Release Date: October 16th 2015
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Alone (feat. TRU)
- All I Need is You
- Hey Mama
- Nothin’ on You
- Steady Me (feat. Aaron Cole)
‘…every few years it’s my honor to discover a new artist to walk alongside helping them write songs and begin their journey into artistry. I love this music, and I love sharing this talent with people coming to my shows. Hollyn is the ‘right on time’ breath of fresh air that our industry needs. She’s one of the best singers that I’ve ever recorded and is becoming a great songwriter in her own right. And the beautiful thing is, this is only the beginning…’ A quote by Gotee Records president Kevin “Toby” MacKeehan (rather, we all know him by his stage name, TobyMac) about the label’s latest signing is one that always makes me sit up and take notice, not because he is the one and only TobyMac, but rather, the label over the last few years has delivered quality-wise on who they have signed, with Jamie Grace, Capital Kings, Morgan Harper Nichols, Ryan Stevenson and Finding Favour anchoring a label that was once considered one of the most coveted label homes for many CCM/rock acts.
While those gone by on this label have either retired, moved to another industry, or are still releasing music, only independently; Gotee are once being recognised for their quality, which is certainly true of their newest artist and her EP, that released October 16th. Vocally similar to artists like Rachel Lampa, Britt Nicole and Blanca, and musically reminding me of artists like TobyMac, Group 1 Crew and a hint of Lecrae and V. Rose added in; Hollyn’s uniqueness and ability to flawlessly transition between genres within these 6 tracks is what makes her debut EP stand out amongst the rest of album/EP releases in October 2015. How I wished I held back on unveiling my top 10 EP’s of 2015 until now…Hollyn’s EP would be in there for sure. From worship, to rap, to straight out pop and acoustic, there is something for everyone. With Hollyn even covering Lecrae’s chart-topping and crossover hit “All I Need is You” (and in fact delivering it with such precision and power that I prefer Hollyn’s version over Lecrae’s), this is an EP not to be missed by anyone who loves rap, hip hop, pop, CCM, and rock, or rather, anyone who loves music in general.
With Lecrae’s “All I Need is You” being released to radio in the middle of 2014, as well as the song being nominated for Best Rap Performance at the Grammy Awards, its no wonder my interest piqued when I found that new artist Hollyn would be covering the song on her EP. Covering a song, any song, may be difficult, especially if you’re a new artist, and the song you’re covering is that by Lecrae. Yet listening to Hollyn’s rendition of an already popular song is nothing short of magnificent, powerful, impacting and encouraging. Not only have we heard her vocal talents when she shone on “Backseat Driver” and “Light Shine Bright”, both collaborative songs on TobyMac’s This is Not a Test, her rapping skills are nothing short of awe-inspiring on “All I Need is You”. While the song was trimmed by about 30 seconds compared to the original, the difference is hardly noticeable when you hear rapping skills like Hollyn’s. With artists like V. Rose and HillaryJane also showcasing their rapping talents, Hollyn is yet another artist that rises into the ranks of Christian female rappers, and an artist to listen to and enjoy if you want something unique and new, rather than listening to artists like TobyMac and Lecrae all the time if you want Christian rap (not that these artists aren’t great, it’s just that Hollyn offers a new alternative). “All I Need is You” is nicely orchestrated, and a great song to hear if we want to be reminded that Jesus is everything we need.
Released as her first radio single, “Alone”, featuring TobyMac’s son Truett (they recently collaborated on TobyMac’s “Backseat Driver”), is a melody certain to be listened to, if only at first just to check out and see how both Hollyn and Tru sing without Toby there at all. With a message of us prayerfully asking God to not leave us alone, especially during our difficult times of despair and dissolution, the perfect harmonies of Hollyn and Tru make this a commendable first track. With soaring vocals over grunging electric guitars and a keyboard riff that creates a collision of rock and bouncy piano pop; we are reminded in all circumstances that ‘…through the tears, through the pain comes a new day, blown away still amazed You pursue me, ain’t no limit to the way You love…’, as “Alone”, alongside “All I Need is You”, anchors the EP musically and lyrically, with both their messages and themes encompassing the set of 6 tracks holistically as well.
“Hey Mama” is an acoustic only melody as Hollyn presents the song as a message of sorts to ‘Mama’. Whether this song is autobiographical or not isn’t the point, but rather it is a melody of vulnerability and heartfelt emotion as Hollyn presents to us a persona (is it herself?) who has a strained relationship with her mother, and is hoping and praying that it’ll be mended, even if a phone call of sorts is all it takes for conversation to occur and relationships to be moved from destruction to repair, from hopelessness to indeed hope. “Hey Mama” is as personal as they come, and Hollyn uses her voice projection to carry to us the emotion quite powerfully, as we are reflective on our own pasts and whether we need to call our own mothers and ask for guidance once in a while. “Nothin’ on You” is reggae/dance with a throwback music loop to Amy Grant’s “Baby Baby” as this 90s musical reminder is looped across modern technological advancements as “Nothin’ on You” is created, a song that is a timely reminder than anything else in this world doesn’t have any chance of topping what Christ did for us and what He means to us in the life we lead. While unfortunately the song will probably be famous because of the Amy Grant “Baby Baby” music undertone, the song itself is as poignant as ever, with Hollyn delivering the sound and biblical truth that ‘…I’ve been around, and around, oh I’ve never found, anything better, cause they got nothin’ on You…’
Acoustics continue in “Steady Me”, a 3:09 short duet with artist Aaron Cole as Hollyn brings the theme of God steadying us during difficulties to light as this groovy song presents a heartfelt message, that ‘…no matter what the pressure, You’ll always be the answer…’; while it is the reflective ballad “Mine” that really shines for me personally as I see what makes her versatility so awe-inspiring, the ability for her to flawlessly rap as well as belt out the reflective numbers with equal amounts of emotion, passion and fervour. With the song starting in a reflective manner, and how we are amazed as sinners saved by grace, that God is ours and we are His because of His sacrifice and resurrection all those years ago, it is the heartfelt cry of Hollyn in the chorus that is sure to make even the toughest men and women break down in the realisation, that ‘…You are mine, Jesus, You are mine, I know that I’m unworthy, completely undeserving, I’m amazed, I’m amazed that I am Yours and You are mine…’ A song that’s going to be on my iTunes playlist on repeat for weeks and months to come, this is a song destined (hopefully) to be popular on radio stations like K-Love and Air 1 in the near future. Kudos to Hollyn for such a vulnerable melody, and a favourite on the EP!
‘…it’s a privilege for me to go up on stage and sing. God has given me this gift [so] that I can share my faith. The thing that makes me the happiest—is meeting people after the shows. I love that time! Right now my life has never been so out of control, but it’s a beautiful thing. The Lord is taking me somewhere. I don’t know where He’s taking me, but I’m excited about it…’ Hollyn’s 6 song EP is as powerful and amazing as it is empowering, awe-inspiring, unique and any other description you can give to something as different as Hollyn’s music is. If only I waited and wrote my top EP’s now…Hollyn would probably slot in between Nichole Nordeman and Zealand Worship…yes, way up that high. With such poetic and poignant melodies like “All I Need is You”, “Mine” and “Alone”, this is an EP not to be missed if you enjoy other Gotee Records artists, or if you take TobyMac at his word and want to check out an artist that is different, and revolutionises Christian music as we know it. Well done Hollyn for these 6 tracks, can’t wait til the full-length album whenever it arises!
3 songs to listen to: All I Need is You, Nothin’ on You, Mine
RIYL: V. Rose, Rachael Lampa, Britt Nicole, HillaryJane, Lecrae, TobyMac