Capitol Christian Music Group
Release Date: August 20th 2021
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Make A Difference
- He Believes In You
- Truth Is
- Do For Love (feat. Angie Rose)
- All Are Welcome
- Jesus People
- We All Need Jesus (Feat. Koryn Hawthorne)
- Stand In Faith
- Stay Strong
- Cristo Es Necesario (feat. Christine D’Clario)
Danny Gokey’s heartbreaking, heart-warming, comforting and inspiring story is one for the ages. If you don’t believe me, then you can read the introductions of our reviews of his albums Hope In Front Of Me, Rise, and Tell Your Heart To Beat Again EP (or even the conclusions, or the whole reviews!). Because the in-depth descriptions on what Danny went through and how he came through the other side; is covered much more in depth over there that it doesn’t need to be repeated here. Although if you’re the lazy type, I’ll just recap- Danny auditioned for American Idol way back in 2008 but a couple of weeks before he was supposed to go in to sing in front of the judges, his first wife Sophia passed away. Now Danny didn’t win the competition- he was placed third; however his story of loss, and subsequent determination to create uplifting, hopeful and impacting music to honour his wife, has resonated with people all over the globe. The story of his first wife, has given Dany a platform to share the good news of Jesus Christ to as many people as he can (similar to Jeremy Camp and the death of his first wife Melissa!). The hit single “Hope In Front Of Me” in 2014 started his meteoric rise to popularity in both Christian and mainstream circles; as his first album in 2010 was an unfortunate failed attempt at breaking into the country genre. Yet fast forward to now, and we see that Danny has released another album. The powerful, moving and hopeful Jesus People released today… and this project is the follow-up to 2019’s Haven’t Seen It Yet. And from the lyrical content of the single (of the 3rd album) alone- about waiting for God’s promises and believing that everything will come together in His timing; the album of the same name is one of Danny’s most relevant and strongest musically and lyrically to date (I’ll always have a soft spot for the debut project…). Don’t believe me? Take a read of Jon’s review of Haven’t Seen It Yet and let me know what you think of Danny’s latest!
Still feel inspired and ready to take on the world, courtesy of Danny’s uplifting and grandiose message of hope and security in Jesus? Good. Because the latest project Jesus People is where we’re going to be introduced to a whole lot more hope, joy, love, peace and happiness. And that’s because Danny has delivered another winner… although musically it’s not that inventive. Stylistically, lyrically and thematically, Jesus People shouldn’t be a project that I overly enjoy- simply because Danny doesn’t break the mould. But his earnestness, passion and enthusiasm have drawn me in greatly, as Danny provides to us an experience for the ages, and one that will certainly make you feel closer to God, as we admit to the whole world that we are indeed ‘Jesus people’. With audiences having connected with the raw, honest music, and Danny’s profile now exponentially rising due to his step of faith when he was at his lowest point in his life; many songs are in fact a testimony of God’s goodness and faithfulness. Also, the fact that Jesus keeps his promises is reason enough for Danny to keep on singing and worshipping with intense passion, and this 3rd place finalist in the 8th season of American Idol holds nothing back. With “Stand In Faith” and “We All Need Jesus” being the lyrical anchors for this project, Jesus People is a must listen if you want to praise Jesus’ name, but also want a bit of musical variety than your usual hymns.
I believe there is something musically and inspirationally for everyone on this album – it’s full of hope and encouragement that I think we can all use right now. In the writing process and also in choosing the title, I was inspired by the life of Jesus and how His presence has been a staple throughout history. He was a figure that brought the broken, the hurting, and those that had lost their dreams together in a unifying way, and that’s something I inspire to do. Musically, I got to explore some new things and cross some genre borders. I’m excited for listeners to hear the collaborations with the special guests featured on the project, including Gospel, Latin, and even a little rap. It’s something I love doing and hope to do more of in the future.
