Another Successful Reinvention | Posted August 16, 2012 Staff Reviewer
It’s near impossible to pinpoint one achievement CCM legend tobyMac HASN’T accomplished in his career. GRAMMYs, Dove Awards, multi-platinum sales, books, magazine spreads, TV appearances, movies, even his own record label. You name it, Toby McKeehan has probably been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt. Crazy to think this whole journey started with humble beginnings in a dorm room at Liberty University with dcTalk almost 25 years ago.
Having made a name for himself as a solo artist over the course of the ever changing music scene, Toby has been able to successfully do what few have: reinvent himself time and time again without missing a beat. From the thick hip-hop rhythms on 2001s Momentum, to the pop friendly stylings found with 2010’s Tonight, it almost seems as if he can do no wrong. Needless to say, when tobyMac announces he’s working on a new project, the industry pays attention, as do his faithful legion of diehard fans.
Coming just two years after his last release--a miracle for his notoriously long recording standards--2012’s Eye On It has taken shape not only as one of Toby’s most musically whimsical projects, but one of his most passionate.
“‘Eye on it’ is simply a phrase used to mean ‘stay focused on what really matters,’” he explains. “My relationship with Christ and the calling He has placed on my life is what matters to me and what I’m trying to keep my eye on.”
Melodic pop smash “Me Without You” starts the project on an infectiously catchy note, and keeps the same fun yet chill pace through the next track, “Steal My Show.” The song is an invitation to the Creator to come and interrupt our lives, ultimately allowing Him have His way in us.
Picking up the pace, the title track “Eye On It” serves as the most rambunctious song on the record, and one of his best to date. Taking the album’s main theme of keeping our eyes on the prize, it’s nearly impossible to keep your feet from moving, and chances are you’ll be singing along with the contagious chorus after only a few seconds.
“Forgiveness” takes us back to Toby’s hip-hop roots, and features a great appearance by acclaimed rapper, Lecrae. The tune talks about man’s struggle with guilt, but shares that even when we throw stones at ourselves for bad choices, God’s forgiveness still rings true. It‘s a message every listener will be able to relate to.
“Speak Life” again showcases a fresh melodic pop sound, while lyrically, is taken straight from the Bible, reminding us how powerful our words are and how we should chose to speak life even into deadest of situations: “Lift your head a little higher / Spread your love like fire / Hope will fall like rain when you speak life with the words you say.”
Again delving into the waters of the chaotic, “UnStoppable”--featuring guest vocals from Blanca Callahan of Group 1 Crew--serves as an anthem that boldly declares we will go against the flow of this world. The musically on-par “Lose Myself” opens with a beautiful piano piece, but picks up speed along the way, becoming a progressive moment of total surrender to God.
“Family” is one of the deepest on this project, both musically and lyrically. It tells the story of a couple ready to throw in the towel on their marriage, only to come to the conclusion that while it won’t be easy, their family is worth fighting for: “So are we still trying or simply surviving? / Facing these giants / The bigger they are, the harder they fall / But I still believe in the dreams we’ve been dreaming / The hope that we’ve built on is never too far, it's never too far.”
The next two tracks serve as mini autobiographies. The groove driven “Thankful For You” written to thank his lifelong supporters for believing he could make music that could impact the kingdom, while “Made For Me” is a fun song written for his wife, Amanda. Recounting their love story, it playfully shares their differences, and how they cause them to love each other, brilliantly coining the word for their five half American, half Jamaican children--“Jamericans.”
The big surprise for longtime tobyMac fans will be “Mac Daddy (Tru’s Reality).” Though it’s only been a little while since we last heard from him, teenage truDog now almost mimes his father vocally. The quirky dubstep song humorously tells of Tru’s desperate need for cash to buy a MacBook. While it pulls on the sentimental heartstrings of fans to hear him so grown up, there’s no question it’s their best--and goofiest--father/son duet yet.
The album comes to end with the 1940s romp, “Favorite Song”, with reigning GMA New Artist of the Year, and Toby’s musical protégé, Jamie Grace, assisting on vocal duties. The lyrics liken our life to a musical composition, us singing our own melody before joining the harmonious family of God. It’s one of the best closing tracks I’ve heard on album in a while, taking you out on a cheerful and encouraging note.
tobyMac has reinvented himself yet again. Fun and chock full of deep spiritual moments, Eye On It once again proves why he is a force to be reckoned with in the music industry. While it might not break new ground, it establishes familiar ground in a fresh new way, and showcases a clearly evident musical maturity, this offering some of the best work melodically he’d ever done. Lyrically, the themes on this album dig a little deeper as well.
I would like to see him go back to his hip-hop roots a tad more with his next effort, seeing as it’s an aspect fans have grown to miss as he‘s pulled away from it more each album. Nevertheless, this is a masterful project and one that has been well worth the refreshingly short wait. This is without a doubt one of my top albums of the year and one of the “cant miss” CCM projects of 2012. Longtime fans won’t be disappointed, and those new to Toby’s music will be in for a treat. Take my word for it: this is one album you will definitely want to keep your eye on.