#MusicReview: Skillet’s Girl Drummer Jen Ledger steps out and has something to say with new six song EP

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Known for her unique vocals and powerful stage presence, Ledger has been working ardently in preparation for her solo launch, enlisting the talent of Skillet’s Korey Cooper along with GRAMMY Award winning songwriter and producer Seth Mosley to produce the six-song project.

 

Ledger co-wrote each of the songs on the project from a raw and vulnerable place, inspired by her own personal experiences with love, heartache, anxiety and “the fight – to not let these things hold us back and stop us from living.” As her cardinal endeavor, LEDGER is a collection of songs that personify the tension between fear and boldness. [To listen to the entire EP, click the hyperlinked name above]

Song By Song Review

I’m Not Dead Yet: With trademark versatile Christian heavy rock musicality and powerhouse vocals, Ledger is screaming for the enemy to realize every tactic that he brings against her is not valid, and challenges him with a fiery chorus and anthem like lyrics:

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Jen has said the song is about overcoming one’s hardest challenges and showing the world that you are strong. She wrote this because of the anxiety and panic attacks that had suddenly started happening to her in the past few years.

Warrior ft. John Cooper: 

The musicality and figher-like anthems on this album make it a great accompaniment for any workout or just a pump up song before doing something you thought you could never possibly do. Remember, you can do all things through Christ, friend!

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Bold: My favorite song on the album because I feel it fits who I am as a person and all I relate to the lyrics about remembering who my identity is in, and that I am called to be bold in Him:

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Foreigner: A song that details that feeling of not belonging that follows those within the faith because many are called but few are chosen. It’s because this Earth is only a temporary dwelling while heaven is our home.

Ruins: A piano ballad that showcases how broken you feel when a love ends, and the heartache that sets in after that, and how we must bring our ruins to the one who mends them back together.

Iconic: A rock ballad that will shake you from head to toe about how God’s love shakes you up for the better, and his love is practically so unthinkable it is iconic.

All in all, I am honored to have the chance to listen to Ledger because it encapsulates every moment within my faith journey where I had to decide if I was going to give into fear or continue the fight.

Ledger EP is available everywhere today April 13. Pick it up if you need an empowering pick-me-up.

 

#MusicReview: Rend Collective new praise album boasts Good NEWS!

I’m not particularly crazy about worship music because usually it isn’t very dance-worthy, is heavy on piano or organ, and tracks for worship are sometimes ten minutes or more in length. So when I got approached to listen to Rend Collective’s Good News, I will admit that I hesitated because of my stereotyping worship music.

Then, the first track started and I was into it and as each track went on, I got more and more into it. This album not only strengthened my love for my Lord and Savior Jesus but it made me an instant fan of Rend Collective and I will never hesitate to listen to another album they release ever again.

About Rend Collective:
Hailing from a small town off the coast of Northern Ireland, Rend Collective (Gareth Gilkeson, Chris Llewellyn, Ali Gilkeson, Patrick Thompson and Stephen Mitchell) wants to be known as a celebration band, worshiping for God’s Glory and fame. Since the release of their first album, Organic Family Hymnal, the group’s authentic and energetic style of worship has attracted an international audience, with career sales of more than 300,000 albums. The group saw early success as their first ever single “Build Your Kingdom Here,” peaked at No. 12 on the National Christian Audience Chart. Their 2014 release The Art of Celebration, charted at No. 1 on the Billboard Christian Albums Chart within the first week of its release. Known for their electric lively worship, the band has been a part of several major tours with top artists such as Chris Tomlin, MercyMe, Kari Jobe, Lecrae and more. The group released critically acclaimed As Family We Go in 2015, followed by, Campfire Christmas Volume 1, their first Christmas record, and Campfire II, both in 2016, Rend Collective’s newest single, “Rescuer (Good News)” is available now.

Good News is set to release in January 19, 2018.

Song by Song Review

Life is Beautiful: Irish musicality trickles on every track of this album and this particular song speaks to our John 10;10 abundance Jesus died for each believer to live out.

I Will Be Undignified: A fiddle keeps this track fast-paced and promotes and unashamed dance in the presence of our King.

