Prime Cuts: Pray It Up, Settle, Back Where I Started
Overall Grade: 3/5
Joel Vaughn hits a number of high points with his new record "Control Vol.1." The EP, which is the first of a two part volume, contains 5 new songs. This is also Vaughn's third record to be released under the imprint of DREAM Records. For starters, this record ought to gain currency with lovers of today's pop music. If you like the fresh bouncy beats of Top 40 radio, there's much to enjoy here. Never a morose moment or any hints of dateness, this is the type of Christian music that won't bring embarrassment to an average teenager.
To add further heft, the lyrics of these newly written 5 tracks are by no means borderline inspirational (where the song's pronoun can refer to a human beau or Jesus). Vaughn's lyrics are explicitly Christian and titulars such as "Pray It Up" and "Joy" are illustrations of this observation. This time round, he has stretched himself to tackle more challenging topics such as waiting on God ("Always on Time"), making Godly decisions ("Settle") and suffering ("Joy").
On the other hand, there are a few factors that discount the overall utility of the record. First, the songs themselves don't bear much individualities. Many of them flow from one into another without much distinctions. Perhaps, the track that breaks away from Vaughn's overused pop-centric template is "Back Where I Started," where the use of variegated drum beats is of note. Second, Vaughn does make lots of excellent (and right) theological assertions on a whole host of topics. But one doesn't feel like he has wrestled with Scripture enough. We hear a lot of borrowed phrases from contemporary preachers, most glaringly the title "Pray It Up," but we don't hear too many scriptural echoes.
This album will gain traction here and now, especially with younger fans, but will this album have longevity? Will these songs be remembered 20 years from now? Unless Vaughn sharpens his vocabulary to reflect more of scripture fashioned in memorable ways and crafts tunes that bow less to the mere contemporary, one is sad to say, this EP is fairly forgettable.