Reviewed by Michael Ehret
This Moment by
Steven Curtis Chapman
"Chapman walks a great balancing line, musically, hearkening back to his strengths: Great, guitar-driven, crescendo-based choruses and melodies that stick like a Mary Lou Retton dismount."
It must be tough to be Steven Curtis Chapman.
On the one hand, your latest album, This Moment, marks your 20th year as a leader and hitmaker in the contemporary Christian music genre.
On the other hand, your latest album, This Moment, marks your 20th year as a leader and hitmaker in the contemporary Christian music genre.
Wait. Umm. That’s the same thing.
Ahhh. And that’s Chapman’s biggest problem. He has a track record and legions of fans who expect him to be “Steven Curtis Chapman” – whatever that means to them – each time he records a new disc.
Some are looking for those slightly goofy and playful songs like “You Know Better” from For The Sake Of The Call (1990), “Dancing With the Dinosaur” from Heaven In The Real World (1994), or “Got To Be True” from The Great Adventure (1992).
Others are pining for another of those great love songs that tender, emotional, in-touch-with-their-feelings men write for their wives. You know, those fictional guys that give the rest of us such a headache? Songs like “Go There With You” (1992), “Your Side Of The World,” from All About Love (2003), or “I Will Be Here” from More To This Life (1989).
And, of course, this is CCM, so there have to be those deep spiritual insight songs that connect you in a very personal and intimate way with God. Songs like “His Strength Is Perfect” from Real Life Conversations (1988), “Free” from Signs of Life (1996), or “Be Still And Know” from Speechless (1999).
But as you churn out these consistently high quality, though formulaic, releases for your audience, what do you do for yourself? For your own creativity? In 2003, Chapman released an album of love songs to his wife, All About Love, which was a sort-of, kind-of secular crossover attempt that fizzled. Then, in 2004, he stepped outside his normal musical boundaries with All Things New (2004) and created what some critics view as his strongest offering yet – and watched it underperform his previous releases.
So here it is 2007. You need another album – and if it could be a hit, that would sure be a nice bonus. What do you do? Back up and pick up those old tools that have always worked so well or move forward with the musical direction from the last record?
Simple answer? You do both. And that is precisely what Chapman has managed to do with This Moment. This disc’s crazy, zany song is “Something Crazy.” For the smoochy love song, he turned for inspiration to his relationship with his daughters and came up with “Cinderella” – this year’s “Butterfly Kisses.” (Where is Bob Carlisle anyway?)
“So I dance with Cinderella, while she is here in my arms / Cause I know something the Prince never knew / Oh I dance with Cinderella, I don’t want to miss even one song / Because all too soon, the clock will strike midnight / And she’ll be gone.”
As usual, the spirituality is infused in all of the songs, but the “a-ha!” moment comes this time in the song “Yours”: “It’s all yours, God, yours God / Everything is yours / From the stars in the sky to the depths of the ocean floor / And it’s all yours, God, yours God / Everything is yours / You’re the maker and keeper, Father and ruler of everything / It’s all yours.”
Chapman walks a great balancing line, musically, hearkening back to his strengths: Great, guitar-driven, crescendo-based choruses and melodies that stick like a Mary Lou Retton dismount.
But he continues to explore musically, as well. In “Children Of God,” Chapman sounds like he may be channeling Ian Eskelin from All Star United, without the tongue-in-cheek attitude. And in “You Are Being Loved,” Chapman roughs up his delivery, vocally. Not taking his normal care to make sure each note is pristine.
For a veteran who’s been in this business for 20 years, Chapman consistently refuses to let others define his music, even while delivering to his audience just what they want to hear. Maybe it’s not so tough to be him. He just sticks to what he does – and does so well.
Michael Ehret is a music maven who has written about music, secular and Christian, as a reporter for The Indianapolis Star newspaper, several Internet sites, and even CCM magazine. He is also the editor of the newsletter Afictionado, the e-zine of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and is testing the waters with his first novel, Beyond December, while working on his second, Skipping July.