One of Christian rock's most enduring bands, Australia's Newsboys first rose to popularity in the 1990s, becoming perennial chart-toppers with a global audience who followed them through three distinctive eras all led by different frontmen. After building their foundation with singer John James, they enjoyed a second decade of mainstream pop success in the 2000s behind Peter Furler, who was himself succeeded by another Christian legend in dc Talk's Michael Tait in 2010. Along the way they experimented with various facets of rock, pop, and more straightforward worship music, notching various Grammy nominations, gold records, and over 30 number one singles. An expanded lineup eventually coalesced after Furler's return, resulting in the Furler/Tait-fronted supergroup Newsboys United who issued a studio album in 2019.
Newsboys formed in the Queensland resort town of Mooloolaba in the late '80s around a core membership of John James, Peter Furler, and Phil Joel. Though early in its career the band was panned for a perceived over-reliance on religious clichés in its lyrics, Newsboys later grasped secular music's alternative revolution in the early '90s for an image makeover, with good results. With James on lead vocals and a secure guitarist, Jody Davis, in place the group gained a string of number one singles on the Christian charts in the mid-'90s and received more coverage in secular media outlets than most CCM bands of their time. In 1998, after six albums withe band he helped found, James departed and Furler took over as frontman on Step Up to the Microphone, the group's first album for major-label Virgin. The '70s-inspired Love Liberty Disco appeared a year later. In celebration of the new millennium, Newsboys also observed their own career with the greatest-hits package Shine...The Hits, issued in fall 2000. Their most elaborate work to date, Thrive, was issued in spring 2002 and led to one of their biggest CCM hits ever, "It Is You."
The band issued Adoration: The Worship Album in April 2003. The record included both originals and Newsboys versions of well-known worship songs. Guitarist Davis left Newsboys in late 2003 in order to care for his daughter, Bethany, and Bryan Olesen took his place for a little over a year. He left in 2004 to work on his own band, Casting Pearls, just after Newsboys released their second worship album, Devotion. Paul Coleman, an Aussie singer/songwriter, came aboard as the band's new guitarist, and the next two years found the band touring the globe and working on the songs that would become its first pop album in four years, Go. That album, released in October 2006, was the first to be released on the band's own Inpop Records and the last to feature founding member Joel, who left shortly afterward.
At the beginning of 2009, after a year of touring, Coleman left the band to go back to his solo career and Jody Davis returned. More shockingly perhaps, Furler announced soon afterwards that he was going to scale back his involvement in Newsboys, no longer touring with them but instead staying behind the scenes as a songwriter/vocalist. His replacement came from one of the other titans of Christian rock, namely Michael Tait of dc Talk. Before Tait took over entirely, the band released one last album with Furler as lead singer, In the Hands of God, in May of 2009. By September of that year Furler was gone and Tait took over vocals for the band's next album, 2010's Born Again, which debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200. The new-look Tait-led Newsboys returned in 2011 with the studio album God's Not Dead, and in 2013 they issued the well-received Restart, their 16th studio LP. Another worship album, the hymn-centric Hallelujah for the Cross arrived in 2013, followed in 2016 by Love Riot, which saw Newsboys heading back in a pop-oriented direction. A year later, both Furler and Joel joined up with the group for the lengthy Newsboys United retrospective tour. Parlaying the tour's success into a new studio release, this expanded version of the band — billed as Newsboys United — issued the United LP in the spring of 2019. ~ John Bush