by: amica paige
I wouldn't call myself a Christian; I'd rather wait for Truth in the end to reveal what's beyond this fragile life, which is nevertheless sprinkled with beauty, peace, and joyful things, if we only cared enough to see that the glass is indeed half-full and not always view it from the top as half-empty and lacking. I consider myself a hopeful skeptic, an occasional atheist, a nature worshipper, and a lover of art, music, and words. In other words, I'm a doubting Thomas and a crumb-licking dog searching for home. I'm both spiritual and worldly, if there is such a separation. I regard myself earthy, since I, like you, am grounded by gravity no matter how different our spiritual takes are, and recognize that our only exit is exactly the only exit from this life—to dust.
Why the long intro just to review an album? Well, my theatrics lead to this: my general fondness for music. I keep my ears open—yes, even to those labeled as "Christian" music, which are sometimes disregarded, mocked, just plain hated, or unnecessarily worshipped even more so than the God in their message. I believe that music, in all its forms, opens the mind, touches the spirit, and pierces the soul, if it bears any substance at all. Having said all that, here is my experience with TobyMac's Christmas in DiverseCity, a collaborative album.
Words that came to mind upon the first listen:
Breezy, Jingly, Snappy, Dancy.
Melodic. A soulful variety.
Tender...yet hard enough to rock to or, as I prefer, dance to.
And after the 2nd and umpteenth plays, here's what I think:
Christmas This Year rings in beautifully with a smooth blend of Toby's arresting ease and Leigh Nash's angelic vocals—there she goes again!—complemented by the entrancing background piano.
The First Noel is a strong follow with a rhythmically captivating arrangement, while Mary's Boy Child is definitely one of my favorite songs in the album, as even a bitter soul may render this soothing tune as ear candy—a delicious mix of intoxicating calm and head sway.
I seriously would dance or jog to O Come, All Ye Faithful—alright, I actually did dance to it and would have also done the latter if I didn't have a problem with sweaty earbuds slipping from my ears. However, singing along to this euphonic tune can make one feel like a real phony, especially if you like to question the Being being sung about. I couldn't help it though. When a song is brilliantly executed with just the right amount of funk, a listener can get carried away.
Little Drummer Boy is rich in beats, yet manages to hold its footing quite well, not losing grip of its context in all the fun, whereas This Christmas (Father of the Fatherless) is a tuneful chant of its title in parenthesis.
Carol of The Kings is a finely crafted symphonic song, making it a real treat on that point alone. As an aside and not to discount the artist's own merit, the rapper sounds like Kanye West, whose rapping style, per se, I like.
Birth of Love exudes energy. I'd play this as a backdrop for a Holiday fashion show if I moved in that arena.
What Child is This? penetrates the way a song should...even if you didn't bother with Christ. Its musical strength can mesmerize.
It Snowed is rock, pure and simple. If guitar riffs could jolt you into head bobbing, you'd dig this. But I dance to the beat of brit pop and funky or entrancing songs, and relish the slightly tamer side of some alternative and indie tunes.
Angels We Have Heard On High presents yet another angelic voice, wrapped in heavenly harmony and goosebumps-inducing chorus, warmly tied with an instrumental ribbon. There is a bit of narrated biblical message later in the song, as a sidenote to those who just can't be bothered with it or those whose ears are simply numb to it.
Santa's Coming Back Around is a jazzy R&B, a style that doesn't quite stir my spirit, like rock music, and the outburst in the intro can be grating. Still, it's just my queer taste and certainly not a pompous or foolish attempt to disregard the artist(s). Ditto for Christmas Time which is another flavorful R&B, at least for those who jive with those beats.
To end, if music is chocolate, this is definitely a box worth grabbing this season. The only difference is, it would never run out on you. If likened to coffee, DiverseCity is a nicely brewed holiday album, infused with melodic ease, funk, and musical depth - elements that arguably prevent an album from turning into just another overprocessed junk in a music industry often stricken with a toxic tick that saps the sublime out of its pop music, leaving them as substanceless as soda pop, regardless of its spiritual angle, or lack of. I give this Christmas album a 9 3/4 out of ten stars, only because I'm still stuck at King's Cross and could never quite get to a perfection such as that of closure...wishing that the Great Hall had never closed its doors...
Perhaps, I should give DiverseCity a few more hundred listen to give it a perfect ten.