MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 53: REBECCA ST. JAMES

You know how sometimes you have a plan of what you want to do, and how you’re going to go about it, and then in the end, the plan is uprooted and everything changes in an instant? Maybe that’s how I felt leading up to this blog post that I’m embarking on right now. And if I am to be completely honest, I wasn’t planning on writing about this particular artist today. I had everything planned out- for the next few weeks in fact, and I knew what I was going to write about, and it wasn’t about Rebecca St. James. Nevertheless, God always has His ways of showing up in the 11th hour, in places that you know you may not necessarily expect Him to. And He did- and as I write about Rebecca’s music and how it has been instrumental in my own life, and how the music has shaped my own ethos, beliefs, way of life, and outlook on people in general, I am thankful to how God can even use the things that have impacted us in the past, to remind us indeed of the past, as we understand that the things that have got us from then to now, still impact us to this day, creeping in our everyday lives when we may not think they can. Rebecca’s music has been a blessing to my own life in the last decade and a half since I first heard her passionate vocals in the mid-2000s. An Australian from a big family who uprooted themselves in the early 1990s to settle in to living in America (and Rebecca then subsequently moved into CCM ministry at the early age of 17 in 1994!); Rebecca’s place in Christian music, as well as even music in general has shaped the 1990s and the 2000s in ways that even I know I can’t even fathom- her trademark voice, and her youthful and energetic demeanour is what drew me to her music in the first place, and is what continues to bring me back to her music time and time again as the years continue to roll on.

Let me give a little bit of context first- I grew up in a Christian home and family- I still am a Christian and a firm believer in the saving grace and love of Christ, even to this day. And when I started to explore the different styles of music within CCM during the 2000s, I saw the rich wonder and the enthusiasm present within a bunch of different artists around that time, that explored faith so candidly and without hesitation- artists like Steve Grace, Delirious?, Tim Hughes, Carman, Steven Curtis Chapman, Avalon, Hillsong and Chris Tomlin were all instrumental in my own faith journey throughout primary and high school, solidifying what I know and what I can assert to be true. And then along came Rebecca St. James. Back then she wasn’t even thirty yet, but I don’t think that even mattered to this Australian, who already unveiled to us 6 studio albums, 1 best-of compilation, 1 live project, 1 Christmas album, alongside an independent album as well, by the time of 2005, which was when I first started hearing Rebecca on the radio presenting to us standout songs like ‘You are Loved’, ‘God Help Me’, ‘Take All of Me’, ‘I Can Trust You’ and some of her fan favourites like ‘Wait for Me’, ‘Song of Love’ and ‘Reborn’, to name a few. Rebecca’s songs reminded me that it was ok, for a male teenager at that time, to enjoy listening to music by females. I don’t know who put the thought in my head at that time that it would be weird and people would look at me differently if I did enjoy listening to female artists (now looking back on it, I can definitely say that it was the devil delivering those lies to me during that time), but nevertheless, I believed that warped assertion for a while, that it would be an image credibility issue if people knew or even found out that I was listening to music by females…I don’t know what I was thinking.

Looking back on it, I wasn’t, but at that certain moment, it’s hard to believe anything else, than what we assume to be true either by just seeing the media, or just thoughts being screamed into my own head about what people would view me as, if they found out that the artists I did in fact enjoy weren’t ‘blokey’ enough. Nevertheless, that was a long time ago, and Rebecca’s music was healing for myself, it changed my own perception of CCM, especially female-led CCM. Since the mid-2000s, God did a work in myself to make me understand that music is music, that it doesn’t matter if it’s a bloke at the helm or a female, if a song is good, it’s good. I received healing from that, and in 2020, I can definitely say that some of my favourite CCM artists currently are in fact female- powerhouse vocals of Natalie Grant, the soulful introspection of Nichole Nordeman, the poppy goodness of Francesca Battistelli, the worshipful Meredith Andrews and the crossover success artist Lauren Daigle, are just some of the many female artists I’ve been impacted by throughout my own Christian walk of life over the years, and it all started with Rebecca and her music all those years ago- and for this expansion of my own perception of music and what it ought to look like, I am grateful.

