Sparrow/EMI for his debut, Simply Nothing.

The title refers to 1 Corinthians 13:2, and the album dwells heavily on themes of dependence on God. Produced by Chris Stevens (Paul Wright, toby Mac), this is a soft acoustic pop album colored primarily with guitar and strings. McDonald recalls the passionate sounds of Justin McRoberts, Shane & Shane, and Damien Rice, especially on "Have You Ever," the title track, and the suitably named "Beautiful." Pretty piano ballad "Take This Life" offers a welcome shift in sound, and "Don't Walk Away" has a slick upbeat groove, using with surprisingly similar energy. If "Take My Hand" bears too strong a resemblance to Paul Wright's acoustic hip-hop style, it's because he co-wrote it.

The album is likeable and inspiring enough, but it lacks originality and introspection, suffering from the same generic and straightforward lyricism that hampered Jeremy Camp's breakthrough debut Stay. Which of course suggests that this could also be exactly what some people are looking for. Though the uniqueness of McDonald's personal testimony is virtually absent, the spiritual outpourings in these songs could serve as anyone's prayers. The result is an easily relatable collection of songs that is generally indistinguishable from a pack of similar sounding artists.