The Australian-bred band Newsboys have made a name for themselves with their fun and anthemic pop/rock for over a decade now. Last year, the guys put on a more serious face and released Adoration: The Worship Album, marking the band's first venture into the world of praise and worship music. Adoration became the band's fastest selling record to date which was met with an equally successful Tour with Rebecca St. James. It shouldn't be a surprise that plans for a follow-up surfaced.
Devotion sees the return of the Newsboys to worship music but while they tested the waters with Adoration, Devotion dives right in with reckless abandon. The end result is a worship album that's less unique, less creative, and has almost no resemblance to anything the Newsboys have done in the past. Worship music, like any genre, possesses its own genre specific formula. And while there are some artists who dare to break such stereotypes and cliches, there are too many that fail to bring anything different and unique to the table. Adoration did, however, offer somewhat of a pop/rock take on the genre.
However, more typically written as a traditional modern worship project than anything you'd expect the Newsboys to ever do, Devotion is much less impressive than Adoration. The title track leads off the project, immediately setting the tone for it to be a new direction for the band. Musically and thematically an anthem of sorts, "Devotion" offers the typical percussion and rhythms one can expect from a modern worship album. "I Love Your Ways" continues this feel, but this time offers a noticably impressive piano melody and sonic sound. The album highlight "Presence (My Heart's Desire)" follows, a genre-bending tune with strong guitars and a powerful chorus, with "Strong Tower" resulting as more common fare.
In all fairness, a significant reason for the overall change in sound for the band could have something to do with the loss of guitarist Jody Davis. Replacement Bryan Olesen proves a fine addition in their live shows and adds to the sonic sounds of this record, but at the same time appears to have aided in shifting the direction of the band's signature sound.
The sound of Devotion is best described as a modern worship record with Newsboys' Peter Furler on vocals. Musically and creatively a departure from what we've come to know and expect from the Newsboys over the years, the album will be a disappointment to many while attracting a much wider fanbase with its more laid-back, subdued approach. Still offering highlights like "Presence," the touching melody-driven sounds of "The Orphan," and the extended finale "When The Tears Fall," Devotion is far from a lost cause. But as the album drifts to a close, one may long for the days of Going Public or Take Me To Your Leader. Devotion is an above-average worship album and a disappointing Newsboys installment.- Review date: 10/31/04, written by John DiBiase
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