Provident Label Group
Release Date: September 12th 2016
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Love is Action
- Undefeated (feat. KB)
- Never Gonna Let Me Go
- Hills and Valleys
‘…I started thinking and talking with people close to me about reimagining how I could serve people with music and how I balance everything. When it came time to make that call, it was really hard, and I think it took the guys by surprise. Obviously that can never go well, but what I can say is that we all certainly want what’s best for each other. It was so hard–literally, the hardest decision that I’ve ever had to make. I really want to emphasize how amazing the Royal Tailor journey was for me. You know, we had known each other since college, so it was a big deal that we were able to do this together, do the things we were able to experience together…’ Royal Tailor, formed in 2011 and signed to Provident Label Group, was a moderately successful band that produced hit singles like “Hold Me Together”, “Make a Move”, “Remain”, “Ready Set Go” and “Making Me New”, to name a few. They sold out arenas and went on tours with artists like Capital Kings, TobyMac, Abandon and Building 429…yet without warning, and I literally mean, without warning, the band stopped touring. And while no official statement was made about the disbanding of the quartet until Tauren stepped out and released a new single, his first as a solo artist; it was unfortunate to see the band members travel their separate ways, even if it meant for them to explore the other avenues that God had in store for their lives. Royal Tailor was a band that had a lot of potential, and while I reckon their best album was still to come, we would never know.
Nevertheless, Tauren Wells, former lead singer of the band, is still making music, and his first solo EP, titled Undefeated, released this last week. How does the album sound like? Like Royal Tailor never disbanded. Just like how Audio Adrenaline 3.0 with Adam Agee on lead vocals sounds like a pop/rock version of Stellar Kart, or how Newsboys at times remind me of the good ol’ days of DC Talk; Tauren’s new solo effort is everything I could’ve hoped the next Royal Tailor album to be. Still, it is a bittersweet offering, and a reminder that any band formation can easily result in band splits in the future, be it amicably or not. Undefeated, though only 4 tracks, is still a great representation of what we can expect in Tauren’s full length album coming in 2017. From the promotional single “Undefeated” featuring rap sensation KB, to the pop radio friendly track “Love is Action” and the emotive and quite possibly second single “Hills and Valleys”, this is a must have for anyone who was a fan of Royal Tailor’s previous material, or if you are a fan of similar artists like Capital Kings, TobyMac, Blanca or Tenth Avenue North.
Released as a promotional single way back in May 2016, “Undefeated” features rap/hip-hop powerhouse KB on a song that stretches the boundaries of what it means to collide the two genres of pop and hip hop. While this song may not necessarily sit that well with listeners of radio stations like K-Love (and would probably be welcomed much more by listeners of Air1); Tauren nevertheless addresses the topic of us being undefeated when we are in Christ Jesus, tackling the issue of how at times, we may worry about whether God actually has things under control, when in fact all we ought to be doing is to trust- trust that He in fact wants us to be in the place we’re in at the moment for a reason- often it may be a reason we don’t understand, yet a reason nonetheless. “Undefeated” is a unique pill to swallow if you are an avid listener to K-Love and a much more radio friendly music atmosphere, yet Tauren and KB infuse together the genres of pop and hip hop quite nicely and remind us all that we are ‘…undefeated, there’s no stopping us, undefeated, no doubt we’re champions, undefeated, can’t hold us down, we’re rising up, infinity and 0, unstoppable, you already know, we’re undefeated…’ In Christ, we have the victory, and this promotional single track is a well-choreographed song for us to reflect upon and be reminded of that very fact. Well done Tauren for such a powerful song, and a favourite on the EP.
The three remaining tracks, “Hills and Valleys”, “Love is Action” and “Never Gonna Let Me Go” round out an EP that is as poignant as it is heartfelt, as Tauren invites us all to participate in what I reckon are some of the most unique and powerful pop/CCM songs this half of 2016 thus far. The first official radio single from the EP, “Love is Action” features light acoustics and a whole lot of electronics as Tauren presents a theme that reminds us of something central- that the love we have in our hearts that comes from our Father is best shown to others through the action we take and how we live our lives. While we know that actions alone can’t save us from our sin and ourselves, actions is indeed how we show others about the change that is inside of us- how we act and how we love is a reflection of the love we have received and our response to it. As Tauren sings himself, ‘…love is action that you take, passion that can make any kind of wall come down…walking out our faith, giving everything, nothing’s gonna stop us now, love is action…’, as “Love is Action” fast becomes one of my favourite songs of 2016.
“Never Gonna Let Me Go” is more electronic than “Love is Action” and while initially I thought the song would fit right on a dance floor or even in an 1980s/1990s throwback playlist; the song itself hits hard and compels us to reflect and believe into the statement that God Himself is never gonna let us go, even in the moments when we think or even believe that He is far away. “Hills and Valleys”, the EP’s most CCM track, features a more subdued atmosphere as Tauren reminds us all that God is a God who is present during both our highs and our lows. He is God of the hills- the high moments, the up times where nothing can go wrong, and is also God of the valleys, the low moments when all we just want to do is hide ourselves away from the world. A song that gives us comfort, us knowing that He is our constant even when everything else is changing; “Hills and Valleys” is a potential radio single in the future…maybe the second official single after “Love is Action”?
Tauren’s first solo effort is nothing short of powerful and unique, as he continues to remind us that even if a band ceases to exist, that doesn’t mean that the members (or in this case, the lead singer) also disband from music as well. Just like how Peter Furler continued music after his own departure from the Newsboys, so has Tauren Wells shown us that his time serving the community and ministering to others through music is not done yet. While I am still wondering as to why Royal Tailor broke up (the real reason, not necessarily the official one); Tauren’s effort still impresses, and continues to be an EP that is on rotation on my iTunes playlist of late. One of my favourite EP’s of the year? Most certainly. Well done Tauren for such a powerful EP, and one to listen to if you want to tie yourself over between his EP release and his full length album release in 2017!
3 songs to listen to: Hills and Valleys, Undefeated, Love is Action
RIYL: Royal Tailor, Lecrae, Tenth Avenue North, Blanca, KB, 1GN