Album Review: Plus One, “Obvious” (2002)

Plus One’s debut album, The Promise, was really, really bad. The CD was filled with poorly written songs, cheesy synthesized beats, and over-produced vocals. It’s a wonder that I wanted to buy their sophomore album, Obvious, but I remember purchasing it when it was released all the same.

Luckily, the results faired a lot better than the debut CD. With an established fan base and a gold album under their belt, band members ( Nate Cole, Gabe Combs, Jeremy Mhire, Jason Perry and Nathan Walters) had more say in their sound, and even went as far as writing and producing a few tracks on the album, which resulted in a new, edgier sound, and more mature lyrics.

The album starts off with Camouflage, which instantly highlights the band’s new sound. The song has some gritty guitar hooks that sound similar to songs from some of the mainstream boybands at the time (Nsync, Backstreet Boys, O-Town, etc), and even the vocals sound a bit similar. The guys sing about not wanting to hide their love for God, and it provides a nice opener to the disc.

One of my favorite songs is the second track on the album, Use Me. The tempo slows down a bit for this track about finally giving in and committing yourself to letting God use you for His will (“Use me/Teach me/I want to go wherever you need me/Take me/Lead me/’Cause I know in my soul that/You won’t deceive me”). Under The Influence sounds a bit similar to the album’s opener, with more heavy guitars and drum loops. Cole’s voice is a bit whiny during the verses, but the rest of the guys do a nice job with backing vocals. The song is about resisting society’s negative influence and looking to God, and somehow it works well without being preachy or condescending.

Another song that’s similar in subject matter is the upbeat I Don’t Care. Boasting an extremely catchy and bold chorus (“I don’t care what it takes/I don’t care who it shakes/I don’t care what they say/I’m gonna do it your way/Even if I’m afraid, don’t wanna make you look fake/I don’t care about anything it’s not about me”), the guys plainly send the message across that aren’t afraid or ashamed of glorifying God. It’s easily another one of the stand-out tracks on the album.

Obvious Tour

Kick Me continues with another guitar-driven melody. This time around the guys are busy confronting judgmental “friends” (“Why can’t you be there for me?/A friend is nowhere to be found/Why do you kick me when I’m down?/…if you ain’t so perfect/Then don’t throw another stone at me”), though after a few minutes, the repetitive chorus becomes annoying.

Combs wrote and produced Start To Fly. The sound changes up a bit here, with more piano (and even strings), and this is the only song on the album that even gives the tiniest glimpse of what to expect on Plus One’s third (and unfortunately, final) release, Exodus. Cole’s vocals are very soothing and clear as he convinces a friend to trust and open himself up to God.

Another of my favorites is Going Crazy. The song starts off very quiet and slow, then builds up towards the choruses with a loud and throbbing beat that automatically grabs the listener’s attention. Lyrics like “I can’t pretend that I don’t need you/With all the stuff in my life I just don’t know what to do/Every time I’m afraid of what’s in front of me/You keep me from goin’ crazy” address the fact that even when we think we are independent from God’s help, we’ll eventually come to a breaking point where all we can turn to is Him. There’s a musical break towards the end of the song, where Cole cries out “Lord, I need You!”; a sentiment that most Christians can typically relate to.

My favorite song on the album, however, is You, a subdued ballad. Composed of light background music and soft vocals, musically the song isn’t much different than Nsync’s This I Promise You (or any other typical boyband ballad), but the lyrics are what drew me to the song. The song starts off with someone completely independent in themselves (“I only needed myself/To get me through my life”), until they realize that God is missing in their life (“There’s just one reason my world’s changed/It was You”). The simple chorus (“I want/I need/I crave/I breathe/I feel/I hold/I dream/I know/I trust/I love/You”) provides the perfect choice for worship music; the song is, simply put, a love song to God.

Of course, where would a Plus One album (or any boyband album) be without more ballads? Let Me Be The One is an R&B infused track that’s nothing more than filler. Calling Down An Angel is a bit better lyrically (about praying for a friend in need), but is a dud musically. Forever sounds like a handful of the ballads on the group’s debut CD (it most reminds me of Be), and isn’t really worth listening to.

The last redeeming ballad is the album’s closer, Who Am I?. The track has a gospel touch to it, which provides a nice and refreshing change. Humility is the key to this song, as the guys ask themselves “Who am I/That You know me by name/That You call me friend/Invite me in/To be with You”, and later rexamine themselves and realize that they are nothing without God’s love. It’s a wonderfully touching track to end the album.

Plus One’s sophomore release is a much welcomed departure from their debut album. The result is an album full of more mature songs, better written lyrics, and an overall improved sound.

Rating: 200px-4_stars.svg

Track Listing
1. Camouflage
2. Use Me
3. Let Me Be The One
4. Under The Influence
5. You
6. I Don’t Care
7. Kick Me
8. Going Crazy
9. Start To Fly
10. Calling Down An Angel
11. Forever
12. Who Am I

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHqNqLdL_xo]
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