Prime Cuts: Famous For (I Believe) (Featuring Jenn Johnson), Miracle, Done
Overall Grade: 3.5/5
Tauren Wells' "Citizen of Heaven" checks every item a pop-centric CCM record needs to have. Vibrant tunes with those peppy beats, worship ballads with those epic choruses, and the occasional rap stabs to show its agility to cross-over to the hip hop world, everything that panders to CCM radio is here. Moreover, the track listing name drops some of music's biggest names, namely, Kirk Franklin, Bethel's Jenn Johnson, Rascal Flatts, and a word intro by Steven Furtick. But there's more: with this sophomore release, Wells shows growth. This time he shows not only his excellence as a performer, but he also demonstrates his ability to connect with God in worship. In fact, a couple of the songs (e.g., "Famous For (I Believe)" and "Done") need to be circulated across the worship of churches as they showcase some of the best (and touching) specimens of what surrendered-worship sounds like.
Packed with 13 new songs (5 of which have already been released as singles over the course of last year), there are some songs that are off the charts stellar, some that are good, and then there are some fillers. Let's start with those in the A-list. The aforementioned Wells' duet with Jenn Johnson "Famous For (I Believe)" is a bold and potent spiritual war-cry . Here Wells and Johnson call upon God to do what He's famous for, i.e., saving his people. The melodic progression from the delicate verses into its epic-sounding chorus where God is gloriously invoked is sublime. "Done" has a striking similarity to "Famous For" except this time, it's a beautiful homily about the finished work of Jesus on the Cross. "Miracle" is a song Michael Jackson would covet in his prime. With those MJ-signatured "oohs" and those staccato beats reminisce of those in the king of pop's "Dirty Diana," "Miracle" has a throwback vibe that makes it irresistible.
Moving on to those songs that not necessary earth shattering, yet they are still good, includes "Like You Love Me." Coached within a sunny beat and a groovy beat, "Like You Love Me" is a definite radio darling. Despite Kirk Franklin's somehow obtrusive vocal jabs, "Millionaire" which clocks in at less than three minutes, has no wasted notes. We get to hear more of Wells' heart with the piano-based "Trenches." This is a meditative prayer that give careful exposition to the truth of what it means to find refuge in God. The R&B-inspired ballad "Perfect Peace" also tackles along the same lyrical trajectory and is equally heartfelt.
Nevertheless, the album would have received an even higher grade, if the album were a little tighter. "Carry On" has a striking resemblance to "Done" and "Trenches." Other than the fact that all three songs are piano-driven ballads, these trio of songs seem to progress along a similar template. Country music supergroup Rascal Flatts show up on what is a tedious effort of a song in the poorly written "Until Grace." The song seems to meander and meander despite the fine expressive vocals of Rascal Flatts. While the title cut "Citizen of Heaven" isn't exactly paltry; it's a tad too vanilla and not too memorable.
Despite not being a perfect record, "Citizen of Heaven" is still a great Christian pop-centric record. Those whose sonic diet is in today's CCM will love many of the offerings here. On top of that, songs such as "Famous For (I Believe)" and "Done," shouldn't just be heard on CCM radio. Rather, they need to be sung across churches in the worship of our Almighty God.