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Religious pop

Phil Wickham
Phil Wickham
By Phil Wickham

Simple Records / Sony: 2006

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This review first appeared in the May 1, 2006 issue of the North County Times.

If you didn't speak English, you'd never know that San Diego's Phil Wickham is a Christian musician: The songs on his new album are a finely tuned mixture of post-grunge, alternative and melodic pop. But definitely not ecclesiastical.

Even those who do speak English will recognize that Wickham could make a lot more money by dropping the Christian content in his lyrics and going MTV. He has a strong voice, somewhere between Bono's and that of the late Freddy Mercury. And he writes radio-friendly, hook-filled songs seemingly made for arena and stadium audiences to sing along to. In fact, "Messiah" has such dramatic buildup and epic feel that it sounds like a lost U2 song.

But Wickham's music is unalterably, unapologetically Christian. If not praise music that would fit in a Sunday service, the lyrics are nevertheless firmly focused on Wickham's deep faith.

Anyone uncomfortable with someone else's displays of faith may not be able to get past Wickham's devotion. Those who share his faith or are at least tired of hearing selfishness glorified in pop music are bound to be captivated by the luscious melodies, inspired performance and top-notch production.