I’m finally ready to talk about this album… I think.
My first impression with “A Messenger” was so positive and I thought I was ready to fully embrace whatever spirituality I’d gained in the past year.
Once again, I learned a lesson in tough love:
A new album can’t always live up to your expectations.
And it isn’t necessarily going to fit into a predetermined niche in my heart and soul.
In general, I’m really bad with first impressions no matter who the artist is: if they’re old favorites or new introductions on my music collection… I’ll either have my own expectations that don’t match up or I’ll think too much and that negativity and doubt brings me down.
There’ll be plenty of time for me to figure out which album I prefer between the two Colton Dixon had created so far in his career.
Right now, I can only say that I am very proud of his efforts, how he’s stuck to who he is.
The fact he didn’t win “American Idol” feels like more of a blessing each time I listen to him because I know he never would have had this much freedom under the restrictions of an Interscope recording contract.
As a whole, I find “A Messenger” to be the more cohesive record.
I LOVE so many of the songs. The ones that I don’t feel that extra passion for:
6) Love has come for me (which remains my least favorite)
10) This is who I am (which feels like a repetition of what the other tracks had said)
12) Let them see you (I don’t personally connect with it because I am not 110% into my faith the way Colton is, but I absolutely love his passion in this song. And it was the only one on the record he didn’t write).
“Anchor” proved to be a rougher mountain to climb.
But to be fair, I did have a preview of “A Messenger” before I got the album so I knew what to expect from each song before hand.
The only preview I had of “Anchor” was the leading single MORE OF YOU… which I didn’t get behind as strongly as I did with “You Are” when I first heard it. But other than the opening track, it’s the one I’ve played the most. There’s no denying that it’s a catchy tune, but just maybe a part of me deep inside wants to embrace its message.
Off the top, the first time I listened to “Anchor,” there was a series of red flags that kept popping up.
“Our Time is Now” would go on to become my favorite track on the album. I knew right away that I was starting to enjoy it even though I had a reservation about it: Colton’s voice sounded like it was obscured by overproduction.
There are very few intimate moments on this album… “A Messenger” had I’LL BE THE LIGHT, SCARS, RISE, LET THEM SEE YOU and THE SHAPE OF YOUR LOVE…
THROUGH ALL OF IT is the closest thing “Anchor” has to that intimate feel: Just Colton playing the piano.
The 2nd red flag that I more or less surrendered to over the past few months:
This album was more about overcoming doubts and trusting in a greater power to carry you through them.
And also to roll with the punches every now and then because they help you become a stronger version of yourself.
WALK ON THE WAVES and ANCHOR helped me feel like there was an underlying ocean/beach theme to this album (as confirmed by the “More of you” video and “Fool’s good” which makes me think about pirates).
But they were two dark songs in a row and I needed to take a break before moving on to the next.
I took a break with “A Messenger” after “Love has come for me” because I felt things were getting repetitive and I wasn’t having fun anymore.
The situation was a bit more desperate on “Anchor”… after taking my break, I still wasn’t feeling at 100% that I didn’t get fully into the rest of the album… Except for “Fool’s Gold” but more on that later.
I warmed to both of these tracks overtime.
ANCHOR gives me some good chills. Colton brings his signature passion to this performance and I feel like I can relate to it. Being lost in the sea of life and needing something like faith to help you afloat.
Doubt plagues me on a regular basis and it’s nice to have songs like this at my back.
ECHO was a good turn-around point. It reminded me of the songs I fell in love with on the previous album.
I really responded to the lyrics: “we haven’t tuned our ears to hear the record playing” and “my radio in tune” with an echo of “You Are” playing in the background.
It felt like it could have been a great single. Super catchy.
Another thing that presented a challenge for me…
I realize this is a Christian rock record, but it’s a turn-off for me when things get preachy.
A lot of namedropping but also talking about religion in an obvious in-your-face way, I just find it a turn-off personally.
By no means am I trying to talk Colton out of being this very devout person in his music. His passion is what makes him so special.
That’s just an issue I’ve had for a very long time. Hearing too many people talk about their religion in this way, a way that has a tinge of arrogance to it. That says to me “I’m better off than you because I devoted my entire life to worshipping an all-powerful being and you haven’t.” That approach doesn’t feel genuine to me so no matter who does it, that’ll always be a drawback.
The reason I enjoyed Colton’s first album so much was that he made his spirituality accessible. His lyrics were written as such where the preachiness was handled strategically. He doesn’t come out and say “A equals B”… you have to think about them and the meaning comes through slowly over time. And when it does, it’s a pretty amazing feeling.
MORE OF YOU… it’s one of those songs hard to get out of my head. It’s so catchy and just so good.
LOUD AND CLEAR is the same vein as OUR TIME IS NOW…a powerful, quick-paced rock song.
I’m still trying to figure out what it’s about, which I still find a detracting factor. But I usually enjoy it so much that I really don’t care what it all means.
FOOL’S GOLD has a great message to it. Not being led astray into thinking you need to sacrifice too much of who you are in order to succeed in something.
…something like that… when you listen to the lyrics, its meaning is pretty apparent that little explanation is needed.
After that, the album starts to taper off a bit.
DARE TO BELIEVE is upbeat, but I find it a little too preachy in places. To make up for that, though, Colton kinda shows us a little more of himself. Saying how he grew up on the stories of The Bible, what they meant to him and how they made him who he is now.
I don’t respond to it on a personal level, but I appreciate the artistry that went into it.
THROUGH ALL OF IT is an intimate piano ballad, something that I really hadn’t seen on this album until this point. A little discouraging, but that makes this all the more special.
It feels like he’s referring back to his American Idol experience, what it was like when he left the show, had doubts and find himself again.
LIMITLESS has won me over little by little over time, but it’s not one of the strongest efforts the album has to offer. As of late, I’ve wanted nothing more than to surround to that infectious energy.
Oh, if only I was brave enough to live my life that way.
BACK TO LIFE is another upbeat rock song. I think it spooked me a bit the first time around because it was almost heavy-metal. A little strong.
But I feel like it’s a perfect echo of OUR TIME IS NOW.
THIS IS THE END… I’ve had the biggest issue with… it wasn’t the final track that I expected or wanted to hear after a rollercoaster of a first impression.
For starters, it is cliché and repetitive. I didn’t feel like there was a lot of fire behind it, nothing to get really excited about. Heck, talking about it being the end and the album ending on that now… I just find that depressing.
I’d also wrestled with OUR TIME IS NOW being the first track… right out of the gate, I’m so in love with it, but when it continues onto the next couple tracks, I just lose that connection.
So I’ve actually listened to OUR TIME IS NOW after the final track… you’d think as an encore, but I feel like it fits better as a finale.
As in “you have all the tools you need, now fight!”
I’ve made some adjustments, though, so I might just end the configuration with BACK TO LIFE and just leave THIS IS THE END out of the conversation.