Release Date: November 3rd 2017
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Only One in the Room
- Fill You Up
- In Wonder
- Famous For
The Rubyz have been a part of the lives of many tweens and teens around the world for quite a number of years. With the formation of the band being that of providing young people with music and a means of expressing their love for Jesus, it is no doubt that with every band, members leave and members come in to fill the void. As with any group, members may feel like God is calling them to other areas, and with this original The Rubyz member, Alexis Slifer has been there since the beginning when the tween band started in 2008, when Alexis was a young teen herself. Fast forward until 2015 when Alexis decided to pursue a worship career (and three new faces entered in to continue the group The Rubyz), we see a young woman of God with much musical experience behind her, entering a new season of her life. And so we look forward to this coming Friday, when Alexis releases her first collection of original songs, titled Famous For EP- what should we make of it, her first collection of worship songs on the back of her successful EP titled Genesis (that consisted of worship covers like Beautiful Things, I Surrender All, You Reign and Lead Me To the Cross)? And while it may take us all a while to get used to Alexis singing outside of The Rubyz (considering that she has been there from the start, she is still considered by many to be the face of The Rubyz even now), Alexis’s new EP is a great start for an artist that I reckon will become a great worship leader and songwriter of songs in the upcoming months and years to come. Still only in her 20s, Famous For EP, though it has taken a year and a half for it to come to fruition, is such a project of hers that has passion and enthusiasm all over it. An EP to be thoroughly enjoyed by those who love worship artists like Meredith Andrews, Sarah Reeves, UNITED, or Chris Tomlin; expect to hear much more from Alexis and her solo music in the near future.
While the album isn’t officially out yet, it is streaming for a week early on NRT, and so that is where I myself heard all the songs (except for the title track ‘Famous For’ which had already been out for a few months already), and boy let me tell you. If you haven’t heard of Alexis, or haven’t listened to her music because maybe you associate her with The Rubyz and thereby bypassing her music altogether, then let me tell you this- Famous For EP is a great collection of worship songs. Though the songs probably won’t be as popular as other worship releases throughout the year (from artists like Matt Maher, Matt Redman, Cody Carnes, Jesus Culture, Kari Jobe, Bethel Music and Kim Walker-Smith), Alexis’s heart and passion are for delivering songs that can usher us all, no matter where our hearts are at, into the presence of God, as we are to be in communion with Him through worship in song, no matter whether we have a ton of things on our hearts, or just one. ‘Eagles’ starts off the EP is great fashion, as Alexis crafts a song that allows us to ask the Lord to lift us up ‘…on wings like eagles, over every doubt, beyond what looks impossible, above all fear, above all troubles, lift me up on wings like eagles…’ and having a great radio friendly pop-worship sound, I expect this song to be the second official single after ‘Famous For’, maybe hitting radio waves early next year. Alexis has a passion to deliver her words with purpose, not just singing them without any meaning behind them. And that is very much evident in Famous For EP. ‘Eagles’ is a timely reminder that we cannot see everything from our point of view, but God sees the whole tapestry He’s creating. He will bring us up to His point of view, but that may take time, and it could take pain, hurt, rearranging of our lives, whatever it takes, we have to be patient and know that a perspective like that of an eagles is far more encompassing than that of someone on the ground.
‘Only One in the Room’ is a tad below 5 minutes, as Alexis channels Kim Walker-Smith of Jesus Culture as this song could’ve easily been within the track listing of Love Has a Name and it would’ve fit right in. In fact, that’s not to say that this track isn’t that great (because frankly, much of Love Has a Name can be more long-winded than necessary), it just speaks of the calibre of Alexis’ writing- that it is comparable to that of people within Jesus Culture! The song itself is an encouragement, that we as Christians need to ask the Lord to ‘…take me back to the start, clear out my heart, of everything but You, everything but You, and silence all the noise as I raise my voice, at the melody of One, I’m singing like You’re the only one in the room…’ This is how we should treat worship (at least the music kind). That it shouldn’t really be about who is in the room with us when we worship. That it’s just us and God, and how we worship ought not to be the matter, but rather, our hearts and our posture when we come into the presence of God to worship.