‘…throughout my childhood and into my teenage years, the music that I was exposed to was very limited. Aside from artists like Delirious?, Carman, Steven Curtis Chapman (in fact, I think Signs of Life was the first CD our family received- even before we had a CD player), Tim Hughes, Steve Grace and Planetshakers (their 2003 album Rain Down), our CCM albums/artists knowledge wasn’t to the point where you’d call us a fan of it. Nevertheless, a few WOW Hits albums purchases a few years later- WOW Hits 2005, 2006 and WOW Worship Aqua (fuelled by our enjoyment of WOW Hits 2004), we took the plunge and purchased our first CCM album by a female artist in 2006- Rebecca St. James’s 2005 album If I Had One Chance to Tell You Something. If you’re someone that knows me, anything new is a big deal for me to latch onto. From food, to new situations, things, music, TV shows, movies and the like, anything that I was introduced to had to be ‘forced’- yes, even Coca Cola, ice cream, shows like The Mentalist, and sports like cricket, had to be introduced to me by my parents- if I had my way, I’d probably still be only eating chicken wings right now and watching Disney Adventures (I know that is an exaggeration, but you get the picture). So delving right in and purchasing a new album, from my own accord, was, and still is a big deal. Rebecca St. James was the first female artist we as a family listened to, and while at the moment she’s not making any new music (she recently authored 2 fiction books, starred in a few movies and became a mother), there is hope that she can make some music again. Nevertheless, it is her music that encouraged me to listen to more CCM female artists- from Francesca Battistelli, Britt Nicole, Mandisa and Kerrie Roberts, to Lindsay McCaul, Natalie Grant, Nichole Nordeman and Kari Jobe.

Rebecca has always stood for purity and abstinence, even in a world where those qualities are frowned upon by the media. She wrote a song about it and her future husband, titled “Wait for Me”, which I’m sure comforted, encouraged and motivated a lot of young women, and men, to wait for their spouses, while also being the best they could be themselves in the meantime. Songs like “Song of Love”, “Expressions of Your Love”, “God”, “Go and Sin No More”, “Lamb of God”, “Reborn”, “Stand”, “Pray” and “I Thank You”, along with more recent favourites “Alive”, “God Help Me”, “You Are Loved”, “Shine Your Glory Down” and “I Will Praise You”; have all been standout songs from an Australian artist that is sadly seemed to be forgotten on Christian radio nowadays. In fact, I can’t even remember any radio station playing a RSJ song since “I Will Praise You”…maybe back in 2011/12? Despite this, Rebecca’s music still remains to be some of the most heartfelt, encouraging and worshipful songs to be written within the modern CCM era (last 10-15 years or so). Her faithfulness to God through practicing her abstinence, as well as being a role model for many young people around the world during her career (she released her first album in 1991 at the age of 14), makes her one of the artists that influenced my own walk with Christ, and was one of the artists who expanded my own musical genres and tastes, as my teenage years progressed…’

I wrote this above piece of work in 2014, under the blog post at the time- ‘Sentimental Saturdays’. Now, if you are not really familiar with the types of blog posts we undertake here on the site, you can check it out here, that once upon a time, we as a site used to unveil a blog a day- titling it by the day, and with each day, was a theme- Monday we’d write about something that ought to have some kind of message at the end of it (hence, Message Mondays), while Tuesday was a time where we embarked on something a little ‘throwback’- harkening back to the time of yesteryear, where things in music echoed a simpler time and brought with it a little nostalgia. Wednesday was a time where we delved into all things worship, while Thursdays, a day in which that particular blog series fell flat right off the bat, was an attempt to have our own takes on all things TV- as if that was going to work, considering you have pivotal and influential TV sites like TVLine and SpoilerTV doing the exact same job. Nevertheless, we did try to write a few posts around this idea of ‘TV’ around 6 years ago…with mixed results. Friday was a time for us to alternate between the topics of food and of the future, while the blog series that filled me a lot with nostalgia was Sentimental Saturdays– a series that I undertook from 2014 – 2017 that with it, gave me a licence to revisit topics and moments in my own past that I was to unveil with a lot of pride and admiration, of thanksgiving and appreciation as I look back on my own life and see what brought me from then to now. Because every single moment and what I enjoyed, what I liked and disliked, my own past hobbies and things that I put on the shelf and collected dust (until recently…Nintendo 64, anyone?), has all shaped my life into what it is today. I have very fond memories of the past, and one such thing that I did enjoy throughout my own teenage and high school years was the music I listened to, and the joy that came with buying CD’s for real- as opposed to receiving music digitally through youtube, spotify and other means.

