By Ed Cardinal, Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
Sidewalk Prophets won the 2010 New Artist Dove Award, and the band’s second major label album, Live Like That, reminds us why. Instead of watering down the faith-based lyrics or copping someone else’s production values in hopes of reaching a broader audience, here’s an act that—similar to MercyMe and Casting Crowns—embraces the contemporary Christian pop/rock genre with pride. That may cause some music snobs to say the sound is a little dated, but it won’t matter to those who pay more attention to the solid songwriting hooks and simply penetrating lyrics.
The opening title cut is a shining example of the Prophets’ willingness to jump in with both feet, asking a deep question (“What will people say of me when I’m only just a memory?”) that risks being cliché only to succeed in becoming a worthy spiritual anthem.
“Love, Love, Love” manages to mix Motown, ‘70s pop, and gospel influences in with a splash of banjo. It’s a fun song, no doubt, although some people may roll their eyes at the more playful couplets: “(Love is) a great big hug for all those haters / It even broke through the dark side of Darth Vader . . . Even Chuck Norris can’t defeat it.”
The band is far better at putting serious ideas inside a catchy melody. With U2 ambition, “Save My Life” gives listeners a unique spin on what it means to follow God’s prompting and how, as people in need, we all have something to offer other people in need. Quite poetically, “Keep Making Me” highlights the benefits of reaching the points of brokenness and emptiness.
The core Christian audience will also relate well to “It’s Good (Love’s Not Safe)” which takes its theme from the writing of C. S. Lewis and owes some of its musical approach to the best of Steven Curtis Chapman. Further in, Sidewalk Prophets show great sonic range going from the wide-open worship of “Heart’s on Fire” to the tight, urgent rocker “Wrecking Ball” (“I need to rip out this old tree, the roots of lust and greed”).
A couple of closing tracks, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us” (power pop) and “This Is Not Goodbye” (piano ballad), are predictable crowd-pleasing/heart-tugging efforts, but far more often than not, this album rewards anyone who prefers well-done music with a positive message. Live Like That is cool like that.
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