#MusicMonday: West Unashamedly Shares His Proud Declaration of Christian Faith with ‘All In.’

Matthew West is no stranger to Christian Contemporary Music. The first time I saw him perform live I went home and bought some of his music and felt my faith strengthen every time I listened to it. Now, West is back with his seventh studio album and it stayed at #1 on the Billboard Christian charts for 17 weeks. Instead of using other people’s stories to create an album, West returns to sharing personal anecdotes from his own life.

Song by Song Review

All In: A personal anthem with lyrics that illustrate a “no turning back” declaration of faith. Not wanting to waste your life; avoiding a simply comfortable life.

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Broken Things:   A song showcasing the unfathomable mercy and graciousness of God. Those the world thinks are useless or mismatched are the people he calls His and uses to accomplish his plans for a hope and a future through them.

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Mercy Is A Song:  A song specifically highlighting the “come as you are” truth to God’s love and mercy.

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Amen:   Reminiscent of Mercy Me’s “Happy Dance” with a baptist church feel, dancing in the aisles at Sunday service sound. A song about God’s great grace.

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The Sound of a Life Changing:  A song about how God’s grace overwhelms your life and takes the black, white, and grey into bright and beautiful colors.

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Something Greater:    My favorite song about how there are moments in life or even people you meet who you feel were definitely part of a bigger plan than anything you could have fathomed. How God’s plan is bigger and more intricate than you even realize.

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Jesus & You:   A song where West shares his love for Jesus and how his love of Jesus helps him love his wife that much more because in some ways, they are both helping him become a better man.

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Beautiful Things We Miss:  

A song about how life goes by in the blink of an eye and if you don’t take the chance to cherish the moment in front of you, the people around you, before you know it they will be a thing or someone in your past.

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1 Song:  If he was leading up to his final few breaths, he would sing a song for the Lord to praise him from this life into the next.

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Power Love Sound Mind:  A electropop musicality makes up this contemporary christian song based on 2 Timothy 1:7 about the battle in life between choosing faith and fear.

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Never Give Up:  My second favorite off this album about the true fighting spirit of a believer.

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Dream Again: 

A warrior cry anthem that shouts into the dead and dying hopes of a hurting world about the power of having a dream in your heart and not stopping to achieve it.

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Becoming Me ft. Lulu West:  A song about the hands that feed you, dress you, and build you up, and how they help you become the person you are.

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You are Known:  A song about how the world make you feel anonymous and unwanted, but God sees you and wants you to know he knows you and loves you for all that you are and can see all you can be, and believes in that greatness he placed inside you.

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Overall, West wows with his seventh studio album that makes any and all believers learn about different aspects of the God they serve and are known by. His songwriting will break through all the noise to share a truth that needs to be spoken to the heart of each and every person alive.

 

#MusicMonday: Holding My Breath showcases McLaughlin’s breathless songwriting

McLaughlin is no stranger to taking anyone’s breath away. The first time I ever saw him open for Kelly Clarkson I was unfamiliar with his music or even who he was but was instantly drawn to his honest, heartfelt lyricism that he penned on his own and his expertise with a piano. He made playing the piano seem as cool as being a drummer or an electric guitar player.

He quickly got a lot of attention and even appeared in the Disney movie Enchanted as himself. He even dueted with pop songstress and Broadway legend Sara Baraielles.

Holding My Breath is McLaughlin’s fourth studio album and was released on September 24, 2013.

The album was made exclusively for the fans and created with the site Pledgemusic. It got #8 on the Billboard Top Christian albums chart and #141 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Song by Song Review

Above The Radio:  A piano rock track about slowing down and listening to the music of life

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Hallulejah: A fun jazzy like track about not losing your soul in the pursuit of material things

Doesn’t Mean Goodbye: A piano ballad about fighting through the rough patches of the love between you and that special someone.

Anybody Else: A piano pop song about seeing someone you used to be involved with and how it brings back all the memories

Oh, Jesus: A heartfelt promise to Jesus that no matter how black and blue life gets, he will thank God for Jesus.

Broken Hearted: A song about how even though a broken heart is painful, the sun will warm the cold desolate pieces of it’s brokenness and you will love again because you can’t love again until you’ve been  broken hearted.

Fire Away: A slow song about a stillness between you and another because of tensions between you

Oh!: A pop rock track about someone pulling away from a shot of love between the two of you

Imaginary Tea: A song McLaughlin wrote about a tender father-daughter relationship.

