Todd Agnew started off his national music career with a bang, releasing one of the biggest Christian radio singles of that year, "Grace Like Rain." A few albums later, Agnew seemed to be less and a less of a key player in the Christian contemporary market. However, while finding himself flying under the radar, he's still putting his name out there. Agnew's latest is called How To Be Loved, and it doesn't stray too far from the path he's been going down.
If Agnew had a "signature sound" that would accurately label his music, it would be a mix of southern rock and contemporary. How To Be Loved has both elements, but focuses more heavily on the contemporary aspect. "Love Your Neighbor" and "Give What's In Your Hand" are examples of songs that incorporate southern rock, but most of these songs would fit very comfortably on any Christian hit radio station's afternoon playlist. "God Undefeatable" is a perfect example. While the song is a powerful reminder of God's supremacy and great sacrifice, it's what you might call "paint by numbers." The melody, the piano, the tempo; all of it is a key characteristic of a Christian hit song that has a good message but very low musical quality. The same things can be said of "There Is Coming A Day." It even has the Christian contemporary buzz words ("There is coming a day when my faith shall be made sight, there is coming a day, darkness shattered by the light...tears are wiped from every face, and my reproach He finally takes away"). Again, it's a great reminder of the things to come; it's just written in a way that's been written over and over again.
Despite any cliche contemporary music, Agnew has always had a way of sneaking in lines that clinch my heart. For instance, "Love Your Neighbor" is convicting in the second chorus: "'Love your enemy' doesn't ask me if she has apologized." Jesus commands us to love our enemies regardless of the circumstance. This is hard, but a necessary reminder of how we're to live in love with no exceptions. However, though all of Agnew's lyrics say good things, this was really the only line that stuck out to me in that way. But the rest of what How To Be Loved presents is good for meditation and worship.
Overall, while How To Be Loved is definitely a well-intentioned album, it ends up being just another seemingly lifeless contemporary album that won't really make any waves in the music realm. Again, I enjoy the lyrics I mentioned from "Love Your Neighbor," as well as the John Mayer-esque "Loved," which may be the strongest track on the album, but those are the only real highlights to speak of. Agnew also has a really strong voice that, in the right circumstances, can aid in making the songs more powerful. But in the end, there's not much else to praise about this album.
- PReview date: 1/29/12, Review date: 2/23/12 written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com