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What If We

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2008 1 Aug
What If We
Sounds like … pleasant acoustic pop that resembles Bebo Norman, Dave Barnes, Mat Kearney, and Warren Barfield.At a glance … aside from a few conventional tracks, What If We finds New Artist of the Year Brandon Heath well on the way toward developing his likable sound and relatable personality into rewarding songcraft.Track ListingGive Me Your Eyes
Wait and See
Trust You
Sore Eyes
Love Never Fails
Listen Up
Fight Another Day
When I'm Alone
No Not One

Brandon Heath is a good songwriter with an extremely likable personality and an accessible acoustic pop style, but the trick has been using those strengths to help him stand out among other sound-alikes. He seems to have established that connection, however, even though the release of his national debut Don't Get Comfortable in 2006 was a bit of a slow burn. Successful touring and the hit single "I'm Not Who I Was" helped fuel his rising career in the year that followed, culminating in a win for New Artist of the Year at the 2008 GMA Dove Awards that was surprising to just about everyone.

Now that the singer/songwriter has the Christian music industry's attention, it's all the more important for him to follow through on the advice of his first album's title for his follow-up. And indeed, Heath shows growth on What If We, working again with producer Dan Muckala and inspired by the idea of making life a team effort through community. That much is reflected in the creative process, as Heath collaborated with several songwriters, including Jason Ingram, Christy Nockels, and Jars of Clay.

By drawing on the unique experiences and perspectives of others, Heath has added to his own craft, and the best examples are those that reveal the most personality. Joining acoustic pop with a slight hip-hop shuffle in a way that resembles Mat Kearney, "Give Me Your Eyes" was inspired by people-watching at an airport, pleading for God's insight and compassion when viewing others. Though "Wait and See" doesn't have as strong a hook with its folksy country feel, the song still connects with its autobiographical verses illustrating that we are all works in process created according to God's plans. Heath perfectly captures feelings of loneliness and insecurity with the ballad "When I'm Alone," and "London" is a wonderful love song written years ago that benefits from both a great melody and evocative lyrics.

Other songs like "Trust You" and "Sunrise" are enjoyable and uncomplicated, reminiscent of Bebo Norman, but they never seem to reach deep enough. Neither does the optimistic "Fight Another Day" (similar to Dave Barnes' acoustic pop style) or the Beatle-esque "Sore Eyes," co-written with Jars of Clay as cheery encouragement for a girl. And though Christian songwriters never tire of visiting the well of 1 Corinthians 13 for lyrical inspiration, "Love Never Fails" is admittedly more beautiful than most. There's still room for improvement, but Heath has already come far since his 2006 release, well on the way in developing his songwriting from likable to rewarding.

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