Jimmy Needham's latest release, Nightlights, without a doubt showcases his continued progression as a singer and songwriter. Solid theological underpinnings are present in nearly every track. While previous releases seemed to lack musical diversity, this album continues Needham's talent for loading songs with lyrics, but also presents quite a few diverse tracks that vary from his patented pop sound, from to blues and soul, and even towards hip-hop. In Nightlights, each song is given its own unique vibe to create memorable differences.
Nightlights opens with the funky and very biblically influenced song "Moving to Zion," which is about leaving religion behind to follow Jesus. The upbeat "Being Small" is classic Needham, loaded with fun yet meaningful lyrics and analogies in both the verses and the chorus ("Why I wanna be a hurricane when I'm barely a breeze? Cause I've already seen your storm bring me down to my knees...Whenever I climb too high, keep my feet on the ground and when I get full of me, turn me upside down...If it's you that's getting bigger, I don't mind, being small...So maybe I should step on down, hand off the King's crown to the God on the throne"). The debut single, "Yours To Take," is another genuine pop tune with a memorable chorus and clear lyrical depth.
Needham truly has a gift of making listeners evaluate their own lives through his lyrics. While "The Reason I Sing" presents his autobiographical struggles as a musician, it also reveals the universal difficulties of getting lost in the reasons behind supposedly Christ-like actions. This track still ends on a hopeful note with the lyrics, "So if I'm destined for a small stage, the small crowds, and the small pay, then maybe even in a small way I can bring you fame." Exceedingly thought-provoking lyrics can also be found in the lighter tracks "Miss A Thing" and "Part the Clouds." The latter is quite the introspective song about the importance of sharing the gospel and not being so intent on minimizing its impact in our lives, with insightful lyrics such as "We might as well just fold our hands if we can't call a spade a spade, cause we will miss the heart each time if we won't ever shoot them straight" and "Living water will not quench us if it's watered down. It's not our place to hide again, this treasure that we've found."
Jimmy Needham fans may have come to expect a song or two directed entirely at his love for his wife, Kelly, and Nightlights definitely delivers on that front. Although the verses seem to be a little musically bland, Needham's vocals and sincerity soar throughout the chorus in the slower love ballad "Light of Day." The tone is picked up in the more joyful love song "Steal Away" and in Needham's version of Marvin Gaye's 1964 hit "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)."
When reading that a song is titled "Grace Amazing," one expects a slower tune, perhaps to be played on an organ at the Sunday morning service. But "Grace Amazing" turns the "Amazing Grace" expectation on its side, and presents an upbeat and unexpected R&B sound. A criticism of his previous albums was the musical monotony between each song, and it is reassuring to hear tracks that definitely present a larger variety of sounds. The most soulful track on the album, "Right Where You Are," is a solid example of Nightlight's versatility when compared to previous records, whereas "Just A Heartbeat" brings you back to the sound of earlier releases. If the lyrical diversity to be found in every song is not enough, consistency still prevails with "Nightlights," a powerful poem to top off the record in Jimmy Needham fashion.
Nightlights definitely offers the variety that previous releases seemed to have hidden behind nonstop lyricism. While his other records have been mellow, but still definitely pop/rock, Nightlights throws in quite a few more blues and soul influences. New and old fans will both be greatly impressed with this latest release, and future releases will no doubt be just as successful if this variety continues.- Review date: 5/11/10, written by Samantha Schaumberg of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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