Release Date: July 31st 2020
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Crashing In
- Nothing More Than You
- Dear God
- Prodigal Song
- I’m Sorry
- Faithful Wounds
- The Father’s House
Cory Asbury is a name that has divided many in as many households in relation to his chart-topping song ‘Reckless Love’. No need to delve into the reasons why- this is where ‘google’ is your friend- you can google the song, the album, listen to the album, even read my review of the album that I wrote last year. Cory Asbury is as much as a celebrated artist as any other; but is also an artist that turns people off CCM altogether. Nevertheless, as polarising as an artist as he is, Cory’s been making music that impacts for a while now- inclusive of ‘Reckless Love’ and a lot of his other songs in his catalogue- songs like ‘Endless Alleluia’, ‘Water and Dust’ and ‘Only Takes a Moment’, to name a few. And now here we are in July 2020- around 2 and a half years after his label debut album Reckless Love released- this time, we are given To Love a Fool; quite possibly the most anticipated album from any CCM artist, released in 2020 thus far. How does this album compare to Reckless Love? Do the songs promoted from this new album- namely ‘Sparrows’ and ‘The Father’s House’ as of now, compare to his countless other songs of the past, ‘Reckless Love’ in particular? Can any of these songs here on To Love a Fool become as big as ‘Reckless Love’ was, or is ‘Reckless Love’ still his most poignant single…for now? How do you all reckon these songs will stand amongst the sea of music in 2020 when it comes to an end?
Even though this version of ‘The Father’s House’ seems a little less radio-friendly and a lot more experimental, there was a radio-friendly version of the song that hit radio airwaves way back in January 2020. Though not the official radio single from To Love a Fool– ‘Sparrows’, according to various reports, is the official single from the second album; ‘The Father’s House’ nevertheless is heartfelt and emotional. Even though the song itself is about a concept and underlying message that has been reiterated to listeners time and time again, it is never enough to hear such truths about the Father’s House- as depicted in the song, now more than ever! And yet even though I found that such a song as Cory’s is at times a little too repetitive for its own good, we are nevertheless still reminded that Cory and his presence can make a song intriguing, even if we hear ‘The Father’s House’ only once to say that his follow-up single to ‘Reckless Love’ is good…but not great. And maybe that’s ok. Maybe I’ve been rating ‘The Father’s House’ upon the yardstick and benchmark of ‘Reckless Love’, when it doesn’t have to be. The song is good in its own right. Sure there’s repetition, and sure there’s times that I think ‘gee, Cory’s follow-up song to ‘Reckless Love’ is this?’ but all in all, ‘The Father’s House’ as it stands is a good worship song. Just not a great worship song if you want to use ‘Reckless Love’ as a reference point as something to aspire and live up to. Nevertheless, Cory’s new song should be a certain staple in Sunday morning church services as the months progress. And for me in my own curated Spotify playlists as the year progresses as well? While in January 2020, I’d say ‘only time will tell’, now it’s a definite ‘yes’, after more months of hearing the song, and the story behind it. What I will say is this- that Cory’s ‘follow-up single’ after ‘Reckless Love’ is certain to be on everyone’s lips and in people’s heads as 2020 continues to roll on, especially those who love worship music, Bethel Music or both.
‘…this song was born probably two and a half, maybe three years before it was entirely written. I was in the middle of a tour, and I was tired. You know, I just felt weary and broken. Jacked up, weak, and messed up. All the things that we can feel as humans. A lot of times, for me, music is therapy. It’s time I pour out my heart before the Lord. I sat down at the piano, and all of a sudden, this one phrase came out, “You never wanted perfect. You just wanted my heart.” And it was like, bam, a light went off in my heart. I realized at that moment that it wasn’t about me having it all together. Even in my weakness and brokenness, it was just about offering my heart in that space. So I sang that phrase, “You never wanted perfect. You just wanted my heart.” and I started weeping. I still got the voice memo on my phone just crying and saying that phrase over and over and over. It was therapy to my soul, and oddly enough, that became the second line of the second verse. That’s where this song was birthed. Out of this place of realization that Father God didn’t want me never to mess up again. He just wanted me to run to Him when I did. That’s it. That’s all He wanted. When you mess up, don’t hide and sin. Don’t hide in shame. Run to God and give Him back your heart…’
Throughout the rest of the album, Cory continues to bring to us heartfelt melodies, about God’s extravagant love for us, and our own very human condition that seems to always be at odds with this notion. Nevertheless, the rest of Cory’s 9 songs make To Love a Fool one of my favourite albums in 2020, ever! ‘Canyons’, the first song on the album, has a little 1980s influence (with the pulsating drums), alongside light country-esque guitar playing as Cory presents a theme of God’s love being wider and deeper than we can ever imagine. With powerful lyrics, Cory presents the understanding, that there’s no place ‘…I run that You wouldn’t run after me? How could I fall when You already took the fall for me? Beyond the stars to the very breath I breathe, there’s no end to Your love for me…canyons wide, oceans deep, can’t contain all Your love for me, no matter how high or far I reach, there’s no end to Your love for me…’ Canyons are vast natural structures, and so for God’s love to be described as being wider than the widest canyon- that’s something to ponder and consider. ‘Sparrows’ is track #2, and though the song itself has a similar structure and theme to that of Jason Gray’s song of the very same name; Cory’s ‘Sparrows’ is a great reminder of how God takes good care of us, knowing what we need before we even ask Him. The song itself also reminds us of how much God takes care of other living things- the sparrows, the lillies, the tree and its fruit. Things that aren’t us (humans), are thought of by God- what further consideration would the Lord our God have for us compared to the other animals? God cares about His creation, and this song ‘Sparrows’ is evidence of this.