Rescuer (Good News)The title track of the album; praising God for rescuing us forevermore.

Counting Every Blessing: A worship song that brings to mind every blessing the Lord has provided and more importantly God’s goodness. I thoroughly enjoyed this track because it promoted me to beam with an unbreakable smile while listening to it.

Nailed To The Cross: We are taken back to Jesus’s victory on the Cross and all his death there redeemed for all mankind.

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Hymn For The Ages: Almost like a modern day “Amazing Grace,” praising Jesus for who he is.

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True North: This is another favorite off the album because not only is it a pure worship song but it has a musicality that makes me want to dance and feel fun and fancy free.

Resurrection Day: pablo (31)

This track completely had me overjoyed because it had Contemporary Christian musicality but praise-worthy worship feel.

9. No Outsiders: God is love and we can come as we are thanks to Jesus

10. Weep With Me: 

“Lord I believe you weep with me”

A worship track with an almost r&b feel to it that speaks to the depths of the listener’s brokenness.

Weep With Me (Reprise): A sweet finish featuring a strong use of violin and lead vocals

Marching On (Feat. Hillsong Young & Free): The EDM musicality and the lead vocalists motivated the listener to keep fighting the good fight.

Yahweh: A soft acoustic guitar strikes a soft chord to illustrate the gentleness of our God who is there in the midst of it all, and holds it all.

Counting Every Blessing: A ukelele version of the fourth track brings a new sense to resting in his presence.

Christ Lives In Me: I have a future and a hope because Christ lives in me is what this track emphasizes.

Get Connected with Rend Collective:
Website // https://rendcollective.com
Facebook // https://www.facebook.com/rendcollective/
Twitter // @rendcollective
Instagram // @rendcollective

“From the opening track to the last one, Good News will give you joy unspeakable and provide hope because Christ lives in each believer, life is forever beautiful.”

To see the The Smart Cookie quoted in the Good News press release click here

 

#GiftGuide: Best Music Albums in 2017

There were too many earworms in 2017 that I decided to narrow down my musical fangirling to an album only list of the Top Ten. The great thing about music is that it’s subjective so your favorite may not be here. If I missed one, comment below. Maybe I’ll make a playlist for 2018.

10. Ryan Follese by Ryan Follese

The lead singer of Hot Chelle Rae goes solo and heads back to his country roots with his first pop country solo album. Croon along to One Thing Right or jam out to Roots, either way you’ll fall in love with Ryan’s singer-songwriting talent and musicality.

To read the full review, feel free to float your boat.

9. Alessia Cara’s Know It All

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This Canadian pop rocker will have you realizing your beautiful and not alone at that party you didn’t want to go to but are now stuck at.

To join our Wild Things Club, visit here

8. Tomorrow We Live by KB

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Tampa native and Reach Records rapper KB just released a new album October 20 but to here the one that had my haters looking at me sideways and believing we will win, check out the rapper’s second album.

I won’t play anymore games, I’mma just do it.

7.  Identity by Colton Dixon

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How do you identify? Well with one listen of Colton Dixon’s third studio album I was renewed in my faith as a believer in Jesus Christ and realized why each of us is marked with his fingerprint because he designed us with a unique call and purpose. To find out more about the brand new life and how love came down, check out Colton’s newest album.

For all that matters, visit here.

6. All is Vanity by Christina Grimmie

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Her final musical project is her debut album. Post-humanous and with her signature supernatural vocal range, Grimmie shares song that showcase her r&b musicality and lyrics that showcase her huge heart and that she was okay with having standards.

For full review and to read my memorial post, join Team Grimmie

5. Lifer by Mercy Me

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Christian rock supergroup is back with a project even i couldn’t imagine. Every song on it is repeat-worthy and will have you happy dancing even if your answer doesn’t come right away.

To join Team life, visit here.

4. ’91 by Jamie Grace

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Jamie Grace is back with her first independent release but third studio album that represents the Christian music from the nineties she grew up on.

To join Team ’91, feel free to get your dance on.

3. All Things Work Together by Lecrae

With his first major label release, Lecrae will inspire and sow hope as he will make all who listen to this album see that he’s no stranger to hip hop music but instead aims to reach higher.

