Newsboys – Born Again
Newsboys – Born Again
Some people just don’t like change, and others love for things to always be different. If Newsboys was your favorite band and you couldn’t get enough of them and you’ve learned to sing along in perfect Australian brogue, chances are you’re going to hate this album. But if Newsboys past were “alright,” “not bad,” or maybe, “sort of decent,” then chances are you’re going to love this album; because this album is radically different from any other Newsboys’ album ever made. And for a music group in which change has been fairly constant, this is by far the most extreme.
The big change, of course, is that the lead singer is now Michael Tait—better known as that guy that used to be with DC Talk that can really sing. Former lead singer, Peter Furler, is now only with the band in a producing mode. The change is striking; out is the heavy Australian accent and in is one of the richest voices of the recent Christian popular music scene. There’s no more angelic, impossibly high, falsetto; but in its place is definitively American, full-voiced-with-a-tinge-of-grit, catchy leads. To me, the change is dynamic. I’m biased; I think this is the greatest Newsboys album of all time, but I’ve always been a huge fan of Michael Tait. I could tolerate previous Newsboys albums, but I love the new version with Tait at the helm.
The album kicks off with the upbeat title track, “Born Again”, a song that is a clear merger between Tait’s more recent albums and Newsboys’ classic sound. Infectious melodies and catchy background vocals are a Michael Tait trademark. For those Tait fans coming from his recent solo efforts, this merger will sound a bit like Tait toned down. For those coming from the Furler-era Newboys, this sounds like Newsboys with the distortion pedal grit turned up. Typical of Newsboys, though, the lyrics are crystal clear as to their meaning and less esoteric than Tait’s more recent stuff. The clear message here is “I’ve been born again,” and the message is well-delivered. This merged style continues on “One Shot”, which comes across as a personal anthem of living for Christ.
“When the Boys Light Up” is a very buoyant, catchy jingle that celebrates the Newsboys’ new identity. I don’t mind bands doing songs like this as long as the cut is fun, and this track is one of the more upbeat efforts of recent memory! “Build Us Back” is my favorite cut on the album, a slower ballad celebrating God’s restoration power that makes a great youth praise song. In-between is a mix of songs that seem to be radio-ready tracks. I like them, but if I had one issue with this album, it is that some of the songs sound too pristine or too refined. There’s no stretching out of the musical solos, and most songs end in a radio-friendly time. This is a radical difference from Tait’s more recent projects and proof that Peter Furler still has his hand in the mix. Perhaps the predictability is comforting for some—if you liked the one song that you heard on the radio, then you’ll like the rest of the album.
The album ends with two “oldies”—first with a remix of the familiar Hillsong song, “Mighty To Save.” They’ve taken the tag of the song, added it as an intro and outro and reformatted everything into a neater package. It works, but it’s a bit squeaky clean for my liking. The second oldie—and the last song on the CD album—is the old DC Talk song, “Jesus Freak.” This is a surprising cut to me, here. I like the song, of course—being a DC Talk fan from way back—but it seems a bit out of place here. It’s done in a fairly classic style and perhaps serves to introduce “Jesus Freak” to a new generation.
Following what seems to be the latest trend for artists, you get extra tracks if you download the album on iTunes or Napster. The iTunes addendums are the fullest; and the best of the extra tracks by far is the song “We Remember”, featuring Israel Houghton (having Israel appear on your album seems to be the other latest trend for Christian artists of late). Overall, the extras are worth seeking out the deluxe editions.
In short, if you liked Tait’s more recent projects, this album is a must-buy. If you liked Newsboys previously, then you owe it to yourself to listen, even if you must first prepare yourself for something altogether different. If you weren’t the hugest Newsboys fan in times past but thought they had potential, check out this new version of the band. In my opinion, this is one case where the change is good.