‘Wildfire’, ‘Fill You Up’ and ‘In Wonder’ are all radio friendly songs that have a worshipful edge, each of them having a different musical framework as Alexis uses each song as a platform where we can express what is on our hearts to our Father in Heaven. ‘Wildfire’ features the use of light electronics and a big percussion undertone to create a rousing anthem, where we can all declare that God is our heart’s true passion, that there is nothing that can quench this wildfire rising up inside of us, stirring in our souls as we can’t help but declare our love for Jesus; while ‘In Wonder’ features layered vocals as Alexis creates a moment where there seems to be a choir of voices (but I’m sure it’s just all her) as we can’t help but join in the worshipful moment, declaring that we as Christians are in wonder of God’s wonderful nature, how He can create everything yet still be personal and intricate with each of us. ‘Fill You Up’ unfortunately isn’t as engaging musically (and even to a certain point lyrically) compared to the other tracks, nevertheless, Alexis still oozes the passion that has been evident in her other songs. Though not on the same level as the rest of the songs, ‘Fill You Up’ is still a song can gives us a comfort that God will always fill us up when we are dry, but with a whole lot of repetition (lyrically) along with repetition (the same electronic beat that is throughout the whole track), ‘Fill You Up’ may be given a rest from me for a while. Maybe the next time I hear the track, I can appreciate the musical layering on the track, and I can hear the song with a new look and a fresh perspective. But as of right now, the song, despite its best intentions, suffers from the repetition that seems to plague a lot of songs right now if they want to be on the radio!
And then there’s ‘Famous For’, the title track. The song itself took me by surprise. If you think of worship music, and good worship music, you automatically think of songs like ‘O Come to the Altar’, ‘Ever Be’, ‘What a Beautiful Name’, ‘Wonder’, ‘Chain Breaker’, ‘Lion and the Lamb’, ‘Your Love Defends Me’, ‘The Cause of Christ’, ‘The Cross Has the Final Word’…those type of songs come to mind. But rarely will you think of ‘Famous For’, the song that released a month or so ago and that is fast becoming one of my own personal favourite worship songs of the year thus far. Maybe it’s because people associate Alexis Slifer with The Rubyz, and thus quickly bypass her music. Or maybe people just don’t know who Alexis is. Whatever the case, ‘Famous For’ isn’t as popular as the rest, and probably won’t be popular, not unless it somehow gets on radio and someone is impacted in a big way. Nevertheless, the song is heartfelt, meaningful, hopeful and raw, as Alexis proclaims through all the looping percussion, light percussion and strong acoustic guitar presence to ‘…make way through the waters, walk us through the fires, do what You are famous for, what You are famous for, shut the mouths of lions, raise dead hearts to life and do what You are famous for…’ God is in the business of changing hearts and impacting lives, and often, human bodies get in the way with our own agendas of what we perceive the revival of God should look and feel like. But God is not limited by us mere men. This song is a declaration for God to do what He is famous for…with or without us. If He uses us, fine, if not, then we have to be fine with that. God is still God whether He uses us as vessels of His love or not, and our identity does not rise or fall depending on how ‘useful’ we believe we are to God. Maybe it’s best that we move out of the way, and let God do what He is famous for. After all, it’ll give us some time to just sit and reflect, and maybe, worship alongside Alexis to this powerful song in the process!
Alexis travelling from pop to worship can seem like a difficulty for avid listeners of her material from The Rubyz, yet, Famous For EP can prove to us that such a transition is in fact possible, and hopefully welcomed by everyone who can appreciate Alexis for the artist she is and the artist God wants her to be. The EP is full of songs that are anthems for anyone who wants to declare the fame of God and that God is famous for the things we often take for granted in this life- healings, the hope that is instilled in each of us to live out each day, the kind words we impart to others in order to encourage them in their daily walk called life…whatever the little moments are, God is in them, and He is famous for working through the people that we so often overlook to further His kingdom in a way that we would otherwise not think possible. Alexis and her new EP are a testament to such a message, as is her voice and hopefully her future in the CCM/worship industry in the coming years. Maybe a full length album next year full of newly written and recorded material? Maybe. It is through this EP where I have had a well-founded appreciation of the talent of Alexis, and I hope and pray that she has a well-rounded career as a worship artist in the upcoming years. Well done Alexis for such an encouraging EP, this collection of songs will be moving straight to my current iTunes playlist when it releases this coming Friday.
3 songs to listen to: Famous For, Wildfire, Only One in the Room
RIYL: Kari Jobe, Elevation Worship, UNITED, Jamie Grace, Abigail Duhon, Chris Tomlin