Worship is tricky to write about, because what moves one listener could easily be denounced as trite by another. Some prefer more opaque lyrics that could double as love songs for mainstream audiences, while others are offended by the lack of blatant Christ-centered content.
Into this tension comes new Centricity artist Matt Papa, who is on a mission to bring the word of God into people's heads through music. "If you can write a song that's full of God's word, and that song gets in someone's head, that's a powerful thing," Papa says. With his new release, Your Kingdom Come, that sense of Scripture as well as a mission to all nations comes through in both the lyrics and the musical stylings.
Papa's voice is distinctive, reminiscent of a combination of David Crowder and delirious?' Martin Smith, with a little dash of Kevin Max in the falsetto moments. His album is also all over the place musically, reminding the listener of Chris Tomlin, Matt Maher, U2, Coldplay, classic rock, 60s folk, and the Beatles at different times.
The first track, "Our God Reigns," displays that mash-up of musical stylings, starting out with a simple piano melody that transitions into a heavy drum beat, synthesizing the two together with a rich and full musical sound. One could see this almost a picture of what worship music has become in the last two decades. Most other songs sound like stereotypical worship á la Tomlin, such as the title track and "God of Grace." Often, Papa's songs are piano-driven then layered with guitars and strings as the song continues, repeating a certain chord progression or melodic phrase.
The repetition gets a little heavy. What was a simple piano melody gets a little too thick in hearing it multiple times and it loses some of its beauty and power. Same with the lyrics; while the words are strong and Scripture-based, hearing them too many times in a row can make them annoying instead of powerful. Having something pounded into your head can be off-putting instead of inspiring. The length also contributes to the dragging repetitiveness; it is nearly unheard of to have an album these days that is over an hour long. Eighteen tracks is quite a few songs to put on one album, and a good majority of the songs could have been cut down by 30 seconds to a minute.
Papa is a man with a mission, and many of his songs' themes revolve around social justice issues, such as going out to the needy and hungry. "Open Hands," Papa's first single from the album written with singer/songwriter James Tealy, is catchy and singable, asking people to surrender their ambitions to serve others. "Here Am I, Send Me" and "To The Least Of These" have similar messages, while "Where Is The Difference" takes even a harder line on the issue. Written as an open letter to the church from Jesus, it is a criticism on today's church, containing lyrics like "Body of Christ, more like a whore/ You love this world and you call me Lord/ I shed my blood for your sins/ Ones you're living in/ When are you gonna repent?" The standout track is musically driving with open, honest lyrics that ask where the difference is between the world and the church.
While Papa's music may not be anything we haven't heard before, it is well-crafted, boasting a variety of different styles and instruments. The message is also one that Christians need to be reminded of on a daily basis, though it may cross into the over-repetitive arena. Some of the songs are auditorally and lyrically intriguing, while others are not, but if a listener is looking for another worship artist in the same vein as Tomlin and Maher, Matt Papa is one to check out.- Review date: 8/23/09, written by Sara Kelm of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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