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Album review: TobyMac, "Tonight"

By Allison Stewart

If Christian rock were like actual rock, TobyMac would be Chris Daughtry. A former member of celebrated trio DC Talk and now a solo star in his own right, he's one of the few Christian rock artists a secularist might have actually heard of.

"Tonight," TobyMac's awkward, endearing new disc, wants to be everything to everyone: It's a jumble of Auto-Tuned faux alt-rock ("Tonight"), kiddie rap ("Loud N Clear," which features an appearance from half-pint MC/TobyMac offspring TruDog '10), choppy funk rock ("Changed Forever") and even reggae ("Break Open the Sky").

("Funky Jesus Music," after the jump.)

Christian rock used to be justifiably notorious for its insularity and cheesiness, but after the crossover success of bands like Evanescence and Switchfoot, audiences are savvier than they used to be. They probably realize by now that TobyMac makes for the world's least convincing hipster, and that tracks like the Black Eyed Peas-evoking "Funky Jesus Music," with its basketball metaphors and baffling "Jesus blazer" references, just make things worse.

TobyMac is a gifted melodicist - there may be no contemporary Christian rocker better at writing hooks - but an inconsistent stylist. "Tonight" is less an album than a collection of clashing genres that adults think "the kids" are into. The less-adorned tracks (like the hook-a-minute "Get Back Up") can be, well, heavenly; the gimmicky ones, like the funk-ish "ShowStopper," on which TobyMac unconvincingly sing-raps ("You came to ride the highs of this junk / Baby, we came to guarantee the big krunk") are wince-inducing.

Recommended tracks: "City on Our Knees," "Get Back Up"

By David Malitz  |  February 9, 2010; 7:30 AM ET
Categories:  Quick spins  | Tags: TobyMac  
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Why must cross-over lyrics/hooks be deemed "cheesy?" When one secular rapper samples lyrics from another contemporary or bygone lyricist we often celebrate this as clever or provocative. I can't help but think that Christian musicians have been thoughtlessly relegated to a bone yard of non-relevancy simply because of their faith.
I believe taking a secular reference that glorifies self-indulgence and turning it on its head to glorify something higher requires significantly more brainpower than reusing it to insult or give a shout out to some cronie.
In-album musical variety is what is totally missing from music today! After one album from an average artist you may as well not buy another because you know exactly what you're gonna get. With Toby, however, his variety and the personal joy that ooze from his songs are precisely what makes him so enjoyable. I hope that people con break away from stereotyping Christians the same way they wish not to be stereotyped themselves.

Posted by: njsorrell1 | February 10, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

With all due respect, I think this review missed the mark. I'm baffled actually why Toby's lyrics are looked upon as less authentic, or as something "adults think the kids are into?"

Why? Because he's a white Christian so we automatically assume this really isn't his scene or that rap can't possibly be his thing? Where have ya been? Mac didn't just jump into this music lately, this is where he's been all along. As a musician and as a person. His music has been on the underscore of movies, sports highlights and more, for years.

Is this his best album? I actually don't think so, but to dismiss Mac as being a "less convincing hipster?"

Please. That was a ridiculous statement. It would be the same as saying Steve Nash is a gifted basketball player but a less convincing Canadian...

Posted by: southcentral | February 13, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

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