To find hope in all things, visit here.

2. Tell Me You Love Me by Demi Lovato

Six albums later and Demi Lovato is no longer apologizing for who she is. Instead, you’ll catch the singer-songwriter in raw and real vulnerability that will make you fall in love with her artistry.

To meet Lovato and all her daddy issues, visit here.

  1. Waves by Rachel Platten

Some of you may not know this but Rachel Platten was the first major artist to support The Smart Cookie Philes directly and her sophomore album proves she’s not done making waves or putting up a fight, she’s just not going to apologize because she’s not perfect for you.

Love her or leave her alone, she’ll keep dancing on broken glass. 

Happy Holidays and I hope 2018 is the year you start #ESPRESSOYOURSELF

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#ATWT: Lecrae’s first major label release proves inspiration is in “All Things”

I don’t know about you but I’m…look what you made me do.

I’m not ashamed to admit it but I’m one of those chicks who likes to ride with my top down listening to Jesus music. It’s partly because of the way I was raised. I actually wasn’t allowed to listen to a lot of secular music growing up until I rebelled against Christian music for a few short years when I was trying my hand at being the female version of Slim Shady. I was obsessed with Eminem at 13 and still have yet to get over his Curtain Call album. Turns out, rapping isn’t my calling but at least I had fun figuring that out.

Someone who is a natural lyricist is Lecrae. He was the first Christian hip hop artist to have a #1 album on the Billboard Hot 100 but he didn’t just walk out of the gate and into overnight success. His first album Real Talk was released via the independent label he co-founded in 2004 and it started the 116 clique movement. He refers to his music as “hip-hop that he uses to share his Christian faith,” and it is this outsider attitude that has taken him from rapper to anomaly with a Grammy win, a BET win, and now a signed contract with Columbia Records. Lecrae Moore has quite the life story, and is definitely real life proof that all things do work together.

Song by Song Review

Always Knew: The perfect track to break the glass ceiling as a major label artist. The musicality of the entire album is a definite head nod to all of Lecrae’s “day ones and the crew” with elements from Real Talk and his Church Clothes mixtapes. Lyrically, this track discusses his Reach Records days to transitioning to a major label artist with his album displayed in Times Square.

Understanding me ain’t for the simple& elementary

Facts: Emulating Church Clothes style and musicality  discussing current themes about racial divisions and stereotypes

Just know if you rock the boat you better have a life raft

Broke: A song about how the struggle makes you stronger, it boasts how God takes all the broken pieces & makes you the righteousness of God through Christ. Also is about wealth in character being far more valuable than any and all material wealth

Hard times made for a good life

Blessings: A song of thanksgiving and praise, gospel gone ghetto, about being grateful & counting all God’s blessings.

Whatchu Mean: With a catchy backbeat, it discusses someone who’s words and actions don’t balance out. On this track featuring new Reach Records artist, Aha Gazelle we find them blocking out haters and pursuing dreams.

Hammertime:  Lecrae tells the listener to work hard at what they want to achieve in life. Musically, it samples the 90’s hit “U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer.

If we living what we talk about, you don’t talk a lot

Come and Get Me: Favorite track on the record because it’s the perfect mix of righteous and ratchet, and it is unapologetic rebel music, with sleigh bells carrying the back beat.

Tweet: #ATWT is the perfect mix of righteous and ratchet with a substantial testimony @lecrae https://ctt.ec/OHePu+ via @tscphiles

Lucked Up: Another reason I respect Lecrae as an artist is because unlike other hip-hop artists that get on hit song charts by bragging about how many women they get with, he always has a song that boasts his life for his wife and showcases his softer side, and that’s what this track is for this album.

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Wish You The Best: A song about the power of forgiveness despite how the relationship came to an end.

Can’t Stop Me Now: As I am a white female who was born in the 90’s, the first thing that came to mind when I heard this track was that it reminded me of Sailing by ‘NSYNC in musicality and style but a Caribbean element creates a song about letting go of depression and doubt.