Rebecca St. James’s music was a part of my teenage years growing up, and a lot of her albums for me symbolised a time of spiritual growth, as I broke free and explored the various avenues where I could hear and listen to Christian music in a way that I may not have heard in the past- with Delirious? being a British rock group, and Carman delivering his gospel undertones, I wasn’t as familiar with CCM as many  other people may have been- Rebecca’s music helped with that welcomed change and transition, and now in 2020, I can safely say that Rebecca’s music contributed a lot to opening my own eyes to see the vast array of Christian music out there that was edifying and encouraging, songs and artists and albums that was able to minister to me on my own teenage journey through the years. Rebecca’s songs themselves were synonymous with my high school, and hearing her songs even now, I can remember back to when I was a teenager at certain moments and recall (not necessarily with the best vividness) events that transpired at that time. Nevertheless, Rebecca’s music formed the groundwork spiritually, and that even though she’s not as active in the industry now as she was before, her presence was still felt during the height of her career (1990s and 2000s), as Rebecca herself, I believe, has paved the way for a lot of CCM music artists, especially female, to come after her, and be inspired by her own craft to create music of their own.

Rebecca St. James started off her ministry in the early 1990s when her family moved over to the U.S. for work opportunities for Rebecca’s dad, and now decades upon decades later, we see that Rebecca’s discography and musical repertoire came to high prominence and impact during the mid-later 1990s and early 2000s when her songs charted radio the most. ‘Here I Am’, a song from Rebecca’s self-titled debut album in 1994, was a standout for her at that time, as this keyboard driven track (which has a very distinct 1990s flair!), showed us an emotive theme and message of us responding to God’s call and sharing the gospel, going wherever He leads us and declaring out to Him, ‘here I am, Lord, send me’; while the groovy ‘Side By Side’, of which Rebecca herself released a music video for that song (sung around a campfire with African singers and dancers accompanying her), calls for a sense of unity and coming alongside someone and sharing life with them- side by side, through all their hurts, despair and difficulties, as well as through all the triumphs and joys as well. But it was not only until songs from her second album God, released in 1996 (when Rebecca was 19) charted radio, that her music was becoming to be noticed by fans and people around the world. The title track ‘God’ is Rebecca’s own attempt to declare the majesty and glory of God the Father, explaining to us all, the only way that she knows how- declaring passionately that ‘…it’s God, truly God, can you see, can you hear, can you touch, can you feel, it’s God, truly God, I can’t explain any other way ‘cause it’s God…’; while the album closer on God, ‘Go and Sin No More’, is a heartfelt and compelling song about not sinning any further willingly, after receiving Christ and the enormity of knowing and trusting into the fact that God has redeemed us from a life of sin, so that we don’t have to fall back into the life that we once lived, but to keep striving to be better and more like Christ each day. ‘Psalm 23’, a hidden track on the end of ‘Go and Sin No More’, is in fact that- an in-song rendition of the Psalm, as Rebecca unveils it to us with just keyboards, vocals and string instruments, while songs like ‘ABBA (Father)’ and ‘You’re the Voice’, a song about God our ABBA Father deserving all the praise and credit we ought to give Him for, and a Johnny Farnham cover respectively; are still more standouts from God, quite possibly THE album that placed Rebecca on the map of being an artist, a young one at that, who was impacting and influencing CCM, music in general, and the younger generation of people, all at once.

Rebecca’s music has been one that I myself have listened to on a constant basis throughout the 2000s when I explored her music- in fact, dare I say that Rebecca’s height of popularity and impact, was from 1996-2005, inclusive of 1996’s God, alongside her 1998 album Pray, 2000’s Transform, the worship album (complete with covers and originals) Worship God in 2002 as well as the most sentimental album of hers to date, 2005’s If I Had One Chance to Tell You Something? Rebecca’s songs over the years have delved into themes that have been relevant to society and culture as the years have progressed, showing us all that it is still ok to place into songs, issues that need to be discussed about. ‘Pray’, the title track from Rebecca’s 1998 album, speaks of the issue of prayer and the need for us all to go to God in prayer whenever we need it, preferably as our first resource rather than our last resort, while ‘I’ll Carry You’ reminded us all of the necessity of people carrying other people’s burdens, and offering their time, effort, and presence to people in need, and the need for community to come and rally around people who may need people around them in their time of need. ‘Peace’, my favourite song on Pray, highlights the issue and importance of being still before God and ridding ourselves of all the noise and distractions, quieting ourselves down in contemplation as in our silence and peace, we acknowledge God’s work done during these tranquil times; while ‘Omega’ (remixed also for the 2002 album Worship God) delivered to us spoken word, as Rebecca unveiled to us the great qualities of God, and then began to sing out the emotive and powerful words, that God’s grace be with us all of our lives, us forever staying faithful to Him and blameless till He comes. Pray also had a few covers and hymns as well- ‘Hold Me Jesus’ (Rich Mullins), ‘Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful’ (Keith Green) and ‘Be Thou My Vision’ (traditional hymn) were all present on Pray, making this 1998 album one of the most well-rounded throughout Rebecca’s whole career- and an album for me that is one of my favourites. While only 21 when the 1998 album was released, Rebecca displayed a writing ability and singing voice far beyond her years, making Pray, I reckon, one of her albums that has been ahead of her times upon release, and an album as a whole that stands the test of time (in my opinion), when looking back on it all in 2020 with the ability of hindsight.

