Disclaimer: All views presented in this Album Review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O
Shonlock may not be a household name across the country, but if you have any connection to a church with a youth group that attended a conference, seminar, or retreat with music playing, or a concert involved, you have heard his voice on songs for years. Former hypeman of TobyMac, Shonlock has released a follow up album to Never Odd or Even, which contained a big hit with “Something in Your Eyes.”
If you have heard any of his past music, or anything he has done with TobyMac, then you may know that by purely association, there has been criticism towards the inspirational/contemporary genre as a whole for not being as hard hitting with the Gospel as others think they should; claiming that it’s just music about being “happy and positive”, but I believe that this album did a great job of representing its genre, representing Shonlock’s community, and was clear in its message.
A Night To Remember is a project that does a good job of speaking for itself, while representing Shonlock’s heart of ministry transparently. Overall, this album helped me see past whatever I could possibly think God centered music should sound like, to get a clearer picture of how God works beyond the box we put Him in. First, lets breakdown the mindset of Shonlock’s approach to creating A Night To Remember.
Merriam Webster defines Inspiration as: “a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation.” A handful of radio stations that play contemporary Christian music label themselves as inspirational and uplifting, as well as artists who may be Christian but may not be doing the traditional style of “Gospel” music. But, by no means would any of these inspirational artists say that their music was any less about God and their experiences with Him. Admittedly, there was a time when I used to be one of the people that thought inspirational music was too soft and “didn’t have enough Jesus”. In the past few years or so, I had decided to take a step back to see the way the Lord was using people in unique ways to reach the diverse world we live in, especially through various styles of music. This decision gave me a better understanding of the usefulness of inspirational music.
Now, Shonlock comes from the TobyMac camp, arguably one of the most successful contemporary Christian/inspirational artists of the this generation (and half of the previous one). Whatever formula they have – it works, and the excellence in the craft shows with the height of production value. But moreover, after hearing how good the album sounded, in the songs, I could hear the direction of all the song concepts. While they can sound like the topics are vague or just about lofty subjects, as a Christian, I could clearly tell that he wasn’t talking about universal love or things of that nature.
For example, I could tell that Shonlock is talking about being on a path to destruction in a sinful lifestyle that he is not proud of in “Heartbreak.” I can also see that he was talking about how God’s love and grace swept him into the Lord’s arms in “Hurricane” or that “My Choice Is You” is a song written from God’s viewpoint to anyone doubting that God cares for them specifically. I get the feeling that Shonlock’s viewpoint is meeting people where they are without giving them too much to handle.
If we are honest with ourselves, this mindset could help many of our evangelistic tactics. I know we can be so full of the word and want to give people a full exegesis of the book of Romans, and why grace fulfilled the law etc etc, but the Bible says that world that we were sent out to reach doesn’t know Him. So, how can we reach them with conversations about stuff that is so deep, they’ll drown in it? Everyone’s gift has a place, and listening to A Night To Remember I gained a new appreciation for Shonlock’s gift because people who are looking for help from someone, and don’t know the Lord as well as me, will hear this album and at least be pointed in the right direction to come into a relationship with God for themselves.
It touches a lot of the beginning level issues of a new Christian, or someone teetering on the fence to truly giving their life over to the Lord. I believe this can easily become the soundtrack for someone newly saved, and who is looking for some encouragement during the rough days of their transition into coming to Christ.
I spoke earlier about how the production value of this album is on point. It doesn’t lack anything at all really. Every song sounds like it could be on mainstream radio, and I’m very serious about that. Some of the upbeat EDM songs, like the title track “A Night to Remember”, or “We Walk on Water”, sound like something you could hear on any top pop radio station in the top 10 countdown, except with a God centered theme. That also brings the performance value of the songs to a high rate of intensity. I’ve seen Shonlock perform live at a youth rally in my area, and after hearing “A Night To Remember”, I would say that all but two of the songs would be perfect to perform live in an arena full of youth groups.
There are some songs more upbeat, some songs that slow it down for a little break, and some with the capacity to get a crowd rowdy and hype, but no matter the difference, all of them are just big and full. My personal favorite is “Transformed” (featuring TobyMac), possibly because being transformed is a testimony of mine, but a large part is that its got such a big sound, so I genuinely want to see this song performed live in an arena so that I can rock to it. If you love those kind of songs that you can blast in your speakers, let the bass bang, and jump around to, you’re going to enjoy a lot of songs on this album because that seems to be what Shonlock is good at.
A Night To Remember is an album for the “beginner” Christian, for the “intermediate” Christian, and for the music loving “advanced level” Christian. Anyone at any stage in their faith can connect with a minimum of 7 of the songs, and it’s always a plus when you can make a listener connect with the music because of their own life experiences.
The benefit of Shonlock’s music is that even though it does fit the bill of a radio pop hit, the perspective of Christ follower makes the song content more desirable in comparison to the pedestrian songs that I hear on the radio about random partying and turning up. If you, or anyone else you know, has been looking for great quality alternatives to what the secular world offers, than I recommend A Night To Remember by Shonlock.
A Night To Remember is now available for purchase on iTunes.