Colton Dixon fans who bought his debut album, A Messenger, last year, may be surprised at just how aggressive Anchor is in places.

On Anchor, out this week, songs like Our Time Is Now and Loud and Clear push boundaries of what fans expect from the former American Idol finalist.

“We pulled out all the stops for this record,” says Dixon, 22, who finished seventh on the show’s 11th season. “For the rock songs, we decided to go big or go home.”

The song’s title track, which has a lyric video premiering at USA TODAY, was inspired by “how easy it is to get distracted out on the road, how easy it was to get caught up in a schedule and lose your focus,” Dixon says.

The song also sets up the theme of Dixon’s new album.

“More than the last record, this record is very personal,” he says. “The first record seemed almost like a mission statement of what I wanted to do. For this record, it wasn’t a dark place that I was in, but it was a drifting place, a place where I could either get stronger or take a step backwards.”

The single More of You has been a top-10 hit at Christian radio. “It’s still fighting,” Dixon says. “It’s still finding its place”

He expects the piano ballad Through All of It will be a single at some point. “It’s my opportunity to take out all the dramatic instrumentalism and just share what’s on my heart,” he says. “It’s kind of the story-time-with-Colton moment.”

Dixon wrote songs for Anchor with TobyMac and Matthew West, in addition to his regular collaborators David Garcia, Ben Glover, Adam Watts, Andy Dodd and Gannin Arnold.

Dixon began Our Time Is Now with TobyMac before touring with him earlier this year as part of Winter Jam, but finished it afterwards. “The relationship was definitely built touring together,” Dixon says, “and that helped us get on the same page with the song.”

Limitless, which Dixon wrote with West and Garcia, “has kind of a Lion King vibe.”

Dixon will also be part of this fall’s Western run of Winter Jam,…