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JFH Music Review

MercyMe, Lifer


Artist Info: Discography
Genre(s): Pop
Album length: 10 tracks: 34 minutes, 59 seconds
Street Date: March 31, 2017


Maintaining relevancy in the music industry isn't a problem easily solved. In order to stay relevant in the face of rising trends and popular styles, an artist has to change or, to use a more appealing term, evolve. Some have managed to balance familiarity and change better than others, often resulting in a steady and intriguing growth from album to album. Few bands fit this description better than MercyMe, the longstanding CCM veterans that, despite being eight albums in, continue to push themselves with each song they pen. Since the alternative nod of Coming Up To Breathe, the band has continued to take risks to achieve a sound that's distinctly their own. After a couple of missteps (i.e. the gimmicky nature of The Generous Mr. Lovewell and the diverse but incohesive Welcome to the New), MercyMe has crafted their strongest record since their 2006 magnum opus with the creatively titled Lifer.

It's interesting to note that a common picture of musical progression has an artist moving towards a more subdued and "mature" sound. But MercyMe has never conformed to this image. Unlike many others, they have progressed towards a more joyous and up-tempo sound than what their first couple of records showcased. They've effectively turned the routine form of maturity on its head. The title track on Lifer is a prime example, beginning with a hilarious introduction before jumping straight into an infectious dance tune about being a lifer for Christ (a term meaning a lifelong follower of Jesus Christ). It's an instant highlight and arguably one of MercyMe's best songs to date.

"You Found Me" follows and is yet another fun pop number, featuring verses that flow not unlike something from Colony Houses' latest record, Only the Lonely. "Grace Found You" is a happy-go-lucky funk song that sounds like a faster paced "Wishful Thinking" from Welcome to the New. Yet, it does all it can to avoid being labeled as a "carbon copy" by incorporating an unexpected rap verse into the bridge. It's an ambitious move that works, only further emphasizing the band's willingness to step out of the box.

There are only two ballads on this record, with "Even If" being the best of them. It takes the album's cheerful direction to a profound truth that, although darkness may abound around us, our hope is in Christ alone. "I know you're able and I know you can / Save through the fire with your mighty hand / But even if you don't my hope is you alone....You've been faithful, you've been good all of my days." The final ballad and album closer is "Ghost," but like previous closers, it's held down by being underdeveloped and insignificant compared to other songs.

Additional highlights include the bouncy "Hello Beautiful," the celebratory "We Win," and the hopelessly catchy "Happy Dance." The latter track, in particular, is unlike anything the band has done so far and is this reviewer's favourite moment on the record. "We Win" also features a memorable bridge complete with handclaps and gang vocals.

At this point, I thoroughly believe MercyMe should be held as a prime example of, not only quality CCM music but of progression done right. Lifer is a great album through and through with barely a dull moment to be found within its thirty-five minute run time. Preferably, it could have been a little longer and some songs ("Best News Ever" and "Ghost") should have been given a little more time to develop, both musically and lyrically, but what we have is nothing short of an accomplishment the band should be proud of and one of the best CCM albums of the year.

- Review date 3/28/17, written by Lucas Munachen of

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JFH Staff's Second Opinion

One thing MercyMe has never been is stagnant; with every album they have released in the past decade, they have infused more effort into bucking the most-expected grooves of CCM, be it with the rock leanings of Coming Up To Breathe, the conceptual design of The Generous Mr. Lovewell, or the experimentation of Welcome to the New. But now for the first time, it's as if MercyMe has managed to put everything together into one unified, unique, stellar package. Enter Lifer, the 15th album in MercyMe's career (and ninth as a signed band). It is a brisk ten tracks, and at under 35 minutes, is the band's shortest album yet. And it feels short as well, but only in the best possible way, in that it feels like it ends too soon. It is an engaging, entertaining, and wonderfully diverse album from the opening sound byte of the title track to the closing fade of "Ghost." It is as if Bart Millard and company have isolated the best parts of their past efforts, then molded them and strung them together in perfect unison, and then added a guest rap from John Reuben for good measure (an unexpected and delightful surprise, to be sure). But as energetic an album as Lifer is, it seems to know exactly the right point to dial things back and let the listener catch their breath with the only song with an adult contemporary sound (and unsurprisingly, their lead single), "Even If." The usage of this song here is a prime example of great sequencing and selective exposure done right. "Even If" is a decent song, but one that would easily grow tiring and be lost in a less diverse, more out-and-out AC album (such as MercyMe's earliest material). But here, by sequencing and selectiveness alone, it is transformed into a highlight. Lifer is MercyMe's best album to date, and not just because it contains the fewest moments of what one might call "standard fare CCM" as any of their albums. This album is bright. It is vibrant. It is energetic. And it is authentic. I have no sense of the band writing for an audience as on previous efforts, and being a fan of CCM is not a requirement for enjoyment of Lifer. It is easy to recommend this album, and it may just change your whole perception of the band. - 4/3/17, Mark Rice of


JFH Staff's Additional 2 Cents

    MercyMe's ninth studio album, Lifer (meaning a lifetime follower of Jesus), is a soundtrack for joy in the Christian faith. Most of the record communicates this joy through infectiously cheerful pop songs (this is most effectively done with "Grace Got You," "Happy Dance," and the title-track) but "Even If" gives a different perspective on what it means to be a lifer: experiencing peace in the midst of doubt. There is a lack of standout tracks like "Greater" from Welcome To The New (though "Even If" and "Hello Beautiful" have radio potential), but it is a solid album from start to finish. Don't let the boring cover art deter you, Lifer is a fun record that is great for fans MercyMe and CCM. - 2/8/17 (Preview Review) Christopher Smith


. Record Label: Fair Trade Services
. Album length: 10 tracks: 34 minutes, 59 seconds
. Street Date: March 31, 2017
. Buy It: iTunes
. Buy It:
. Buy It: Amazon Music (MP3)

  1. Lifer (3:21)
  2. You Found Me (3:31)
  3. Grace Got You (3:35)
  4. Best News Ever (2:59)
  5. Even If (4:15)
  6. Hello Beautiful (3:19)
  7. We Win (3:49)
  8. Happy Dance (2:51)
  9. Heavens Here (3:36)
  10. Ghost (3:39)


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