Prime Cuts: STAND, Ain't It Like Jesus, Never Too Far Away
Overall Grade: 3.5/5
After a brief stint as Newsboys UNITED, Michael Tait, Duncan Phillips, Jeff Frankenstein, and Jody Davis have regrouped as the Newsboys without the UNITED tag. STAND finds the boys in modus operandi as they return to their dynamic pop-centric sound that has brought them to fame. Partnering with Tedd T., Micah Kuiper, Bryan Fowler, Ben Glover and Jeff Sojka as their co-producers, STAND is aimed at Christian radio. Ready to hit the bull's eye, the record is rifle with tailored made hits, such as the lead single "Magnetic." As the titular suggests, the song is an effervescent burner with a dynamic chorus that is bound to stake a claim in one's memory bank for the long haul.
Maybe it's because of the pandemic, too many songs these days ride upon the theme of God's goodness despite our circumstances. "I Still Believe You're Good" is the Newsboys' attempt. Sad to say, the song is hardly innovative and veers on the pedantic side. Much better is the reggae tinged "Ain't It Like Jesus," which encapsulates a message of how God is far greater than our expectations. The title cut "STAND" is the album's power ballad and the most powerful cut. Here the quartet challenges the church to take a stand against for God's principles in the world.
"Clean" and "Won't Be Afraid" thrive on the Newsboys commercial pop-centric sound. They are by no means offensive, but they are also tailor-made for radio songs that are easily forgettable. When they move away from their predictable pop, the quartet shines. Calling to mind Coldplay's Brit-pop vibes, "Come Through" is a catch. Written with his brother in mind, "Never Too Far Away" is the album's nerve center. Michael Tait reveals: "The second verse is about my brother. He's been in jail most of his life. The lyric goes, 'It's hard to believe you're forgiven, free from mistakes that built the walls in your heart like a prison.' For every believer, and even for non-believers, it's hard to believe that we've been forgiven for that 80th time of sinning."
STAND finds the Newsboys returning to great form. Many of these songs will extend their stay on the charts. No doubt many of them will also make for great live performance. Though their commercial edge can sometimes be off putting when they ride upon over-used themes and melodic riffs, there are still a few heart-rendering and unpredictable cuts that make this album worth pursuing.