Just when you think you are hearing another clichéd love song, Mat Kearney masterfully crafts lyrics that stands out as unique yet are universally true. His songs explore love without celebrating the unrealistic perfect partner, and at the same time they don’t despair of the possibility of any sort of long-lasting intimacy. His songs mirror contemporary examples of biblical love.
“Better Than I Used to Be,” the first track on his new album, CRAZYTALK, looks at the tension of pursuing dreams, and, in that pursuit, being away from the ones you love. While many other pop songs portray material possessions and passionate relationships as the ultimate pursuit, Kearney makes it clear that these things aren’t all they seem in songs like “Money” and in the lyrics “Richer than Solomon with you by my side” in “Kings & Queens.”
It becomes clear that Kearney is singing from a very personal place when the same vehicle, a Honda Accord, appears in different songs as he reminisces about the struggles and beauty in human relationships. The song “Changes” explores these struggles when it looks at broken relationships, concluding that “growing up breaks you down.” “Keep on Loving You” engages with the struggles found within relationships when it explores the anatomy of a fight between lovers.
Two tracks on this album stand above the rest. “Wanted Man” has a beautiful aesthetic quality with simple instrumentation and lyrical hooks that draw the listener back to it again and again. Kearney’s ability to tease out an analogy to completion is illustrated as he sings, “I ain't old Butch Cassidy or Sundance Kid, but I stole your heart with a just one kiss,” ending the chorus with “You make me feel like a wanted man.”
The other track is “Face to Face,” perhaps the most overtly spiritual track on the album. Kearney sings of the draw toward a future face-to-face relationship with the one of power, life, forgiveness, and love. This song can be read several different ways by the listener but the overall imagery and direction of language paints a picture of someone earnestly seeking a relationship with their Creator.
Consider the chorus:
I feel your thunder pourin' like rain Down on the mountains of all my mistakes Rolling like rivers, running with grace Into the ocean of your embrace Your hand on my side, leading the way. Ten thousand horses couldn't pull me away. I hear the music Heaven has made. Oh when we're standing, standing Face to face.
Mat Kearney is an underrated musician who has proven his musical ability, starting as an acoustic hip-hop artist and developing into a pop artist who expertly borrows from multiple genres, including reggae (“Don’t Cry For Me”). CRAZYTALK is an excellent album for Christians looking for encouragement in their personal relationships. Kearney has experienced awkward fights, lonely times during traveling separation, and financial struggles. He has written about those experiences as well as the immense value of cultivating these relationships. Beyond that, he inspires listeners to pursue a close relationship with their Creator. (Tomorrow Music)