As I continue to scroll through Rebecca’s discography, I see a vast array of musical styles, themes, stylistic changes, different vibes and atmospheres, alongside unique moments of realisation and revelation as these songs presented to us topics that we may have shied away from if not for songs like this that pressed the issue. ‘Don’t Worry’, a bouncy piano-driven CCM-esque melody from the 2000 album Transform, speaks of the heavy issue of worrying about our lives, to the point where we may even cling to it more so than we even need to- for if we hold this life too close, we may lose sight of the reality that this life will fade away in the end, leaving with it the next. If we focus too much of our time, energy and perspective on the here and now, we won’t be ready for when Christ comes again, and ‘Don’t Worry’ is a fun-yet-serious way for getting our attention for things past the here and now. ‘Universe’, a song that is perhaps one of the most underrated on 2000’s Transform, is by far one of the most musically ingenious from Rebecca. Incorporating electronic undertones coupled with orchestral string instruments, the topic that is approached, is of how God’s love for us is higher, wider, deeper and farther than we can even comprehend and know- with Rebecca herself employing the techniques of showcasing astronomy jargon to make her point; while dance-pop continues to be of the trend in ‘Lean On’, a song co-written with the then-popular band Earthsuit and shows us how we as Christians ought to lean on God for every circumstance that comes our way. ‘Stand’, one of the first songs that our family heard from Rebecca on our local radio station Hope 103.2 back in the early 2000s, is a worshipful song through-and-through, and in my mind, is also based upon the early hymn-like melody ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’, and how there is a time and a season for all things purposed by God under the sun. ‘Stand’ uses the stringed instruments in a way that makes the song very CCM-esque, while also using the string instruments in other dance-pop settings on Transform as well, making the 2000 album one of the most musically diverse albums I’ve heard from Rebecca to date. ‘Reborn’, a radio single from Rebecca at that time, was about a close friend of hers coming to Christ and the change that can be seen after someone discovers true hope and joy for the first time, while ‘For the Love of God’ described to us a theme that we all know right now as being the bible verse about Love in 1 Corinthians- the same passage that was the inspiration behind for KING AND COUNTRY’s ‘Proof of Your Love’ as well.

Rebecca unveiled to us in 2002 her much-anticipated album Worship God, which is by sales numbers, her most successful album to date. With songs like Matt Redman’s ‘Let My Words Be Few’ & ‘Better is One Day’, Marie Barnett’s ‘Breathe’, Paul Baloche’s ‘Above All’ and Third Day’s ‘God of Wonders’ all present here on this album, Rebecca’s passion for worship and her heart for delivering songs that declare God’s name is very much evident, for a little ol’ Sydneysider who ventured to America with her family when she was a teenager. Rebecca’s original songs for Worship God, namely tracks like ‘Lamb of God’, ‘You’, ‘Song of Love’ and ‘Quiet You With My Love’, all remind us of how good Rebecca was at this worship ‘thing’ back in the day, how she was miles ahead of others for that time period when it came to giving us great worship songs to sing along to. All these four songs from Worship God are great classic songs from Rebecca, and remind myself of the fond times that I myself have had during my childhood when I did listen to this album on a regular basis back then- ‘Song of Love’ in particular was a great worship song that I sung along to for weeks at a time during year 6/7. And dare I say, that a lot of Rebecca’s older material can still be applicable today for the music industry in general- her unique musical talent in fusing together a myriad of genres back then was nothing short of extraordinary- in fact, maybe a lot of her earlier songs deserve a re-recording, like a tribute album of sorts, by people who may have been influenced by Rebecca’s music in the past, and maybe redone in a certain way for a new generation? I’d be down for that- I think that’ll be really cool. Regardless, the late 1990s/early 2000s was the golden age for Rebecca and her music- everywhere she turned, she was the ‘reigning’ female CCM artist in the whole of Christian and gospel music- it was out of her ministry that other artists like Nichole Nordeman, Francesca Battistelli and Natalie Grant were able to succeed at a similar level- and for that alone, Rebecca’s music ought to be commended, appreciated and honoured for the groundwork it was for other artists going ahead of her!

