Recently the Newsboys announced that Michael Tait would be taking over as their new lead singer. For those who have followed Christian music and all of its strange quirks, the pairing is something could only be contrived in dream sleep—whether it is a dream come true or a nightmare depends on your perspective. Michael Tait made a name for himself as a member of the multi-platinum rap-turned-rock-turned-pop DC Talk with his great voice and Lenny Kravitz-esque styling. The Newsboys made a name for themselves by, well…making sounds that Christian teenagers like to hear—not to discredit their contributions though, as they were one of the more creative Christian bands in the 1990s.
Both bands were lauded for doing what most other Christian bands couldn’t—be both unique and talented (not overly so, but more than the scene was accustomed to). Both bands went through some intriguing changes—Peter Furler took over as lead singer of the Newsboys in 1998 with the appropriately titled Step Up to the Microphone (he had been the drummer and primary songwriter). Furler was probably always considered the leader of the band; now, he was also the frontman. Additionally, Furler was the only original member of the band by that point, though Phil Joel, Jody Davis, and Jeff Frankenstein settled into permanent spots with Duncan Phillips taking over behind the drums for Furler. By 2002, Newsboys peeked creatively with Thrive. Subsequently, they jumped onto the praise and worship bandwagon that made Christian radio even more unlistenable with Adoration in 2003. Of course, this gave them the best sales of their career, but we all know that doesn’t necessarily mean quality. Arguably the most talented members of Newsboys, Phil Joel and Jody Davis left the band to pursue solo interests. But Newsboys was a cash cow not yet ready to meet demise.
DC talk on the other hand has had their history so well documented, it’s hardly worth mentioning here, but in summary, it can be said that the solo albums revealed that most of creative talent was tied to Toby Mckeehan’s pop sensibilities and Kevin Max’s unorthodox approach. Tait was responsible for bringing a nice voice and not much else.
Sadly, a great voice doesn’t take away from the ubiquitous blandness found in both Tait’s solo work and more recent Newsboys work. In an interview with Tait, the Newsboys, and several peer artists like Third Day, the new pairing of Tait with Newsboys has been likened unto a combination of Burger King and McDonalds—a super burger. An incredibly greasy burger that will clog your arteries and make you want to die, perhaps.
No friends, this is not the joining of two goods to form a greater one. This is the joining of two has-beens trying to survive in a collapsing market. This is the clinging to an audience that still exists but is too naïve to understand that this is neither the Newsboys nor the DC Talk of the 1990s. What should be done here? The Newsboys need to call it a career. On the other hand, this is an infinitively better career move for Tait—songwriting duties will still belong to Furler—and once again he will only have to provide a decent voice. I wince as I watch this pairing though; it’s just not right to fleece the flock like this. Newsboys should not have DC Talk songs in their setlist and Michael Tait should not be fronting an Australian band that has no original members left.