‘Crashing In’ explores this issue and understanding of how fear, worry and a sense of ‘earning’ love, falls by the wayside when we really learn and soak in the info that God’s grace and love covers all of our inadequacies- that we come to the Father ‘…with nothing to gain, nothing to lose, nothing to show and nothing to prove, the weight of the world falls off my shoulders, it’s the weight of Your love, comes crashing in…’, while ‘Nothing More than You’, co-written with Hillsong writer Benjamin Hastings, calls upon us all to at least try to understand God’s unconditional grace for each of us, and that out of such a freedom that comes from it, we can’t help but want nothing more than God in our lives. He is our centre and rock- such freedom comes when knowing there’s no striving at all- nothing to gain, nothing to lose, everything done by us for Him, out of an outpouring of God’s love and mercy on our own lives.
Dear God, I’ve been trying awful hard to make You proud of me
But it seems the harder that I try or the harder it becomes
And I feel like giving up most of the time
Dear God, I’ve been chasing their approval and it’s killin’ me
And I know, the more I to try to prove, or the less I have to show
And I’m stuck inside my head, most of the time
But If I pray a little harder, if I follow all the rules
I wonder could I ever be enough
‘Cause I try and try just to fall back down again
And I ask myself why do I try to chase the wind?
I just lean into the mystery, maybe hope is found in a melody
So I wanna try again, oh, I’m gonna try again
And dear child, hope you know how much I love you and I’m proud of you
And please believe the thoughts I have for you will never change or fade away
And when you felt like giving up, I never did
‘Cause I’m not scared of imperfections or the questions in your head
Just know that you have always been enough
‘Cause you tried and you tried and I saw you wrestle with
Every how, every why, I was right there listening
So just fall into the mystery, I’ll meet you in the melody
So please try just to try again, oh child would you try again
My child you can love again
‘Dear God’ lyrics, from Cory Asbury’s To Love a Fool
‘Dear God’ is by far the most vulnerable song Cory has written- maybe even on par with ‘Reckless Love’, and reminds us all of that even the most strong-willed and spiritually ‘all-together’ people on the outside, can still have fundamental questions. It is almost natural for people to have questions about existence, meaning and the whole lot, but just because someone accepts Christ as their Saviour, doesn’t mean the questions will just go away. We wrestle with the questions, sit with them, like how Jacob wrestled the angel back in the Old Testament. Cory’s song is a moment of realisation that we don’t have all the answers, and that’s ok. For is it better to have been a fake Christian without even knowing it, or an honest and real person, expressing his own doubts? God is big enough to handle questions, and this song can hopefully encourage us all to let our guard down and ask the Lord of some things on our hearts, even if what we’re asking is taboo in society’s sight. ‘The Prodigal Song’ recounts the story of the prodigal son, from the first person view of the prodigal who had gone out and done the things that people often want to do when they want to ‘live their life’ away from parents and the ‘controlling’ home environment. ‘The Prodigal Song’, because of it’s first-person technique, can hopefully connect with people more with the parable and remind us all that at some point in our lives, we were like the prodigal son- thinking we knew better.
‘I’m Sorry’ is a vulnerable and poignant look at childhood and adulthood from the POV of Cory himself, recounting various parts of his own journey in life, and surveying the fact that what he wanted to accomplish in life, when He was young- it wasn’t the case when looking back on it. The lyric line ‘…thought I’d be learning how to love, instead I’ve only learned to fight, and I was only trying to walk beside You, I guess I just got in the way…’ is a reminder that sometimes us as Christians give Christ a bad rapt- with all of our imperfections and hangups, our hypocrisy and judgemental selves often leave people in disdain about Christianity as a whole- we say one thing but do another. This song is Cory’s often messy attempt, albeit an attempt, at saying an apology to the Lord, on behalf of all the people who ‘got in the way’. The album then ends with ‘Faithful Wounds’ and ‘Unravelling’, the former is a heartfelt and soulful prayer to the Lord, declaring faithfully that what is to be believed, is that the difficulties and trials we face are often necessary for perseverance and sanctification by our Father; while ‘Unravelling’ is a vulnerable song about letting God unravel us so that He can rid out all of the unnecessary things in our lives, and that the realisation occurs, that when everything is stripped away, and it is only God that we can rely on; that is when our faith is revealed to be solid and true (or anything else!).
To Love A Fool, maybe alongside Chris Tomlin & Friends, are the two most anticipated albums within Christian music for 2020 thus far; and let me just say that this new album from Cory didn’t disappoint. Though I may have wanted a few more upbeat songs (the only quasi-upbeat song on the album is track #10, ‘The Father’s House’), what I did receive are 10 songs that are some of the most heartfelt and emotive worship songs I’ve heard…ever. An artist to enjoy if you love similar-styled music from Chris Tomlin, Cody Carnes and Pat Barrett, to name a few; Cory’s music is one to be behold- ‘Reckless Love’ and its impact has made To Love a Fool a certain listen, at least once, if you’re at least interested a bit in terms of what he’ll write, in terms of a follow-up to arguably one of the most celebrated, loved, but also polarising song in Christian music, in recent memory and history. Well done Cory for such a poignant emotive album, looking forward to see how the Lord works in the lives of people in the upcoming months ahead!
3 songs to listen to: Unraveling, Dear God, The Father’s House
RIYL: Pat Barrett, Chris Tomlin, Chris Quilala, Kim Walker-Smith, Cody Carnes