Album Review – Toby Mac – ***This is Not a Test***
In Britain we are okay with lyrics in popular music being about gang culture, murder, sex, drugs and so many other negative things, however, when it comes to a message of love, forgiveness and generally being a good role model we will give it the cold shoulder if it contains a Christian undertone. Why? Well, I haven’t got the answer to that, perhaps it offends more people that are offended by listening to the glorification of violence or drug taking, who knows?
Now the rant is over let me expand on why I have started an album review with such a statement. By being like this we are missing out on some of the most incredible music around, let’s take Toby Mac’s origins, he was launched into the public eye during the 1990’s as part of the band DC Talk, a Christian band who won no fewer than 4 Grammy Awards in the United States, they had numerous Billboard Top 100 singles and albums and were signed by Virgin. Yet did they make a dent in the UK charts? No, not at all. So we missed out on a whole load of great songs. Toby Mac then goes solo as DC Talk take a hiatus (which incidentally is ending with a cruise tour next year), his first album Momentum gets nominated for another Grammy in 2001.
Let’s fast forward to 2015 and the release of this latest album, This Is Not A Test, an album that has hit the top 5 in the US Billboard, won a Grammy and spawned four great single. This is the album I will be looking at today. A mix of hip-hop, pop and with bits of rock thrown in for good measure, this is an album you will love.
There are few albums that take my breath away, but this one does, it is truly genius, with eleven songs all with hit potential here in the UK. Kicking off with “Like a Match’, as soon as you reach the chorus it gives you a flavour for the rest of the album, it sticks in your head as every single track will. Pure Hip-Hop arrives next with ‘Backseat Driver’, this song introduces the beautiful voice of Hollyn, an artist signed up to Toby’s own label Gotee Records. Mix her vocals for the chorus with the rapping of Toby Mac and you have the perfect ingredients for a brilliant song.
Then comes the title track of the album, featuring Capital Kings. Here the music style moves to a more rock feel, with a taste of dance music and rap mixed in. Yes, you heard it right, all that mixed up in one tune. Next up is ‘Lights Shine Bright’, this sees the return of Hollyn’s engaging vocals, this track slows the album down a bit. Despite the album being all catchy, this is one of those tracks that doesn’t leave your head until you’ve played another song. So if you want to sleep at night without disturbing yourself by singing this to yourselves I suggest you make it the second last song you listen too before bed!
‘Till the Day I Die’ comes next, this is by far and away my favourite song from the album, it is utter brilliance personified, a song that has number 1 written all over it. It has everything, including an amazing rap solo by NF. Listen and see for yourself below!
If you like Justin Timberlake then you’ll love ‘Feel It’. A true pop classic, one of the singles from the album. This song features the unique and unusual Mr Talkbox, you have to hear it to see how such a thing fits into a pop song, but it really does. Another single follows on, ‘Move (Keep Walking)’ an inspirational song that does what it says on the tin, it keeps you motivated when you are at your lowest. Perhaps a song for a half-time team talk at a football match!
The latest single ‘Love Broke Thru’ is pure hip-hop with a beautiful chorus. Again a song that has huge hit written all over it. A brilliant message of the most perfect love story. All the singles seem to be together on this album, not sure if that was planned. The first single was ‘Beyond Me’ which is next up on the album, again a typical pop tune that has a slight rock feel in the chorus. If I am being brutally honest and had to pick one song that doesn’t make me say wow on this album then this is possibly it, although millions would disagree.
We come now to the surprise of the album, the song that made millions of people worldwide get very excited indeed, it was the return of DC Talk after 15 years. The song ‘Love Feels Like’ is typical of the most popular Christian band in history. It has everything, rock, hip-hop and pop all mixed up in DC Talks unique style. There is nothing to compare with the moment you hear them back together and they do it in style here.
The final two tracks are next, firstly ‘Undeniable’ which is a mellow, chilled out hip-hop track which shows off Toby’s immense vocal talents in the chorus. Finally, we have ‘Lift You Up’ featuring vocals of Ryan Stevenson, yet another artist on Gotee Records with a massive future. A great end to a fantastic album that I am confident would be a huge hit in the UK if only it was promoted well here.
We can, of course, buy it on iTunes or Amazon so I would recommend you do and fire it up to the top of the charts on our own.
As promised, here is my pick of the tracks, a big 5/5 on this one from me, this is ‘Till the Day I Die’