I’ll Find You: Featuring Tori Kelly, this dream collaboration talks about God finding you in the midst of the pain or trial

8_28: Based on Romans 8:28, the title track is a lyrical tale about how all things work together for those who love God & are called according to his purpose.

Cry For You: It was originally written as a journal entry and not going to be used for the album, and Lecrae recorded it in one take with authentic emotions and tears in the corners of his eyes, it discusses having weaknesses, flaws, and a thorn in the flesh. Almost a letter to God about the fight of faith.

Worth It: Gospel Baptist Church musicality sets the scene for this track about how God looks at us with unconditional love even in the midst of our sin and mistakes because “the price paid determines the value.”

Overall, Lecrae’s major label debut knocks it out of the park and has all the original reach of his past projects with a new testimony: all things do work together.

Team ’91 is represented with Jamie Grace’s long overdue autobiographical album

Okay, I’ll just come out and say it. I am a huge fan of Jamie Grace. And what’s weird is that it took me forever to discover her because although she was always played on Christian radio stations nationwide. I didn’t actually get bit by the fan bug until I seen her on a livestream for 2015’s Night of Joy.

Instantly, I felt like I was looking in a metaphorical mirror. At 25, Jamie Grace has had the typical experiences of a young artist: being bullied, outcasted, and moved across the country and back over her young life, all while still being single in a world that ridicules you for having higher standards than the heels on your shoes. Yet, she’s extraordinary in that at only 25, she managed to already be nominated for a Grammy, win a Dove award, star in a major motion picture, and deal with a whole heck of a lot health-wise. Her mother was diagnosed with pudendal neuralgia which makes walking and especially sitting extremely uncomfortable. For more on this battle, please read this personal essay by Jamie herself.

Despite leaving Gotee Records in August 2016 and relocating to California later in the year, Jamie Grace Harper finally released her long-awaited third studio album ’91. Influenced by the Christian music she and I both grew up with, Superchic[K] and ZoeGirl, among others it is her first independent album release as an artist with a bold, strong, and autobiographical message. The album was released on September 1, 2017.

Song by Song Review

Different: A song about realizing you are different and that’s okay featuring heavy guitar musicality and bass drum.

The Happy Song: An acoustic jam that reminds you that the joy of the Lord is your strength no matter what trials life brings.

One of a Kind:  A song about all those crazy thoughts we have on a daily basis and how God doesn’t think we are crazy in spite of them.  Heavy use of percussion creates a playfulness to the musicality.

Here: A track featuring her older sister Morgan Harper-Nichols, it has country ballad musicality while discussing the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Spotlight: Heavy use of guitar chords and static make this interlude track have a radio wave effect on the vocals.

Dance On: One of two favorites off the album, it’s a dance party anthem with rock n roll musicality.

Bella: An acoustic song with soft vocals about being a daughter of the king.

Party Like A Princess:  My other favorite off the album with elements of Superchic[K]-like sound (no surprise there, it was produced from the band’s own Matt Dally), comes this single girl anthem about loving who you are regardless of who you walk into a party with or without.

Reverb This second interlude track which has a definite Superchic[K]-like sound and influenced by ZoeGirl as well, it boasts a theme of being God’s echo, as a reverb is defined as an effect whereby the sound produced by an amplifier or an amplified musical instrument is made to reverberate slightly.

Games: A song about the lines drawn in the invisible sand to outcast one girl from social groups.

Sixteen: A fast-paced rhythm mirrors the fast-paced life of a sixteen year old with this track about struggling with a journey of faith in your teen years.

Daughter of the King: An acoustic ballad about who God made you is ENOUGH

Bella(Acoustic): The acoustic version of the daddy-daughter guitar ballad

Heaven (Fix Things): A piano ballad about God’s mighty power and sometimes not understanding his process.

I love when I learn new things about an artist that I very much love and I just found out that Jamie Grace was actually asked up on stage by Adele where she sang “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” and Adele said she had a great voice. Well she totally does but what a HUGE compliment coming from such a vocal powerhouse and equally versatile artist.

No matter if you were born in ’91 or 2001, you will find pieces of yourself while listening to Jamie Grace’s third studio album, and feel free to dance on!