Armed with one of the most striking voices in the Christian music industry and a fierce desire to proclaim the name of Jesus, Jeremy Camp is back with his 9th full-length studio album. 2015's I Will Follow showed growth from his previous releases, so the question is: which direction will Camp go in with The Answer?
Right off the bat, the major criticism of The Answer is obvious: it feels familiar. Album opener "Word of Life" immediately draws comparisons to "Living Word" from I Will Follow, bearing almost exactly the same message of holding on to the life-giving truths in God's Word. Granted, it's a nice message and the sound between the two is quite different with "Living Word" being a pop/rock tune and "Word of Life" being a full-fledged pop song. Another apparent similarity comes in the chorus and bridge of "Never Stopped Loving," which sounds like it came from Jesus Culture's "One Thing Remains" (listen to how "you never stopped loving / never stopped loving / never stopped loving me" sounds like to "your love never fails / never gives up / never runs out on me" lyrically and melodically). No other direct comparisons come to mind, but as a whole, it's hard to shake the feeling that The Answer has been heard before.
Within The Answer's conventional framework, Camp has created a rather enjoyable album. "Tell The World" offers an infectious melody about sharing Jesus with everybody, "My Father's Arms" is an encouraging song for anyone who is spiritually weary, and "Word of Life" has a fun sound with its electronic beat and a peppy synth. When Camp slows things down, the sheer power of his voice and passion in his heart are on full display. The best example of this is in the transition from the bridge to the final chorus on "Heaven's Shore (Forevermore)," which has a tangible sense of hope pouring out from Camp that might cause the hairs on your arm to stand up. The mid-tempo number "Storm" is also one of Camp's strongest vocal performances since Speaking Louder Than Before. One song rises above the rest though, and it's saved for last. "Awake, O Sleeper" is a boot-stomping rocker that will get you smiling and singing along in no time. The song works so well, not just because it is edgier or because it has a different sound from the rest of the album, but because the lyrics think outside the box, "Oh, Abraham would raise his hands and mourn this very day / for his children left the promised land in search of their own way… and they'd dream away these evil days in hopes that God can't see… do you hear the lion roar? / wake oh sleeper."
Despite the drawback of predictable musical structures and commonplace lyrics, The Answer is a welcomed addition to the Camp discography. This is especially true in 2017 since solid pop albums in CCM have been scarce (MercyMe and Landry Cantrell are exceptional ones that come to mind). In all likelihood, The Answer won't woo back fans who fell in love with his early rock sound, but as a pop album, it has a lot of good qualities. If you are fan of Jeremy Camp, you will want to pick this one up.- Review date: 10/2/17, written by Christopher Smith of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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