Release Date: November 3rd 2017
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Pray With You
- Looking Back at Me
- You Will Make a Way
- My God
- Amazing Grace (Acapella)
- It is Well (Acapella)
It’s hard when artists cross over and record an album (or song) that is not in their ‘natural genre’. Like Stephen Christian, ex-lead singer of the now disbanded Anberlin, who just released a worship album on BEC Recordings in July this year, or Hillary Scott last year, lead singer of Country trio Lady Antebellum, releasing her debut Christian album Love Remains, garnering success and critical acclaim in the months afterward. Artists are sadly ‘pigeonholed’ into a certain genre of music, and any such deviation from this and we as listeners’ pounce, attacking at every turn. Still, we realise that often, artists who do make such a genre shift ought to be commended, branching out into genres they’ve never tried in the past is bold and encouraging to many, listeners and fellow musicians and bands alike. Enter in new artist Mallary Hope, who for years was within the country music scene, and is now venturing into Christian music with her debut Christian self-titled EP, that dropped digitally at the beginning of November. Signed to Curb Records, home to powerhouse CCM singers Natalie Grant and Plumb, and a lot of other pop artists; Mallary released this EP featuring her hit single ‘Now’ (a song that has currently been played in heavy rotation on Air1), and as a hear this 3:20, country-infused pop-CCM anthem (full of such enthusiasm and passion), my mind casts back to Hillary and her chart topping hit “Thy Will” last year. Maybe there is such a trend where country artists venture into Christian music for a season as the years roll by? Possibly, we shall see. Mallary’s debut EP, which stands at 7 tracks long, is full of hope and encouragement, that it doesn’t really matter what her musical background is, this is an EP that ought to be heard regardless of your own personal favourite musical genre. There, I said it! This is an EP that, along with Alexis Slifer’s new EP titled Famous For, John Tibbs’ Heartland and Carmen Justice’s Against the Odds, stands tall as one of my favourite EP’s of 2017, as the EP as a whole reminds us all that the same God who was with us in our pasts is currently with us now in this very moment!
‘…My goal since I was a little girl, was to make music that touched people. This song is about my journey to where I am NOW. Where God has brought me….He’s been with me through it all, but most days, I was trying to lead the way.. Once he opened my eyes to surrendering MY desires, HE changed my heart to love what HE wanted for me.. In case you are wondering, or going something similar, just go ahead and surrender. Life is SO much better, and you will have this amazing peace when you are walking by faith, instead of by sight. I could not be more excited and THANKFUL for this music…’ This quote from Mallary herself posted on her Instagram a few weeks ago is the essence of what the first radio single “NOW” is about- looking at life through the lens of God’s eyes, and seeing the fact that He who was with us countless times before when we were struggling or feeling discouraged, is with us now and always, till the end. Often during times in life, we may find ourselves in places we never thought we’d end up, and often it’s through faith in God alone, placing one foot in front of the next and trusting that He has a plan bigger and better than we can ever fathom, that we can truly move out from the rut we often create ourselves when we’re in the presence of the pit. For Mallary uses such a song as “NOW”, alongside 2 Corinthians 5:7 (for we walk by faith, not by sight), to encourage us in our Christian walk, that our faith in Jesus ought not to be based upon emotion or what we may be feeling at a certain moment, but rather, on what we know to be true, even if we don’t know how or why such events have occurred in our lives thus far. As Mallary continues to encourage on her Instagram, ‘…I hope when you hear this song it inspires you to keep on going! Sometimes God’s plans for us, are not what we had in mind, but I promise they are so much better…’
Throughout the rest of the EP, we have been brought various other melodies that can have great success in both the CCM and country music scenes, as Mallary invites us into little moments of her life as she vulnerably delivers songs of hope, encouragement, poignancy and emotion, as well as offering up a few worship hymns acapella-style. ‘Pray With You’, dare I say it, will be radio single #2. No question about it. If it isn’t…then, well I guess I really can’t predict things then. Just listen to the song and you can hear a radio friendly sheen all over the track. Not that that is a bad thing at all, sometimes writing and singing radio friendly songs can be the hardest thing to do in the music industry. And what we have is ‘Pray With You’, a moment of realisation that often praying is all we can do in a circumstance- that even if there is nothing else we can do in such a situation that can seem unavoidable, we still have prayer. As Mallary offers, this song ‘…was inspired by my friend Courtney who lost her battle with Breast Cancer. I miss her every day and know she’s in a place where there is no more pain, no more tears, and no more cancer…’ And hearing such a song that was borne out of a terrible experience that happened to Mallary’s friend, I am amazed at how such a positive and hopeful song can come out of something so dark. Usually if a friend succumbs to their injuries, we usually ask the question ‘why’, but not in this song. Mallary still leans on prayer, even after an event with her friend, and a song like ‘Pray With You’ requires much boldness and strength to even write and declare. I’m sure during the months after the tragic experience, Mallary questioned things, yet, hearing a song like ‘Pray With You’, I am reminded, that God still loves us and is the same regardless, and that there are times when He takes the pain away, and there are times when that doesn’t happen. Yet even still, God is on the throne, He is still God, and we will still pray for miracles. Our faith won’t waver because of a certain outcome, and Mallary’s song ‘Pray With You’ will hopefully be a reminder of this- that our faith is not based on a feeling, but on who God is and what He has done all those years ago- even if He doesn’t do anything for us from here on, we will still praise Him. Thank you Mallary for ‘Pray With You’, a song that is certain to become one of my favourite songs of 2017, ever!
