Amy Grant did this sort of thing a lot better, you know.
Edward Okulicz: Sure, this song has absolutely no bottom end whatsoever, but that’s pretty much standard for this kind of light-rock infused light-dance (and yes, DC Talk rocked harder while feeling it just as much) and it’s not without its melodic charm. In fact, “Me Without You” is professional, well-put together, modern, and hooky. If I were to say it’s a shining exemplar of a genre I can’t stand, you’ve got to remember that I don’t mean contemporary Christian music as a genre, I mean Maroon 5 as a genre. In light of this, its faults (too thin, too anaemic) are of design not incompetence. Still, there is competence here; even if there’s nothing to move your hips and ass to (dare I call it a Graham cracker of a pop song?), there’s enough to raise your hands to. Its parent album being the first Christian pop album to top the Billboard 200 is a curious quirk, but not inexplicable based on this.
Anthony Easton: Just so you know — for Mac “You” is not a lover but Jesus. There are some textual clues, not a lot of them, mostly around the idea of building my kingdom, instead of building His kingdom. CCM for a long time has been accused of completely co-opting secular music, with a fig leaf of culturally suitable divinity — what is dismissively called as Jesus is My Boyfriend Music. It has gotten really close to making it mainstream, but this is conceptually interesting for two reasons: (a) it is not an attempt to remake muscular Christianity via rock music (b) it is the most generic, and thus, most successful attempt at this — if we judge success to mean lyrics. Still, I wasn’t expecting something that sounded like teen pop — a genre still gendered femme — to do this well.
Iain Mew: If I hadn’t been already aware before listening that this was CCM I am quite certain I would have assumed it was a run-of-the-mill Owl City/Guetta hybrid taking a no more dim than normal approach to a romantic relationship. Mission accomplished, I guess. The particular medium its synth and drum sounds hit between 8-bit and full-sounding is a horrible one; it should sound bigger but the budget wouldn’t cover it.
Brad Shoup: It’s amazing that TobyMac is still doing this sort of thing at 47. In about a quarter of a century, his career path could be expressed thusly: Pantera’s Metal Magic x Ice T in Breakin’ x Robin Sparkles. With DC Talk, he was still rippity-rapping when even the Fresh Prince knew it was time to start calling out chumps. As a solo artist, he’s focused on building-block rap-rock and excruciating dips into reggae. (give him this, though — he did cover SoCal hip-hop/noise rock weirdos Soul-Junk) He’s never been less than sincere about whatever genre he’s using to reach the kids, five of whom are his own, which makes panning him all the less fun. Like much of TobyMac’s output the last couple years, “Me Without You” finds him squarely in the stylistic company of pop’s biggest blockheads. We have the crisp, triggered guitars, the house-pop breakdown wherein his filtered (and sweetened) voice floats to the surface, and a dyspeptic dubbish bass squonk. Charts, discographies, music videos: the lack of a collector’s impulse indicates an audience that sees CCM as a renewing spring of interchangeable product from artists – like Toby – who stay on top not from loyalty, but from name recognition. If he won’t lend his name to “Euphrates with the Golden Hands,” I’ll settle for “Lose Myself.”
Will Adams: The chart-baiting is a bit embarrassing, especially when the approximation is so thin. This needs at least 60% more guitars, bass, synth pads, and hooks to even stand a chance.
Patrick St. Michel: The parking-lot-bake-sale version of Cobra Starship’s “Good Girls Go Bad.”
Mallory O’Donnell: Strangely flatulent, needlessly euphoric, predictably annoying. This guy either needs you desperately or sees you as a ProTools effect. In either case, stay the hell away.
Alfred Soto: Of course TobyMac would be chickenshit about the identity of “you,” but at least his cowardice informs the aesthetic choices. Why else would a fortysomething ape Adam Levine singing over a Carly Rae Jepsen track?