North Carolina pop artist Warren Barfield has made quite a splash in the industry with a series of Christian radio successes. His first two albums generated fairly impressive sales figures and set to cement him as a market staple- the biggest part of his appeal coming from his ability to step in for aging star Stephen Curtis Chapman on the grounds of accessible pop songwriting and guitar-strumming charm. With his third album, Worth Fighting For, he sets out to claim the accolades that have been waiting for him since his inaugural successes.
This album is anything but cerebral as Barfield isn't the purveyor of profound truths or even thoughtful commentary on biblical fundamentals. With hooks like "Your love is the one thing that I can't run out of" (a tripe declaration more silly than endearing) and "there's nothing that you can't do/when you believe that God believes in you" (which sounds lifted from the scripts of a certain 90s television show about angels), the whole album comes off feathery and irrelevant. Anyone with a crisis of faith or imperative question of doctrine would do best to steer clear of Worth Fighting For or prepare themselves for a load of unanswered questions and hollow disappointments. This is entirely commercial religion, complete with all its "Just believe!" posturing and "Every cloud has a silver lining" conclusiveness.
The most appropriate question would probably be: does it serve as a plausible contender for Top 10 Christian radio? The answer, of course, is yes. All the staples of successful radio fodder are here: acoustic guitar intros, brief breakdowns per each verse, and plenty of "sing-till-your-lungs-give-out" refrains. If anything, Barfield has secured another year on the Christian charts and possibly a nomination or two come next awards season. But it all rings hollow in the face of one grave, unavoidable reality: this album brings nothing new to the table. Its ideas are stale, Barfield's vocals sound whiny and untrained at times, and it promises no capacity to impact the harsh realities that comprise our world today.
His vision of the heavens is such a limited one and his convictions are granted no potency. When a stanza on the single greatest idea in all of history- the God of Abraham- is backed by a lazy soundtrack that seems better suited for ruminations on pretty girls and skipping school (a la country music), this reviewer feels anything but awed or worshipful. An undeniably cheap atmosphere pervades the greater portion of this project. Worth Fighting For never once runs the risk of distinguishing itself as even slightly original. It instead comes off as merchandise masquerading itself as a piece of musical art.
Barfield has succeeded on one front; he has managed to remind us with the greatest of urgencies of Christianity's need for fresh faces to give these stale inflections new life and shake up what has become so predictable about believers' art. There will certainly be many who argue that this is a perfectly tolerable album, and immediately write off any claims to the contrary as being excessively harsh. One thing we can all agree on, regardless of whether or not Warren Barfield has managed to force your toes to tap or your hands to clap or your lips to praise: a world where biblical truths can be communicated with beauty and poise is definitely a future worth fighting for.- Review date: 5/7/08, written by John Wofford
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