The Truth: A song with a mysterious jazzy blue feel about someone who spread lies and was found out

Throw It On The Fire: A song about a love that still embers but no longer burns bright enough to survive.

At Night: A final instrumental piano track

Holding My Breath is a effortless peek into this musician’s heart and all that keeps him breathing. Some of these items include: staying true to himself, his faith, his family, and love with the right person. McLaughlin’s independent project was crowd funded for good reason: he was meant to sing a breathless song.

#MusicMonday: Lauren Daigle’s second album explores who God says you are and challenges the world to silence the voices that say otherwise

Hailing from Lafayette, Louisiana and was influenced by Zydeco, blues and Cajun music in her environment from youth, Daigle was born to be a musician.

Her mother referred to her childhood home as “the music box” because she was always singing. She never considered music seriously until she contracted infectious  mononucleuosis. It kept her out of school for nearly two years.

Following finishing charter school with hopes of working in the medical field and do mission work, she took a year off from school to do mission work in Brazil before attending Louisiana State University for child and family studies.

She joined and soon led the choir at LSU.

With her family encouraging her to audition for American Idol in 2010 and 2012. She was cut before the Top 24 in 2010. In 2011, she did not make it to Hollywood. She made it to Hollywood in 2012 but was cut in the first Las Vegas round.

Her first full-length album (April 14, 2015) debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Christian Albums chart. It broke Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 200.

Look Up, Child debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 200 with “You Say” staying at #1 for fifty three weeks on the Hot Christian songs chart and further won a 2019 Grammy for Best Contemporary Christian Music performance/song.

Look Up, Child was released on September 7,, 2018 via Centricity Music.

 

Song For Song Review

Still Rolling Stones: A song about how God’s power is both infinite and infallible. Daigle performed this song on The Ellen Show live.

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Rescue: Showcasing the aspect of God’s willingness to go to great lengths to rescue us, even when we think no one can hear us. It is performed from God’s perspective. The song was written for people that are experiencing the darkest of turmoil, and in that collision, a comfort comes.

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This Girl: A soulful song about wanting to let God know out of everything, she wants Him to know she is fully and completely offering her heart.

Your Wings: A song with multiple references to Psalm 91 about how God promises to cover those who trust in him. Daigle said the musicality and the beat are her favorite on the whole album.

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You Say: A song discussing the question and identity and how a believer’s foundational truth regarding their identity should come from who God says they are.

Everything: A song written for when you are overwhelmed in a time of deprivation and weariness.

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Love Like This: One of my favorites off the album for its musicality that, in my opinion, mimics a spiritual awakening and for its message about God’s unconditional yet unthinkable love.

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Look Up, Child: A fun Carribean style musicality makes up this upbeat track about looking to God always whatever the situation.

Losing My Religion

Losing My Religion: My favorite song on the entire album for its message about how when you truly know Christ, it becomes more about a faith relationship and less about religious ideology.

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Remember: Co-written with Chris Tomlin, this gospel-like anthem brings all miracles past and present into recollection so the believer can focus on God’s almighty power and know he works for the good of those that love him.

Rebel Heart: A declaration of faith to God saying that I’m ready to trust you completely and take this “rebel heart” and make it new.

Inevitable: A song about fighting doubts and unbelief with the truth, “God will always carry me.”

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus: Lauren finishes the album with her own rendition of this Helen Holsworth song.

Whether you are struggling to see the good, focus on the present, or are being bombarded by a heavy and black sadness, whatever you are struggling and suffering with mentally, emotionally, and/or physically, Daigle’s second album offers a song for whatever it may be and as you begin to sing along, a spirit of praise will rise up within and the clouds will start to break, and the light will peak through slowly but surely.

#MusicMonday: Jonny Lang’s fourth album is a bluesy depiction of the ‘signs’ of the times

Called the best blues album of 2017 by AllMusic, Signs is Lang coming back from previous works that had a more gospel feel to his blues roots that got him a record deal at only 16.

Song by Song Review

Make It Move: A bluesy rock song about the mountains in your life and how you got to make it move and stop waiting around for things to happen.

Snakes: Bluesy rock and roll song reminiscent of “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley about snakes in the grass or the things in life that try to get you off course.

Last Man Standing: A fast-paced bluesy song about fighting through the hard times.

