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JFH Music Review

Hawk Nelson, Diamonds

Hawk Nelson

Artist Info: Discography
Genre(s): Pop / Contemporary
Album length: 10 tracks: 34 minutes, 39 seconds
Street Date: March 17, 2015


Every so often you find that something doesn't have to be radically different to be satisfying. Like a great hamburger or romantic comedy at just the right time, sometimes an album comes along that is familiar and poppy, but still very good in its context.

Diamonds is that kind of album. Hawk Nelson made a bit of a stylistic turn (but not as radical a departure as it may appear) from pop-punk to mainstream contemporary CCM with their last album, Made. But that album contained its punky moments and overall energy. Likewise with Diamonds, an album chock-full of bouncy, infectious nuggets that may not re-write the pop playbook, but are excellent and solid nonetheless.

The title track is the best thing here, and it kicks off the album with a dose of rhythmic goodness and vocal gymnastics on the part of front man Jonathan Steingard. Reminiscent of the band Fun, "Diamonds" is the kind of tune that is both a bit of a departure for the band and instantly arresting. It will no doubt make a great concert number for many years and festivals to come. Lead single "Drops In The Ocean" employs another interesting rhythmic dynamic, and features the album's best lyric in the chorus; "if you want to know how my love can go, just how deep, just how wide, if you want to see how much you mean to me, look at my hands, look at my side, if you could count the times I say you are forgiven, it's more than the drops in the ocean." With a great message and a solid delivery, "Drops" soars in all the right ways. The fun "Just Getting Started" features a clever hand-clapping rhythm, slight bass solo and a happy, chirpy keyboard line in the chorus that lift the whole tune up a notch or two. "Live Like You're Loved" is a shouted anthem of recognition that in Christ we are free and loved, and sometimes the challenge is to believe it.

Unfortunately, the following few tunes after this seem like lost Backstreet Boys tunes circa 1998. "Sold Out" is both slightly cloying and overly-confident in its lyric about being "on a mission that is heaven sent" with a soul that "is like a stadium" (in that it is sold out, like a concert or sporting event). The fact that this dud of a song comes after four particularly good ones is disappointing and a bit mystifying. Likewise, the well meaning "Thank God For Something" suffers from a few juvenile lyrics, such as "you gotta' see the good if you're good at looking." Thankfully, the album rights the ship a bit in the last few songs. "Straight Line" has the same message as "Sold Out," but delivers it in a slightly more humble way. "Made To Live" makes great use of a crowd of voices, and these multiple voices add a unique twist to the song, lifting it into a praise and worship moment that is welcome. "Only You" ends the album nicely with a quieter, reflective moment of worship and a bit of silent space.

With a few mis-steps aside, Diamonds severs up a meal that is hearty, well made and worth your time to hear.

- Review date: 3/15/15, written by Alex Caldwell of

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JFH Staff's Second Opinion

While more than a few Christian music connoisseurs have decried the current glut of pop/worship-oriented artists whose songs and lyrics sound similar enough so as to be virtually interchangeable, many of those same devotees seem to have reserved a particular ire for artists like Hawk Nelson whose current light pop offerings were preceded by years of decidedly harder-rocking fare. But, while it's hard not to miss the raucous, good-natured punk/rock energy of early HN chestnuts like "Bring 'em Out" and "Things We Go Through," the group's latest, and decidedly more pop-inclined, effort isn't nearly as out-and-out awful as the legions of dyed-in-the-wool punk purists would have us believe.

To be sure, cuts like "Drops in the Ocean," the title track and "Just Getting Started," with its infectious, early-era B-52's guitar effects and custom-fit-for-jumping-rope rhythms, are hands down winners, taken on their own, more subdued, merit. Likewise, the positive, uplifting lyrical slant that saturated the dearly-loved freshman and sophomore outings has never really faded away, as evidenced by songs like "Live Like You're Loved" and "Sold Out," the latter of which, despite sounding like a cross between a late '90s boy band and a high school pep rally cheer, winds up being an unlikely triumph.

That said, even without the group's superb punk albums as a point of comparison, too much of the new album winds up being more off-putting than impressive. Songs like "Thank God for Something," while undoubtedly ebullient enough, are largely frivolous and just a bit too sunny and cheerful for their own good. Conversely, the leaden tempos and sluggish rhythms of cuts like "Drops in the Ocean" mire the lackluster tracks in musical quicksand from the outset. Perhaps most telling, though, is the fact that, like Made before it, the majority of the latest record leaves very little lasting imprint, making Diamonds a pleasant enough project, but one that only hardcore fans will need to purchase. - Review date: 3/16/15, Bert Gangl



JFH Staff's Additional 2 Cents

Album number two of the All-Pop/No-Punk version of Hawk Nelson is called Diamonds, and it is a perfect name to describe the album on many levels, for both good reasons and bad ones. A well-cut diamond is very attractive, polished, expensive, and (usually) small. Such is the case with Hawk Nelson's latest; the poppy sheen, singable lyrics, encouraging messages, and catchy melodies make it hard not to find appealing; the production quality and band popularity ensure it probably cost a pretty penny to make and market; and coming it at a hair under 35 minutes and 10 songs, this album is small. But diamonds have another quality that many may not like to acknowledge: abundance. As expensive as diamonds can be, they are a mineral that is found in large quantities (though, granted, most is not suitable to make jewelry), with the value being mostly decided by the luster of its final form, the rate at which they are distributed, and tradition. Diamonds is much the same, as this brand of infectious pop already exists in large quantities, and while Hawk Nelson does it better than most (especially in Christian circles), and is lyrically nothing but praiseworthy (if not often clichéd), nothing about the album screams for attention. Songs like the radio single "Drops in the Ocean," the ballad "Live Like You're Loved," the bouncy "Count On You," or the anthem "Made To Live," (among others) follow common patterns found on Christian pop albums, both musically and lyrically (though, again, these guys do it better than most). The only real regrets on the tracklist are the musical sore-thumb (and slightly pretensious) "Sold Out," and the attempt for a Rend Collective sound alike in "Thank God For Something." (On a side note, as a point of personal annoyance, I cannot get over the fact that the title track lyrically reminds me a LOT of a sunshine pop version of Gungor's somber worship favorite "Beautiful Things," though otherwise I have nothing to object to on that track). To be honest, while albums that sound like Diamonds permeate the mainstream, Christian artists don't seem make a whole lot of music like this. For that reason, Diamonds might be worth a long hard look within the realm of CCM, though reinvent the wheel, it does not. - 3/16/15, Mark Rice of


. Record Label: Fair Trade Services
. Album length: 10 tracks: 34 minutes, 39 seconds
. Street Date: March 17, 2015
. Buy It: iTunes
. Buy It: (CD)
. Buy It: Amazon Music (MP3)

  1. Diamonds (3:03)
  2. Drops In The Ocean (3:24)
  3. Just Getting Started (3:22)
  4. Live Like You're Loved (3:48)
  5. Sold Out (3:35)
  6. Thank God For Something (3:25)
  7. Count On You (3:00)
  8. Made To Live (3:19)
  9. Straight Line (3:18)
  10. Only You (4:45)


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