If I Had One Chance to Tell You Something was unveiled in 2005, and for me and my family, it was the first album from track #1 to #12 that I heard from Rebecca, start-to-finish, and thus is a sentimental album of hers that I owned at that time. It was also around that time where I delved into and discovered the WOW Hits series (2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 to be precise), and thus, I branched out into Christian music that even I didn’t consider could even happen- and if you knew anything about me and change, then branching out into anything new has be well-thought out first, researched beyond a shadow of a doubt, not just things undertaken on a whim. Nevertheless, upon reflection, it was albums like Rebecca’s If I Had One Chance to Tell You Something, alongside Steven Curtis Chapman’s All Things New and Signs of Life, Tim Hughes’s Here I Am To Worship and Planetshakers’ Rain Down, that encouraged me to explore the artists on the WOW Hits series…and then the rest is history- in 2020, I’ve had the privilege of hearing a lot of great artists that stemmed from my time as a teenager when I was only listening to a handful- then along came Rebecca with her unique way of delivering music, and I wasn’t as afraid of other musical styles and artists as I’m sure I was back then. Nevertheless, If I Had One Chance to Tell You Something still holds a special place in my heart, all those years later. ‘Alive’, the powerful rocker that we all know Rebecca was capable of, spends the better half of the 3 minutes in a declaratory state, where Rebecca powerfully asserts that God makes her come alive, amongst all the guitar driven undertones and powerful percussion- making this song arguably one of Rebecca’s most rock songs she’s ever recorded. ‘God Help Me’, another powerful rock anthem, speaks of how we can often be at the end of our rope, when all we can do is just ask God for the help that we desperately need to get out of a certain cyclical pattern of habits, while songs like ‘Love Being Loved By You’, ‘I Need You’ and ‘Beautiful Stranger’, the ‘middle’ of the album, and often some of the most ‘forgotten’ songs from Rebecca’s 2005 album, are some of my own personal highlights.

‘Love Being Loved By You’ is a song that reminds us of the notion of gratefulness and appreciation, loving the fact that God loves us in the first place; while ‘I Need You’ incorporates the genres of orchestral music and rock music to deliver a song that shows someone needing and depending on a friend during difficult times and times of need and turmoil. ‘Beautiful Stranger’ also hits home for me- the topic of helping the least of these in a way that welcomes people who are less fortunate than us, into the realms of conversation and consideration, is something that needs to be addressed even in this society and culture today. Rebecca’s melody can help and impact in a way that I think every other song about helping the poor can as well- the song also speaks of the worth that God sees in the people that can often seem to be forgotten, and it is often the downtrodden, the overlooked and underappreciated in society that God Himself values the most and holds in highest regard, and can use to teach other people the meaning of unconditional love. A collaboration with TobyMac resulted in ‘Thank You’, a rock anthem that gives glory and thanks to God, while ‘Take all of Me’, a Hillsong UNITED cover, presents the song in such a rejuvenated and rock-fashion, that allows the song to be given more life and vitality than it had in the original Hillsong UNITED recording- and is one of my favourite UNITED tracks, ever! ‘I Can Trust You’, a song that charted in Australia (though I’m not sure anywhere else!), is a song about trust, and a personal one to Rebecca herself, because at the time of recording her song, she was still trusting God for a husband. In her words specifically, ‘…this song came out of really wrestling with God—and some really personal gut-wrenching pain. I had a certain aspect of my life that I really felt God calling me to give completely to Him. There’s been a few experiences in my life where I have felt God calling me to ‘let go’—but this particular time was just so hard. It was giving a dream to Him that was so deep within me—yet He was saying ‘Give this to me, and trust me with it, and I will take care of you, Rebecca.’ I feel that God (when we ask Him to) does give us the ability to ‘let go’ in the times when it’s really impossible for us to do this on our own. One of the things God has called me to let go of and trust Him with is this whole singleness area of my life. A major dream for me has been to get married and have a family—so this song really challenges me. God called me to trust Him with my desire to be married. To say, “Lord, if you have another purpose for me other than this desire that I have, I choose to trust you that you know what’s best for my life.’ He gave me the ability to do this. This song really talks about the challenges of giving God the things closest to us…’