Signs: Soulful track about the signs of the times we are living in may be end times.

What We Are Made Of: A song about how the trials of life help show what you’re made of.

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Bitter Ends: A soulful song with a gospel feel questioning the various motives of humans; the why behind what we do.

Stronger Together: A cheerful gospel like track about how we’re made to love and be loved.

Into The Light: Another gospel like track about the struggle between good and evil.

Bring Me Back Home: A soft piano ballad about coming home to the person you love.

Wisdom: A slow song about the power of wisdom

Singing Songs: An acoustic finale to this album

#BookReview: Let’s Meet God by Chris Hearn

As a believer, I always love returning to the basics of my faith. That’s why from the very beginning of this short but sweet Bible companion, I enjoyed each entry in this book of FAQ’s about the Christian faith.

This 78 page book discusses the Christian faith in an open-minded and easy to read format. It is written as a frequently asked question page for a website but for Christianity or someone new to the faith. It allows anyone to find out more about God through faith in Christ Jesus, while still remaining scholarly.

Bright Ones debut album from Bethel Music Kids Shines a bright star from talent so young

Bethel Music is a household name in worship music but they also have a group of nine kids that write and produce worship music relaunching as Bright Ones but still with the same magnified amount of talent.

Hard to believe the kids featured are only between the ages of 12 and 16.

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Young or old, Bright Ones will remind you of the light within you, who you reflect, and cause to dance and sing in reverent worship.

 

Song by Song Review

Bright Ones:  EDM-musicality mixed with lyrics that remind the listener that God’s love shines from within us.

 

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Get Your Hopes Up:  Based on Psalm 30:5, reminding all who believe that they are living in the goodness that he brings

 

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You’re Gonna Be OK: A strong musical letter to all those going through various battles reminding those facing feelings of depression and anxiety who goes before them, and you’re gonna be ok.

No Longer Slaves: An EDM style to the popular acoustic Bethel Music worship song.

We Dance: My favorite song on the album because it’s got a dancy feel to it, and it creates an image of the worshipper dancing with the Lord instead of just dancing for our Great King.

Let My Life: A worship piano ballad that switches to an EDM dance jam that cries for the believer’s life always be a reflection of your love, Lord.

Never Gonna Stop: A worship song about God’s love chases after our hearts relentlessly, and even through the wild parts of our life story.

Spirit Move: A worship song making the listener aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the midst of their day to day life.

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Magnetic: An in-depth musical moment that uses imagery of God’s love being a magnet pulling us closer to him the more we believe in it

He Loves Me All The Time: A song that revels in the fact of God’s unconditional Romans 8:38-39 love for each of his children, and nothing can change that fact for all time.

Who You Are: Based on Isaiah 9:6, we can thank God for all he is in our lives through Jesus.

For The One: A song that reminds the believer they are a beacon of light pointing others to God & His relentless love for them.

Tell The Nations: A great conclusion to a strong debut from young people who are wholeheartedly passionate about spreading the good news about how Jesus saves.

 

#BookReview: After The Storm by Ava St. Pierre @wisebeautyqueen

Mental Illness carries much of a stigma even though it is 2018. Finally, people are deciding to be open about it whether they themselves struggle with it or someone they know and love.

I believe it should be openly discussed so that those who struggle with it can get the help and healing they deserve.

And so began the reason I couldn’t say no to reading Ava St. Pierre’s memoir.

She’s this prestigious beauty queen who was a pretty big deal in Texas as well as the ability to dapple in the VIP lifestyle because of her Mrs. Texas America title.

Yet, her story is definitely one for the books which is why I was glad her daughter Sheree sent it to me.

Growing up in a family of seven children, they lived a cool, calm, and collected existence. That was until the storm hit.

By storm, I am referring to her mother’s fits of rage that caused a severe accident with one of Ava’s younger brothers. These fits of rage were eventually diagnosed as amnesia, paranoia, and schizophrenia, and her father decided to raise the children as a single parent which left Ava’s birth mother to remain homeless for most of her life.

One thing I loved about the memoir is how easy it was to read despite the heaviness in topic and themes, and how Ava remained positive and used her story to showcase that no matter what anyone goes through in life, they can either sit and feel sorry for themselves or they can share their story to encourage others.

And Ava succeeds at the latter, and her story will provide hope that life gets better no matter the severity of the storm and the after effects that remain.

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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!