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Artist: Paul Alan
Label: Aluminum Records
I have to admit; when I first listened to Paul Alan’s cd I thought the Christian music community had gained another Plus One/ True Vibe-like wannabe N’Sync-er, guaranteed to sell a bundle of albums at the hands of adolescent girls. I must warn you that Paul Alan’s music is the epitome of “pop/rock.” I must also warn you that you will like it…a lot.
The former frontman of Nouveaux, Alan is no stranger to the Christian music world. With the release of And This Is How I Feel in 1996, Nouveaux appeared to be cutting a path to radio success with songs like “Maybe Tomorrow” and “If Only” before bowing out into the oblivion that is “former bands.” And while Alan’s Falling Awake is not totally Nouveaux-like material, his smooth, soaring tenor is more than worth the price of admission on Falling Awake, his first solo effort.
“She’s the Reason,” the first single released to radio and the opener, sports a deceptive title, and is only a love song in the context of that between God the Father and one of his creatures. Emphasizing the importance one person has in the eyes of God, in comparison to the oppressive forces of a fallen, uncaring world, Alan sings, “She’ll never be on the silver screen, but you’ll never see her cry, cause she knows that she’s an angel…she’s the reason Jesus came.” The song is straight-ahead, unadulterated pop/rock, but is completely irresistible and obnoxiously catchy.
“The Road Will Lead to You” follows next and has a "Maybe Tomorrow" feel, as Alan sings of the future mate he anticipates meeting. Lyrically, Alan shines on this song with phrases like “I’m wearing out faith like a pair of old shoes” and “I’m waiting for the night you wreck me with your smile.” Mixed with a passionate vocal delivery, I find it hard not to get lost in the message of the song that ordinarily may get relegated to a “sappy” status. Alan doesn’t just throw common “love song words” into a song; he relinquishes a part of himself, a hard thing to find in music of any kind.
“Leaving Lonely” is an up-tempo number that tells the story of a girl who’s “afraid of failure” and “afraid of fear,” and knows that “the past is a war that she’s never going to win.” Gradually, she finds her comfort and peace in Christ, giving him her burdens, and, in a sense, leaves the metaphorical town of Lonely. Alan’s voice rings over the instrumentation with a passionate, clear tone that makes the listen believe in Alan’s words.
“Carry Me” has a lullaby-like feel that rocks the listener into a trance of comfort and solitude, knowing that God will be present in every circumstance faced. “Rainy Days” finds Alan addressing the fragility of his own faith, singing, “Feels like rain; I just lost my faith again, and I’m sure I had it not a hour ago,” before pleading for Christ to restore him.
The album closes with the hidden track “Big Day Tomorrow,” which is a tribute to Alan’s mother, who raised him and his sister single-handedly. Alan’s mother is portrayed throughout the song as a “holy angel” who gave up her wings so that her children could “fly.” The child-like, acoustic song is another piece that shows who Alan is and almost left me feeling like I was intruding on something too personal.
On the downside, several of Alan’s songs begin to sound the same after awhile, but in some cases you won’t care. It is just honest pop/rock that will make you want to roll down your windows and go for a drive. However, many of his songs, especially toward the middle of the album, conform to a particular “verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, keychange, chorus” mentality that becomes very predictable and tiresome. In addition, the instrumentation doesn’t always get the attention it needs and takes a backseat to the lyrics quite often.
However, one thing that I respect about Alan is that he doesn’t think that he can offer a solution to a person’s problem with a bumper sticker-type mentality in the three minutes it takes to sing a song. Instead, he wants to address the issues at hand by asking the right questions to lead the listener to a resolution. It’s rare to find an artist like this, who displays actual artistry in their craft. opening up their struggles and shortcomings to the world and honestly saying, “I don’t have all the answers, but I know Who does.”
Overall, Falling Awake succeeds because it pulls off the Christian pop/rock style without presenting it in a vacuum-packaged, cheese-ified, “Christianity in a box” approach that has become typical in an arena of artists, eager to tell Whose they are, but afraid to admit who they are.
Matthew D. Williams 10/14/2001
I was listening to Sting's Mercury Falling album for the first time, and enjoying it, but when I heard the fourth and fifth songs, "I Was Brought to My Senses" and "You Still Touch Me", I almost smacked my own face in disgust. A couple of sappy songs almost ruined an otherwise excellent record!
Well, I had a similar experience when I got Paul Alan's debut solo recording, Falling Awake. Alan was the lead vocalist of the defunct Christian band Nouveaux. Overall, Alan proves to be a thoughtful songwriter and a talented vocalist, and the contemplative pop production of his album is definitely good, but there are a couple of songs that are just plain dumb.
The album opener and first single, "She's the Reason," first made me interested in Falling Awake. The lyrics are encouraging without being cheesy, and the tune is dangerously catchy. "The Road Will Lead to You" is an honest confession of Alan's longing for a wife, and boasts both honest lyrics and a sound reminiscent of Steven Curtis Chapman's album Speechless. Although I am usually not a big fan of the guitar driven adult contemporary/pop sound, this album is, for the most part, surprisingly appealing.
Just like Sting, however, Paul Alan's album is not without a few potholes. "The One Thing" is a good song but the chorus is painfully awkward. This song is excusable, but "Can't Live Without You" is the kind of song that makes many people so skeptical about the quality of Christian music. It sounds like the lyrics all come from Christian bumper stickers.
Overall, Paul Alan's album is pretty good, and should definitely appeal to fans of Steven Curtis Chapman and his ilk. Just make sure the skip button on your CD player works before spending any money on the CD.
Josh Hurst 10/27/2001