November 11, 2013
Not many people get a chance at reinvention.
Somehow, time, family, responsibilities, finances get in the way of dreaming about and acting on who we really want to be…or how we can truly realize our potential.
Not so with the newsboys. After Four GRAMMY nominations, 5 GMA Dove Awards, over 26 No. 1 Radio singles, over 7 million albums sold, 16 albums recorded and 6 RIAA Gold Certifications, they refuse to settle for the familiar or comfortable.
Three years ago, with new lead singer Michael Tait, the group was clearly ‘Reborn,’ as the title of that project suggested. This time around, they’ve decided it was time to restart. And restart they did.
“It sounds crazy coming from guys who have been doing this as long as we have, but it feels like as a band, as an entity, we’re really just getting started,” says drummer and veteran member Duncan Phillips. “It seems like all the previous records have been building up to this moment right here. This is unequivocally the finest record I’ve ever been a part of.”
It’s a record that didn’t come quickly or easily. Combing through dozens of songs, the entire process took about two years. It was time well-spent, particularly considering what the title of the album represents to the band.
“Sometimes in life, you fall down and you lose your way,” says Michael. “Just like on a computer, sometimes it messes up and you have to reboot. That’s how it is in life. You have to go back to the basics.”
Part of the
basics for veteran musicians like them is crafting the absolute best, most
commercial, cutting edge music as possible.
“Christian music is the only genre that’s specifically known for its lyrical content,” Duncan explains. “All other genres are about a style. Because of that the world has often viewed Christian music as second rate. We wanted to make sure that this album was as good or better than anything else out right now…including secular music.”
Of course, with a bevy of top-notch producers, seven mix engineers and close to 70 songs under consideration for the final project, it’s not surpising that those that made the cut are part of a ground-breaking collection.
“I’ve never been through such a distilling process,” says Michael.
When asked what kinds of songs they were searching for, Michael answers with a laugh, “these songs!”
Clearly, the search was a success. The songs have compelling moments of lyrical profundity…some even a throwback to powerful songs of yesterday, such as “Love Like I Mean It.”
“This was a first for us as performers,” says Michael. “We’ve never had a chorus with just five words!.”
And they are powerful words, to be sure.
“Love is still a verb,” says Michael, loosely referencing the dcTalk hit from back in the day, ‘Luv is a Verb.’
“What you do is what you love. If you really live a life loving like you mean it, you’ll change the world,” he concludes.
Enter the opening track—“That’s How You Change the World.” A fist-pumping, electronic welcome mat to the listener, it invites them not only to join in a musical experience, but a powerful spiritual and personal mission to get out there and see change happen.
The following tracks retain the intensity, particularly on single, “Live With Abandon.”
"I wanna live with abandon/ Give You all that I am/ Every part of my heart
Jesus/ I place in Your hands."
“Playing these songs live is totally different than playing them in a studio,” says keyboardist, Jeff Frankenstein. “To see the reaction we’re getting as people are hearing these songs for the first time is pretty amazing.”
From teen girls who have an anthem all their own in “Go Glow” to everyone out there with a soft spot in their heart for momma, there’s a little bit of something for everyone on the record. That emotional ebb and flow is perhaps even more significant for the band following the recent loss of Michael’s mother, for whom the song, “That Home,” is about.
Suffice it to say, Restart is more than just one more album. The ‘back to basics’ idea is anything but basic when it comes to style, delivery and substance. Michael heaps high praise on the album with a simple but powerful statement:
“I have not felt this way about anything I’ve been involved in musically since, ‘Jesus Freak.’”
Any Christian music fan knows that that’s a bold statement. But considering the source, it’s a compelling endorsement for this project. Since their formation in the 80s, the newsboys have consistently pushed the envelope, stretched the boundaries of what Christian music could be and in the process, developed one of the most loyal followings any band in the history of CCM has enjoyed. With Restart, they’ve done it again.
It would have been easy to play out the same formula from 2010’s Born Again that launched three No. 1 radio hits or 2012’s God’s Not Dead, which sold more than 300,000 copies…but they’ve never been the kind to take the easy road.
“The pressure was there to make more of the same,” says Michael. “But why not risk something? Why not restart it?”
Seizing the moment, the passion and the opportunity for all it was worth, the newsboys have continued their journey of reinvention.
Fresh sounds, fresh energy, grounded in the faith and call that has kept them doing what they do for over two decades.
With “world class songs,” as Michael calls them, it’s clear that this restart has as promising a future as is the legacy of the past.
World class songs, world class band…this not only stands up to anything else out there commercially, it stands out. Without question, this is reinvention at it’s finest.
So grab the album, start your countdown and get ready to launch into something new with the newsboys once again.
3, 2, 1….restart.
Caroline Lusk was the editor of CCM Magazine between 2008-2014.
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