Jason Castro may have finished third on Season 7 of American Idol, but the Texas-based singer's natural charm and easygoing style nevertheless netted him a faithful fan base. Two years after walking off Idol's stage, those fans helped propel Castro's debut to a Top 20 bow.
Unlike most Idol alumni, Castro didn't rush his album to the market as soon as possible. Why? He says he wanted to write his own material. "I really think music is an extension of one's self," he writes on his website. "One can't go without the other, so my personality and character are a huge part of the music, and that's what people have told me they love about it."
Which begs the question: If his album is an extension of himself, what does it have to say?
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Castro got married in January 2010, and "Love Uncompromised" seems to celebrate the joy of newlywed life ("So kiss me with your heart, touch me with your eyes/And love me with your soul, I'll never compromise/ … Holding your hand, shouldering your pain … /Baby, you're so mine"). "It Matters to Me" tells his love that her concerns mean everything: "Oh, baby, what's on your mind?/ … I wanna hear every word you say tonight/ … Tell me all the things I couldn't see/It matters to me."
"Let's Just Fall in Love Again" and "This Heart of Mine" celebrate the wonder of new love. On "That's What I'm Here For," Castro offers support when a friend's dream crumbles ("When you need someone to find you/ … That's what I'm here for").
In contrast to the album's upbeat feel overall, "You Can Always Come Home" is a melancholy ballad about lost love. Castro grapples with his loss ("I miss what we might have had") but doesn't cave in to despair ("But I'm happy if you're happy he won"). He also promises he'll be there if her new beau bails on her, but …
He also speculates about how she might respond if she got rejected, describing her as "cold in the city aching for a lover." Without a clear context of marriage, mildly suggestive lyrics on "Closer" lead listeners toward physical intimacy: "I'll be your man/I'll be the only one to touch you/I'll be your lover."
Castro's cover of Leonard Cohen's haunting "Hallelujah" includes muddled biblical references and fixates on the bleakness of love gone cold ("Well maybe there's a God above/But all I've ever learned from love/Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you").
As a Christian and a newlywed, Jason Castro's songwriting reveals that he's spent time reflecting on friendship and love. The result is a tender yet upbeat record that majors on romance and unconditional acceptance. "That's really the common thread running through the songs," he says, "loving someone and accepting them for who they are."
When Christianity Today asked how Castro's faith shapes his music, he replied, "My faith makes me who I am. That's my rock, and it influences everything I do. People comment a lot on the passion in my performances, and that passion is something I've found in God and in my faith. The passion of Christ, that that kind of love would come to die for us—that's inspiring. That's in my heart always. Everything I do, I want to live a passionate life."
While noting a couple of minor exceptions, it seems Jason Castro is off to a good start in accomplishing that goal.
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Debuted at No. 18 on the Billboard 200.
April 13, 2010