‘You Will Make a Way’ is another radio friendly track where Mallary vocally reminds me so much of Karyn Williams, as we are presented with another potential radio ready track about how God makes a way when there may seem that no way is possible. And while such a song and it’s themes has been done to death over the years, what Mallary has done is breathe new life into an old and timeless theme that we all need to hear, often on a daily basis. God does in fact make a way in circumstances when it may seem impossible, and this song will hopefully encourage us all to take in and understand this fact. ‘My God’, co-written with Grayson Reed vocalist Molly Reed as well as acclaimed producer Josh Bronleewe, is a song that is destined to see Sunday Morning Worship Services sooner rather than later as Mallary attempts to pull off a worship song of sorts, and succeeds for the most part. While the song still is in the confides of ‘radio friendly track’, the song itself declares great truths of who God is and who He is to those who believe in Him. As the chorus presents to us, we are reminded that He indeed is ‘…my God, He’s the giver of endless grace and the King above all creation, still, He knows my name, my God, loves me deeper than the deepest ocean, always with His arms wide open for me…’ ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘It is Well’, both acapella songs, show is every ounce of passion, yet the arrangement themselves in these songs seem a little uninteresting without any music or instruments…everyone knows these two songs, which further makes these versions of them a little tiresome, even if it wasn’t done intentionally. ‘Looking Back at Me’ rounds out the EP with a heartfelt mainstream-esque track about declaring and singing a song over loved ones (especially in this song, Mallary singing over her children). It is a reminder of how parents can have tremendous love for a child, and want what’s best for them. A song like ‘Looking Back at Me’, as spoken by Mallary herself, is ‘…probably my favorite song on the EP. It’s my favorite because it’s a song for my daughters. I hope they grow up to be fearless and shine as brightly as the sun! It feels like yesterday I was a little girl singing in my daddy’s church. I blinked and now I’m a mommy. It’s just a sweet little song…’ If anything, this is the track that I reckon will go far in country radio. Who knows, it could rival songs by other country legends like Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood and Jana Kramer, in months to come?
‘…I think the transition is very natural for me. I’m a child of God first, and I just love making music. My music has always reflected my life. Where I am in some relationship, or where I was in my career. I honestly thought that (and forgive me for going third person here) but Mallary Hope the singer was all I was. It was my entire identity. I’ve been making music since I was 9 years old and when I wasn’t being successful at it, I started to question why God made me. I love country music and I thought that was where God wanted me to be. I used to think that if I wasn’t successful at music, then there would be no reason for me to live. (Let me be clear, I was NEVER suicidal I just remember thinking, God If you’re not gonna make this happen, then why am I here?) ME ME ME. How crazy immature that sounds now. I think that is the mindset of someone who believes their entire identity is defined by what they do. God wants us to see that He made us for so much more and that He has plans for us. Plans to prosper, but we have to give up the control…’ What wise words from Mallary about music and how our identity ought not to be caught up in what we do, but rather who God says we are. And it is in that humble moment of reading this above quote that my admiration for Mallary and her music continues, as with every passing listen, this new EP from Mallary continues to shoot up the top, as being one of my favourite new artists I’ve heard since Zach Williams last year. An EP full of hope and discovery, Mallary Hope is a must have if you enjoy inspirational songs with a country-style edge, like Hillary’s album Love Remains last year- if you enjoyed that album, then you’d enjoy this collection of 7 songs. While Mallary’s popularity may be a while before it will be at the stage of Hillary’s popularity, her EP, more specifically her song ‘Now’ firmly puts her on that path in the future. Well done Mallary for such a poignant and heartfelt song, maybe a full-length album in the future?
3 songs to listen to: Now, Pray With You, My God
RIYL: Carrie Underwood, Hillary Scott, Natalie Grant, Avalon, Karyn Williams