It was in the late 2000s when Rebecca quietly fell ‘off’ the radar- yes she did release a live album aLIVE in Florida in 2007, which featured songs from If I Had One Chance to Tell You Something as well as some of her other hits throughout the years; it appeared that Rebecca’s time in the industry from a young age had caught up with her, and that now her time away from the spotlight was much needed. Nevertheless, for someone so young to be thrusted into the industry and then for them to seemingly fade away after one of their successful albums (in 2005) is a bit of a shame. And that’s what I thought at that time- that after her highly successful career that stood for more than ten years, that she was done. That was until 2011- when Rebecca herself re-emerged from oblivion to announce her engagement (to her now-husband Jacob ‘Cubbie’ Fink, who was once part of the alternative rock group, Foster the People), as well as a new record deal with Provident Label Group and the unveiling of her new album titled I Will Praise You. An album that echoed more of Worship God than If I Had One Chance to Tell You Something, the album was a mixture between original songs, alongside covers- ‘You Never Let Go’ by Matt Redman and ‘You Hold Me Now’ by UNITED, the two tracks that were previously recorded prior to this 2011 project, that Rebecca also placed her spin on as well. Nevertheless, I Will Praise You, though not as commercially successful as her first worship album in 2002, was still a moderate success- songs like ‘I Will Praise You’ and ‘Shine Your Glory Down’ being the joyous anthems that could’ve found themselves in Sunday morning song set-lists around that time (but they sadly didn’t), while other songs like ‘Almighty God’ (One Sonic Society) and ‘When the Stars Burn Down’ (Phillips, Craig & Dean, Travis Cottrell), are just some of the songs that Rebecca herself recorded first for the 2011 project, but as time went on, became more synonymous with other artists than herself. The piano-only vulnerable song and album ender ‘You Make Everything Beautiful’ takes a look and beauty both inward and outward, as we see Rebecca reminding us that it is God who makes everything beautiful for us, that what we do or don’t do is not a reflection on whether we believe God can love us more or less, it’s just that often we have a warped sense of what we believe beauty to be. This track in particular is a great reminder for us all to get back to who God sees we are, rather than who we see we are- we are so much more critical on ourselves (through the devil’s promptings and prodding) than we can even realise.

I Will Praise You released in 2011, and now here we are in 2020, and what between 2005 and 2011, occurred again in 2011 too, after the release of her new album, her marriage as well as Rebecca being a mum as well. And so here we stand in 2020 to see an artist who has influenced a generation during her day, and now having to basically restart again from scratch- in 2020 she unveiled to us all her partnership with Bethel Music and her release of another album- worshipful as well, later on 2020- her brand new song ‘The Battle is the Lord’s’, released Friday June 5th, can be viewed as a video acoustically here, as a part of a Facebook livestream in April 2020. Rebecca’s new album Dawn, is one such album that I myself am very anticipated for, and something that is a great reminder of how meaningful Rebecca’s music has been to not only my own life, but to other people’s as well who listened to her during the 1990s/2000s. While Rebecca may not have had current success over the last 10 years or so since her 2011 album till now, what she has undertaken as we look back through hindsight is something remarkable, that people I’m sure can only dream about. Because to be frank, Rebecca’s itinerary over the years has been much more than music- she unveiled to us studio albums, live albums, Christmas albums (in 1997, an underrated album that consisted of carols, an original Christmas anthem ‘A Cradle Prayer’, and a formidable cover of John Lennon’s ‘Happy Christmas (War is Over)’), alongside a slew of radio singles not attached to any studio album per-se. ‘Expressions of Your Love’, a duet with Chris Tomlin, ‘Yes, I Believe in God’, a rare track from 1999, and ‘I Thank You’, a special song recorded for the American troops deployed in various war-torn situations around the world, were all present on Rebecca’s 2003 album Wait for Me: The Best of Rebecca St. James, while Rebecca herself also contributed to many-a-compilation throughout her time during her music ministry.

