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THRIVE (2002)
Thrive - Click to view! Let's face it. For the last four years, the Newsboys have slipped from being one of the most favored Christian bands in the industry to a mass-producing factory of cheese-pop. To be more precise, limburger cheese-pop. Quite honestly, I expected more of the same from their latest release, Thrive, which is hailed to be their best album yet. While it's definitely not their greatest, it's good...semi-decent even.

Something made clear by this album is the realization that the old Newsboys style is never coming back. Future hits will never reach the pinnacles seen by "Shine," "Breakfast," or even "Not Ashamed." The band's new edge, however, promises hope for future albums. Thankfully, Steve Taylor is back on producing detail. Gone are the days of Love, Liberty Disco garbage; time to welcome fresh rock such as the opener "Giving It Over," which features an 80s-ish hard-hitting guitar loop and best of all, no trace of synthesizers anywhere. Following in similar suit is the sure-to-be fan favorite "Live In Stereo," a chipper tune reminiscent of "Breakfast," that includes a whole bridge of la-las. "Cornelius" also promises to woo listeners with a beat that sounds like something from a football game halftime show. Other than that, the song itself is flat out hilarious to the point where it makes absolutely no sense, throwing in one-liners about Cheerios and the unforgettable "His meal is real." Then, after quickly developing an aire of seriousness, the Newsboys jam out on "The Fad of the Land," discussing how today's pop culture has pulled us in and made us blind to the standards God would have us live by. This track nearly resembles something put out by All Star United with the whole resonating metal guitar bit and even including their trademark "hoo-hoos" in the background. Listeners who recall "Hallelujah" from their Step Up to the Microphone album will instantly click with the electric dance club groove and thumping bassline of "John Woo."

Thrive not only promises another arsenal of rock tunes; the CD has its softer, meaningful moments as well. In fact, the title track itself is a prayer to God in the vein of "Believe" (again, from the Step Up to the Microphone days) that desperately asks God to "lift me up with tender care wash me clean in the palm of your hands / hold me close so I can Thrive / when you touch me, that's when I know I'm alive." Preceding "Thrive" is the jumpy third track "Million Pieces (Kissin' Your Cares Goodbye)," a relaxing piece about giving your burdens up to God. "It Is You," the band's first worship song and radio single, has an incredible melancholy sound outside of the chorus and in actuality is probably the most disappointing track on the disc. However, "Rescue" picks things back up, sporting the more familiar cheese-pop likeness the Newsboys have been carrying around for quite some time. It seems like they just can't shake that off completely, but the lyrics about God rescuing His children in times of trouble makes the song worth a listen, and even somewhat enjoyable. "Lord (I Don't Know)" finally rounds out the ten tracks on Thrive, mimicking the pulsating chord progressions from "Always" (ANOTHER Step Up... track). In it, the band admits they honestly don't know what direction their ministry is headed, but they put trust in Jesus that everything will work out and praise Him for His unending peace that surpasses all understanding. It's a perfect note to end on.

While the Newsboys still have quite a climb ahead of them before they ever regain the identity they used to have for pumping out superior rock music, Thrive is evidence that they've already departed for the journey. It's not too good or too bad, but it's decent enough to please. Newsboys, my faith in you has been restored.
- Rick Foux
March 2002
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