For Scott Stapp, coming to the fruition of his second solo collection, Proof of Life, was a process of stark self-reflection, and more than one stint in rehab, spanning several years since release of 2005’s The Great Divide. As any oyster can attest, however, a painful process can yield great beauty and lasting delight, and this sophomore solo collection brims over with newfound hope, faith, and purpose, and the singer-songwriter sounding better than ever!
“Slow Suicide” comes close to melting stereo speakers with its blistering punch and powerful, dark vocal overlays ala the signature of producer Howard Benson. Stapp certainly proves that being past 40 doesn’t dull the desire to dish out heavy metal growls and gravitas, reminding that “in the blink of an eye it ends” in reference to this life, but reasserting that “I can’t let my tomorrow’s decide when I am in this life,” he sets course in a new direction. The heavy mood continues into “Who I Am,” accentuated properly by an expletive plea to allow the composer to be both man and artist, devout believer yet fully flawed human, in terms that resonate to every ear.
The album’s title track takes a more acoustic turn, yet still takes on the task of asking tough questions. “Are you playing the victim, when you know that you volunteered?” and “Do you suffer in silence?” reflect the truth that redemption can only do its work if accepted, and that is the hardest part. The song seems to answer the call of Stapp’s anthem, “Justify” reverberating the call that we are “human beings” rather than human doings, and asserting the ultimate Maker’s determination that “You are proof of life,” amidst rich, Arabic riffs. “New Day Coming” is perhaps the most personal affirmation of the album, assuring that “I’ll get back up for good this time,” assured that “all things” are possible, and all things can be made new. “Only One” melds the human and the divine conceptions of love, with a tenderness that speaks straight to the heart, and offers new dimension to the composer’s vocal ability. “Breakout” is another song that is an answer, in a sense. Just has “Broken” brought Scott to an understanding that brokenness and its pain has to be the beginning of healing, the song embraces the fact that none of us are whole in this life, but that reclaiming “what’s left of me” among the pieces can yield beautiful life, releasing the pattern of living in crisis. “Hit Me More” is a “have to repeat” track, taking on the dilemma of bravado as a fatal blow, or accepting faith as the ultimate confidence in life. The cost to “go through hell to find my heaven” is worth its wisdom. Stapp’s vocal is so infectious, everyone will get this bug, bulging with the resolve of the spirit.
Few apart from the singer could pull off “Jesus Was a Rockstar” without a smidge of “churchianity” platitudes. The song vibrates through its irresistible Southern swagger in absolute reverence, and conviction that comes from a man who has come to true worship within. “What Would Love Do?” puts faith in new dimensions, personifying love as the living force between people that “keeps me from hurting you,” paralleling the primary commandment of Scripture. The tenderness and range on the vocals will refresh and surprise many. “Crash” is another recalling of the price of falling into the paradox of fame, and believing in one’s own invincibility. Perhaps the ultimate reward of recovery is to “cross bridges I thought I burned,” stand at a point of falling, and take the challenge of flying, and living for now. The self-destruct button seems to be truly disengaged now.
The ending track, “Dying to Live,” rings resoundingly with the richness of living in every day blessings, “the wonder in my child’s eyes,” and the realization that so much more awaits in life. Part of the journey through any addiction and darkness in life is daring to believe that what consumes existence now is hardly a blip on the radar, “only just one page” in the whole of life, and even less in eternity. Scott Stapp has learned to embrace forgiveness as a loving choice, and still longs to write “the song the world forever sings.” Proof of Life is a purposeful, and masterful, fulfillment in that mission.