Jon McLaughlin makes piano rock for God

by Beacon Staff • January 31, 2007

It would, after all, allow us to use any or all of these following jabs. This album: (a) lets us know where Nick Lachey has been in the past year; (b) proves that you can fill up an entire piano-driven album with a severe allergy to the black keys on the piano; (c) write lyrics to a major label release with nothing but collected lines from the climax of The Notebook.,It would be a lot easier to take Jon McLaughlin's Indiana as some dime-a-dozen, mediocre, Maroon 5-wannabe pop music. Really, it would save a ton of time.

It would, after all, allow us to use any or all of these following jabs. This album: (a) lets us know where Nick Lachey has been in the past year; (b) proves that you can fill up an entire piano-driven album with a severe allergy to the black keys on the piano; (c) write lyrics to a major label release with nothing but collected lines from the climax of The Notebook.

But when listening to this Indiana native's Island Records debut, there's a pretty strong feeling that Jon McLaughlin is trying to sneak something past us.

It's not so easy to hear in the opener "Industry" because it's the album's best track and is actually worth listening to. "Beautiful Disaster" isn't altogether too awful, either.

But somewhere around the middle of the album, something becomes glaringly apparent: this is probably Christian music.

Thirteen songs, almost all of them in the key of C. The Harry Connick, Jr. impression on practically every track. The heavy string synthesizers in every bridge. The lyrics in the cleverly titled "People," where, McLaughlin pines, "people doing better / people needing more ... people saving money / people saving things." Very anti-usury of him.

Then there's the song, "Praying to the Wrong God."

This is definitely Christian music.

Mind you, this isn't a bad thing. Thinly veiled Christian rock can work if done properly (see: Buckley, Jeff).

The problem lies in what this CD is supposed to be. The Island press material flaunts the fact that McLaughlin sounds like a mix between Billy Joel and Ben Folds. Lofty expectations, really, for a guy who sounds more like a pubescent Aaron Carter in a Megachurch.

Worse yet is the complete lack of a reference to McLaughlin's blatant religious undertones. Island makes no reference to any holy influences; not a hymn in sight. If McLaughlin is going to write half of his album about the Almighty, the label should at least let us know what we're in for.

However, an Anderson, Indiana Herald Bulletin article provided by Island finally provides some proof in the pious pudding.

"His senior year," the paper reports, "he started to play the keyboard with his youth-group worship band."

Great. It's not just bad Christian rock, it's bad high school Christian rock.

So should Island be punished for not making this a little bit clearer? Is Jon McLaughlin subliminally trying to push the Evangelical agenda?

The better question: Who cares?