Prime Cuts: Love One Another (with Kevin Max), Fearless, Set Me Ablaze
Overall Grade: 3.5/5
Loud = excellent = successful. Newsboys must have embraced this algorithm while making this album. Everything song here is an over-the-top CCM dynamite with vocals that soar over multiple octaves. And if you like your songs sparkling with a commercial sheen where everything is pristine and bright, "United" is definitely up your alley. However, if you want your music to be less predictable, giving the busy pop template a hiatus, then this album will bring disappointments. Nevertheless, "United" is an important record for the legendary band. This groundbreaking recording brings together former members Peter Furler and Phil Joel with Michael Tait, Duncan Phillips, Jeff Frankenstein and Jody Davis, a reunion of firsts in over a decade.
"Greatness of Our God," not the Hillsong song of the same titular, is a new song written by Bryan Fowler, Colby Wedgeworth and Ethan Hulse. "Greatness" sets the template for the record, it's a big pop worship anthem that come equipped with those dynamic "ooooh." This is followed by "Symphony," which follows the same trajectory - with the "ooohs" thrown in as well. Nevertheless, the song encompasses lyrics that we need to take to heart: we as individuals and then the church come bring glory to God via our unity. Kevin Max joins the boys in the jaunty "Love One Another." When they let go of the need to be commercially viable, they actually sound "cool" and enjoyable.
"Never Setting Sun" is a filler that aimlessly charters its way with an overproduced sound. Five songs in and we finally get our first ballad "Beautiful Story." Despite its overcrowded guitar-infested backing, the song is actually a beautiful depiction of how God is constantly at work in our lives, like an artist working endlessly on a canvas. "Fearless" is a track that could even work well in congregational worship. Though the lyrics charter no need ground, but don't we need to be reminded again and again that our God is with us?
If a novice band were to pen a track like "Only the Son (Yeshua)," it would be forgivable. But for a veteran to sing "Oh, only the Son, only the Son/Greater than the kings of the Earth, kings of the Earth/Has the keys to my heart's door, my heart's door/The keys to my heart's door," it just spells juvenile. Perhaps the only surprise here is the Newsboys' cover of Jesus Culture's "Set Me Ablaze." Here they finally let their creative juices to run free as they transformed this airy electronic ballad into their signature rock sound.
"United" may mark a historical moment for the band. But as a record, it's safe, predictable and panders too much to radio. It has its moments but it's definitely not a landmark record in their extensive catalog.