Sappy, sultry, even sexy, Amy Grant’s 18th album, Simple Things, is not for junior high girls. Easily misunderstood, like Grant herself, the intimate lyrics of these 10 new songs require an audience with an open mind and an open heart.

Admittedly, it may be difficult for fans who grew up on the innocent, hope-filled Grant of My Father’s Eyes, Age To Age, Unguarded and Lead Me On to listen to “Beautiful,” a song that speaks of both the dreams and sorrows of a broken relationship. Ironically, the guest vocalist for this duet is Grant’s second husband, Vince Gill. As if they knew this could again stir up the now five-year-old controversy that has surrounded Grant’s divorce and re-marriage, the next song, “Out In The Open,” speaks of forgiveness, freedom and healing. Especially pointed is the verse, “But I will be a witness that / There’s nothing in me dark enough / The power of forgiveness / Cannot rescue from the deep / So I’m standing here and spinnin’ round /In the fields of freedom /And I’m still alive and reachin’ out / And I can feel the healing.” The song then leads into the chorus, which ends: “Come on out… /Out into the light / There is no jury /There is no judge / Ready and waiting / Are the steady arms of love.”

Even for those unconcerned with Grant’s personal life, this album is acutely personal. From the reflective optimism of “Eye To Eye” to the steamy love song, “Every Time We Touch,” Grant has laid bare her soul in nearly every lyric. Even the two she did not pen herself, “Beautiful” and “Innocence Lost,” are strikingly autobiographical. Strangely out of place, however, is the candy-coated lead track, “Make You Happy.” The chorus seems to imply that the way to overcome arguments and a troubled past is to “… tell you you’re my man / ‘Cause it makes you happy.”

Musically, however, the album does reflect the blithe attitude of “Make You Happy.” Even the weighty themes of love lost, forgiveness found and second chances sought cannot overshadow the warm, breezy pop that has become Grant’s signature. Whether listeners prefer the techno-pop and whimsical melodies of the title track or the simpler combination of acoustic guitar and quiet vocals found in “After The Fire,” Grant has again managed to offer up a project with broad appeal.

Most striking is the variety of sounds, tempos and moods that transition seamlessly throughout the album. It starts off with an almost country-pop sound in “Make You Happy,” and then flows into techno with distorted vocals in “Eye To Eye” that are reminiscent of Cher’s hit, “Life After Love.” And while Grant’s voice doesn’t do justice to the smoldering passion of “Every Time We Touch,” its rhythmic, lilting melody leads nicely into the Celtic flutes that float in and out of “Innocence Lost.”

Perhaps we owe this variety to the long wait that followed her last album of all-new material (Behind the Eyes, 1997). Three years in the making, Simple Things had time to benefit from extensive collaboration: four producers, six co-writers and more than a dozen musicians. Chances are, it will take a lot less time to become a best-seller.

Copyright © 2004 Christian Music Planet, used with permission.

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