‘God’, a track unveiled to us all in 1996, was given the remix treatment by rapper and Christian hip-hop artist KJ-52, and was released on his 2005 album Behind the Musik, and featured the chorus of Rebecca’s song, mashed-up with KJ’s free-flowing verses (and for me is one of the seamless fits of pop and rap collaborated in the CCM industry, ever!), while Rebecca also featured on a duet with DC Talk ex-member (and now Newsboys frontman) Michael Tait on the song ‘Lead Me Away’, from the compilation album The Prayer of Jabez in 2001. ‘Lion’, a track written specifically for the movie The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe released in 2005, was included on the compilation of songs inspired by, and written specifically for, the movie, and was a song that has become a great hit in the aftermath of the unveiling of the album (and a song that is very much underrated!), while ‘America’, a stand-alone single released in 2006, is a patriotic song through-and-through, and is a reminder to commit the country we live in, be it Australia, America or somewhere else, to Christ and let Him lead it to wherever He wants it to go and be. Rebecca joined her brothers in for KING AND COUNTRY on a duet of ‘Amazing Grace’ to mark the return for her to music in 2017, while Rebecca also delivered songs like ‘Little One’ (a song for the movie Sarah’s Choice, one that she starred in as the lead character) and ‘Wish (Shoulda, Coulda)’ (an unofficial song release in 2009- a song of lament and wishing things were different between friends that sadly drifted away) over the years. Rebecca also starred in a few other films throughout her career in music and media- Unidentified, Suing the Devil, Faith of Our Fathers, Rising Stars, The Frontier Boys, and the aforementioned Sarah’s Choice, are just some of the handful of film roles that Rebecca has had over the years, a testament to how versatile she has been in both music and acting. Nevertheless, Rebecca will still be remembered for her music career, as well as being an advocate for abstinence in relationships. Rebecca throughout her time in the spotlight, has given to us a handful of books about the subject of relationships- Loved, Pure, What is He Thinking? and Wait for Me: Rediscovering the Joy of Purity in Romance being some that have scaled the surface on this thing called relationships and self-worth. But for me personally, even though it is her music career that stands out amongst the rest of other things she has accomplished over the years, there are two songs in particular that I reckon stand tall above the rest- Rebecca’s ‘signature song’ ‘Wait For Me’ and her 2005 radio hit, ‘You are Loved’.

‘…it’s an entirely different experience singing that song now. The first time I sang it after I got engaged it was incredibly emotional for me. My fiancé Jacob’s grandparents were actually there for that show in Colorado, so I think it added something to it having part of his family there. But as I was setting up the songs, talking about the fact that I’d written the song for my future husband and never knew for ten years of my life who that was going to be and now I do, the audience just responded with such warmth and love. And I started crying as I’m intro-ing it. And singing the whole song, it was just – I was fighting emotion the whole time I was singing those words. Because there’s a part in ‘Wait for me’ that says, ‘Waiting for the look in your eyes when we meet for the first time,’ and that was there when I met him. For the first time meeting a guy, there was something very, very special right from that first glance. I actually ended up asking him once, I said, ‘Did you know the lyrics of that song when we first met?’ And he didn’t. He knew some of my other songs, but not that one. He wasn’t even aware that there should be a look when we first meet. It was just organic, so I love that…’

‘…It’s written about a childhood friend of mine that I grew up with in Sydney. I fell out of contact with him after leaving our Christian school to move to a different state. I ran into a mutual friend years later and asked how our friend, Daniel, was doing. This friend told me that Daniel had really fallen away from God and that he’d been abusing drugs as well. As I was thinking about what I wanted to write about on this album, he very randomly came to mind—and I felt that this ‘random’ thought was actually placed there by God. I had the concept… ‘If I had one chance to tell Daniel something, what would I say to him?’ The message I felt God really laid on my heart was to tell him…’You are loved.’ This is a song for the prodigals—which is all of us. God is the father that has His arms open wide waiting for us. He wants us to run towards Him and He will run toward us. It’s a song of hope and a message my generation needs to hear. ‘No matter where you’ve been and what you’ve done…you are loved.’ From this song came the album title—and really the key theme of the project…’

