Release Date: October 27th 2017
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
Ryan Stevenson– Lift You Up (iTunes/Amazon mp3)
- Lift You Up
Ryan Stevenson. A mainstay on Gotee Records, alongside Hollyn, Finding Favour and Capital Kings. Yet previous to his powerful and emotive radio single, “Eye of the Storm” that peaked as high as #1 on Billboard Christian Songs Charts in 2016, I’m not even sure that many people even heard of Ryan and his music. I mean, even though Ryan has been within the music business for a few years, even releasing an EP Yesterday Today Forever on BEC Recordings and Holding Nothing Back, his new 2nd EP, on Gotee Records in 2013, it was his debut full length album Fresh Start, that featured “Eye of the Storm”, that really placed this new singer/songwriter on the map of anyone who loves CCM (like myself). While much of CCM’s most popular, started their career in music at relatively young ages, Ryan previously held a job for a while as a paramedic prior to switching to music full-time. So for someone to have a respected and seasoned career as being something that is a 180 degree turn away from music, makes it ever the most interesting and relatable when we hear a song like “Eye of the Storm”- we think, ‘gee, this guy is not just an idealistic musician who has no idea what the common man deals with each day, he is like us, he did have a career in a ‘normal’ job prior to this, so he knows what we’re going through’. Not that I think like that when I hear music from any artist- think whether the song is even relatable to me given the background of the artist singing it, but Ryan’s position is a unique one. The fact that he had a different career prior to this means that God really called him to music…so I guess whenever Ryan does make a splash in the form of new music, we all should stop and listen, right?
Releasing his new single from a previously unreleased album/EP due later this year/next year in April 2017, ‘The Gospel’ was an anthem about how it is the gospel that makes a way- into our hearts, and into the city as the truth of who God is and who we are in light of what He did for us to be brought back to Him, becomes a reality- not just in our own lives, but in the lives of every other person we touch on a daily basis. It was a song that charted radio, but never really reached high enough to be touted a ‘success’ by commercial standards. Which is sad, looking back on it. ‘The Gospel’, while it didn’t really get the success that I’m sure management and other executives wanted, the song nevertheless portrays a beautiful thing we all should take in our hearts, that the gospel of Jesus Christ changes everything that we know and will know about the world around us, the world within us, and how we view God Himself. Enter in another single that just dropped last week called ‘Lift You Up’. If you think you remember this song before, or it sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Ryan released his own version of the song that was originally on This is Not a Test, a studio album by TobyMac, that features both Toby and Ryan singing on the song. Here, Toby is absent, there is no rap bridge, the song is shortened by a full 30 seconds or so…that’s about it. Everything else about the song is quite similar to the duet that was recorded a couple of years ago. And so why release the song now after a couple of years? Not sure, maybe this was a song that was going to be on Fresh Start but never eventuated, but whatever the case, we hear this song now from Ryan’s point of view. Sure, it can sound strange to now hear Toby’s booming voice on the bridge, but still, Ryan has made this track his own, and has reminded us all that God lifts us up again and again, and that the song itself is a celebration of how God continues to lift us up and help us, even during the moments where we may say we don’t even need it. Even slowing down the pace even more when comparing this to Toby’s version, Ryan has made this song his own. This is a track that may or may not do as well as ‘The Gospel’, or even as well as ‘Eye of the Storm’. But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter. The song itself is enough for us to enjoy Ryan and his style of music. ‘Lift You Up’ is a comfort and a moment that shows us what Ryan can do if he makes a song that was previously someone else’s, his own!
What can I say about “Lift You Up” that will encourage you all to at least listen to this impactful and encouraging track? Never mind that “Eye of the Storm” reached #1 on several Christian radio charts across the world throughout 2016, and never mind that “Lift You Up” could do just that in the upcoming months. Just on the fact of the message of the song alone, ought to be enough to hear the song, regardless of who the artist is. He has grown lyrically and musically since his music on Fresh Start and I guess the success of “Eye of the Storm” has much to do with it. ‘Eye of the Storm’ recently won the title of Best Contemporary/Pop Song at the 2017 Dove Awards and Ryan himself delivered a few things in his acceptance speech that can make us all think- ‘…what an honor to be here with all of these songwriters and recognizing these amazing songs. I’m so thankful that songs sneak past us and our boundaries and penetrate to the heart. I just want to encourage everybody to be bold, speak out about your brokenness, speak out about things that are actually going on in your life because that is what makes what we are doing special and sets people free – that is our testimony that truly starts revival. We are all trying to speak out what is going on inside of us and to say Holy Spirit come rest in this place and use us…’ And with that, we are met once again with another song- ‘Lift You Up’. It is as radio friendly as any other track we’ve seen from him, yet the impact of this track will I’m sure reach a lot of people in the months ahead. Kudos to Ryan for such a song, one that hopefully will encourage us all that He indeed lifts ups up in our moments of hurt and despair and during the times when we don’t even necessarily want Him to do it, He is there the most! Well done Ryan for a thought provoking song, can’t wait to whenever the new album comes, be it at the end of the year or next year sometime!
RIYL: Finding Favour, Jamie Grace, TobyMac, Aaron Shust, Jason Gray