Own It or Disown It: #281: Amy Grant, Behind the Eyes

OwnItorDisownIt

The Christian music icon's highest-charting album turned twenty years old this month.

I’m closing in on three hundred of these write-ups, and that’s kind of weird to me. I remember when I was closing in on fifty and thinking that how unlikely it would be for me to reach two hundred. I’ve been doing this for a long enough period of time that my approach and style have seen measurable change over the years, to the point that rereading old columns sometimes feels like I’m reading someone else’s work. It isn’t that I’ve changed my opinion on any of these albums*, but even the better old ones can have big holes in their reasoning. For instance, I stand by my sentiment in the write-up of Stacie Orrico’s Genuine that it is an enjoyable album I had a good time with, but I didn’t do the diligence of listening to comparable Christian music as maybe I wouldn’t be so hot on her music if there was even better work being done in CCM at the time. She was a fourteen-year-old young woman putting out her first album; surely there was better music being put out at the time.

So, yeah, four years removed from that write-up and I’m doing my diligence. If Amy Grant isn’t the most acclaimed and successful artist working in Christian music of all time, she’s undeniably the most acclaimed and successful woman working in the genre, having sold dozens of millions of albums, getting a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, and her work popping up over and over again in all assessments of the best Christian music of all time. She is to Christian pop what Jars of Clay is to Christian rock and Lecrae is to Christian hip-hop, and if you’re scratching your head at that assessment wondering how the band that did “Flood” could be mentioned in the same sentence as someone I just built up as one of the biggest names in her genre, congratulations, you’ve just gained an understanding of how insular the Christian music scene is. Seriously, I asked a whole bunch of people of broad tastes if they’ve ever heard of Amy Grant, and the only person who could answer in the affirmative responded with “Oh, yeah, isn’t she married to Vince Gill?”

I’ll cop to not knowing much about Grant’s music going into this week, so I opted to give her most commercially successful album a few spins. Behind the Eyes is her tenth album in twenty years of working in the music business in a professional capacity. It was made as her first marriage was coming to an end, and as significant shifts in an artist’s personal life usually coincide with a work of extreme quality, I braced myself to experience either a very good or hysterically terrible album. In that regard, Behind the Eyes defied my expectations.

From a strictly objective perspective, there’s no way I can say Behind the Eyes is a bad album. It’s rather good, actually, with solid instrumentation over a bunch of nice ditties that Grant does a good job of singing over. It is certainly better than that Meredith Brooks album I sort of praised a few weeks back. The thing is, though, that while Meredith Brooks’s Blurring the Edges is an interesting five out of ten, Behind the Eyes is a boring six. The worst tunes are serviceable, but even the best stuff here is unchallenging and lacking in any memorable qualities, work that is probably best served while you’re being served coffee. The most interesting moment here is the intro to “Takes a Little Time” as it promises a more interesting jam than the disposable tune that ensues.

In keeping with my insistence on diligence, I opted to listen to a little bit of another beloved Amy Grant album, 1988’s Lead Me On, and to be blunt, the title track of that album is far more interesting than the entirety of Behind the Eyes. I get how Eyes could be liked by some as it isn’t a terrible album by any stretch and that’s not something to cough at, but I’ve just started the part of the column where I assess the album and I’ve almost finished talking about it. It’s boring, it lacks personality, and listening to it gives no hint that the person behind the wheels is a big deal in her genre. In summary, listen to Stacie Orrico’s Genuine, that shit is really good.

VERDICT: DISOWN

*Okay, maybe the B. Dolan one.

Read past editions of Own It or Disown It.