MercyMe: The Hurt and The Healer
Style: Adult contemporary; compare to Third Day, Jason Mraz, Casting Crowns
Top tracks: "To Whom It May Concern," "You Know Better," "You Are I Am"
It's been over a decade since MercyMe made Christian music history with their platinum mega-hit "I Can Only Imagine." It was the first Christian single to ever reach one million downloads. The success of the song was prophetic, paving the way for mainstream crossovers between the secular and Christian market for years to come. Wynona Judd even covered it. It begs the question: Would the worship-centric David Crowder Band have seen their last album debut at number one on the iTunes store had it not been for the trailblazing success of MercyMe? While other artists have come close, "I Can Only Imagine" set a bar so high in Christian music that even MercyMe has yet to top it.
The band's latest full length is just as excellent as anything they've released. With a foundation of uplifting melodies and lyrics grounded in biblical themes ("You're the one who conquers giants / You're the one who calls out kings / You shut the mouths of lions / You tell the dead to breathe / You're the one who walks through fire / You take the orphan's hand / You are the one messiah / You are I Am"), there's hardly a down moment. Whether singing these songs in a corporate worship service or alone on the drive to work, it is music that will remind Christians why God is good.
And yet, for all of the album's high moments, nothing comes close to the groundbreaking emotional power that "I Can Only Imagine" boasted. This is the limbo MercyMe seems to be in, but it might not matter. Singer Bart Millard's voice sounds as rich and strong as it ever has.
The album's opener, "You Know Better," reveals Millard's contentment, wisdom, and meek perspective—it's an assertively upbeat anthem for the struggling Christian: "You'd think I'd know by now / Who's running the show, and what really matters / I'm reminded; I'm not the one in control / I know you know better so why don't I go / Whenever you say come follow, whenever you lead."
This theme of humility carries throughout the album and is epitomized in the album's best track, "To Whom It May Concern," when Millard sings, "Breathe deep and believe that wherever you go / It don't matter how high, don't matter how low / It comes down to being found in who you know."
MercyMe is clearly a band intent on making music to and for God, and for that their work will never return void.
Copyright © 2012 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.