It is in these two quotes above, the first one about ‘Wait For Me’ (the quote was written after Rebecca herself got married), and the second about ‘You are Loved’, that I have come to appreciate both these two songs, and be reminded that it is in these two melodies that Rebecca has ministered to a lot of people around the world. It’s no secret that Rebecca has been waiting for a spouse for quite some time, and for her to finally have a husband and a family is something only God-given. In a similar way, ‘You are Loved’ (which also had a great remix of it, placed as a bonus track on aLIVE in Florida) is also a reminder of a time in my own life when I was branching out in music tastes and preferences- the song itself is one of my favourite songs on Rebecca’s 2005 album, and a song that communicates a message that we as a nation and as the world desperately need to hear, maybe even on a daily basis- that we are loved. Both these two songs are great testaments to where Rebecca is now and how far she has come with her musical journey: the impact that these songs have had on people throughout the years is something that cannot be denied or forgotten.

Rebecca’s music for me has meant a lot more than even I have probably noticed or even gave credit for. I would say that Rebecca’s music, and her status as an influential person placed here on this top 100 list, is more on a personal level to me, rather than influential to society and music as a whole- not that she wasn’t, she did remind us all of being faithful in relationships and waiting for the one who God has set aside for us, while working on ourselves and being the best possible versions of us that we can. But it’s kinda sad to think that from the moments of 2005-2011, and from 2011 to 2020, when she didn’t really record much, if anything, I’m not really sure if anyone even noticed or knew that she was absent from the music industry- especially with all the other newer artists that were flourishing at that particular time. Which is a shame- but a reality too, that people can easily stop listening to your music and stop being a fan, if what you’re doing and the timeline of albums released doesn’t match up with what they expect of you. Which is also indeed sad.

But what I have observed through admiring and respecting Rebecca’s career through this whole time, is that God always has something up His sleeve- it was revealed through a recent interview this year that Rebecca actually unofficially retired from music a short time after I Will Praise You was released- and now God’s calling her back. Will the new song (and album) from Rebecca bring back her fans of old? Who knows, I know I will be waiting in anticipation for whenever Dawn arrives. Till then, I’m going to continue to marvel at the way that God has used the songs from Rebecca’s career in my own life, and reminded me that someone as ‘young’ as Rebecca (when she started out professionally at 17) can still be influential and shaped by God for His purposes. Rebecca is one such artist that hasn’t really let the fame of being a star at such a young age faze her, even though she did take some breaks from music in between. She is a testament and a role model hopefully to other young aspiring artists- like Hollyn and Riley Clemmons; of how to manage a career in the spotlight when you’re so young. ‘The Battle is the Lord’s’ drops digitally on all digital platforms this coming Friday, and who knows, maybe this song will spark another career rebirth that could last for years to come. Regardless of what may come of Dawn and its aftermath, one thing is clear- that Rebecca’s music has shaped, and will continue to shape, Christian music as a whole- and that if Rebecca’s music never really existed or got off the ground, then CCM would be in a different musical landscape today- and it is for that, I am grateful for Rebecca’s songs, not just personally, but for the whole world too!

‘…there was definitely points, I feel like, where I struggled with the platform that I had been entrusted with; and I definitely always saw it as a calling. I also know that any kind of notoriety can kind of mess with your head. And, you know, my dad was my manager, and he’s actually still managing with me with the things that I’m doing now. He’s also managing my brothers in for KING & COUNTRY. He always said – and I know he says it to my brothers, as well – just almost don’t believe your own publicity. You’ve just got to be careful to not start thinking too highly of yourself, because it ends up kind of sabotaging your own person. So, there were definitely, I think, a few points where I struggled with, even the way that people would look at me. Like, I’d be signing autographs and could just kind of see a certain look in people’s eyes, where they had you on a platform. And I think, for me, I was always trying, from the stage or, you know, in anything kind of public, to kind of do away with that platform that people were putting me up on. I sought to be authentic; but it’s a weird thing. You know, when you think about it, you are on a stage in front of thousands of people, and they’re looking at you, and kind of elevating you, in a way. And I think without God kind of giving us perspective on that – and coming back to the fact that, as Christians, anything we do is all about him, you know, no matter what it is – I think that was a very stabilizing element to me, as well as traveling with my family. You know, they would treat me the same no matter what. And I’m really grateful for that…’

Does Rebecca St. James and her music make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Best Influential Artists of All Time’ list? Is there any song, like ‘God’, ‘Wait For Me’, or ‘You are Loved’, that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

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