Jesus said they would know us by our love. What is love? Love is patient, love is kind, love is long-suffering, love does not envy. It does not seek self. I think the best way we can show love is by living love. People can say, ‘I love you’ all the time, but I can tell through your actions how you actually feel. I think love is the key. Love is what fuels and changes things and really, meets people right where they’re at with no strings attached.
These days when everyone feels hopeless because of COVID-19 and lockdowns and quarantine, Jesus People is like a breath of fresh air. Opening the album with “Make A Difference”, the boppy, celebratory 3-minute melody passionately and emphatically encourages us all to actively change the world through our actions rather than with our words. As Danny earnestly implores us all that ‘…we can make a difference, we can do our talking with our hands and feet, Love is on a mission, let the difference start with you and me…’, we are presented with a moving anthem about practicing what we preach about- and though cliché; this song really should be the catalyst for us to start actively moving to be the change that we want to see in this world. Though not explicitly Christian in nature, the feel-good anthem comes from a Christian-adjacent place; and hopefully listeners will see Danny’s heart and love for Jesus in this opener.
Lyrically and sonically, I guess I’d have to say that Jesus People is somewhat like Haven’t Seen It Yet. For new fans of Danny, I’d say check out the debut album first though for lyrical and musical variety- because the rest of the 11 tracks are musically similar to the album opener. However, there are moving and inspiring melodies for the long-time fans- and if you know Danny’s work from before, then you’ll be easily impressed. Promotional single “He Believes In You” is as compelling and powerful as any song in 2020- the track just feels about ready-made for these times, with Danny prayerfully imparting to us that Jesus believes in us and that with Him we will be alright, that ‘…when the waves and the wind push harder, when you feel like you can’t get through, He is there with you in the water and He believes in you, when you’re lost and you’re broken hearted, when your shame is an open wound, He is holding you at your darkest and He believes in you…’; while “Truth Is” is slightly underwhelming, with lyrical and musical clichés abound (even though at times we do need to hear clichés because they are powerful and they do work!), as Danny sings out that he knows about the truth of Jesus Christ, that He has rescued and set us free. Thankfully, the Spanish and Latin flavoured pop tune “Agradecido” (Spanish for ‘Grateful’), is a joy to listen to, with the musically and lyrically simple melody praising Jesus because of His goodness and declaring that we are thankful and grateful for ‘…every blessing You pour over me, over me, I can’t help but dancing like a fool, because of how you set me free, can’t help but sing…’. With Danny displaying a very picturesque music video, as well as the inclusion of his wife and 4 children in the video as well; this melody is one of the most moving and powerful he’s done in recent times…probably since “Wanted”.
“Do For Love”, with a pulsating, stirring and gripping guest rap vocal from Angie Rose, earnestly reminds us that God will go to the ends of the earth and do whatever He can, all for the love He has for us; while the piano ballad “All Are Welcome” is an emotional and honest nuts-and-bolts representation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Though not the complete gospel (it doesn’t speak about the resurrection, not about sin and hell), the melody does inspire us all in our walk with Jesus, with the knowledge that we’re never too far from God’s grace and love. At least the song will create healthy discussion at the dinner table, and for that I am truly grateful for Danny’s songs- this in particular. The title track is next, and sadly is lacking in any kind of story and emotion. And though these words of being on fire for Jesus ring true, the melody suffers from what I reckon is the confines of what a CCM song currently sounds like- a vague problem solved in 3 and a half minutes. I’m not knocking the song, but it doesn’t connect with me right now despite the ever-true lyrics; while Danny and Koryn Hawthorne deliver an almost perfect R&B/gospel duet in “We All Need Jesus” (reviewed in depth by Jon!), a melody that outlines our much-needed reliance and dependence on Jesus, that ‘…we’re all broken people, don’t we all need Jesus, every moment of our lives, 24, 365, our human is equal, don’t we all have our weakness, everybody makes mistakes, everybody needs that grace…’. Danny also employs Christine D’Clario as a guest vocal on the Spanish rendition of the song as well- and this creates an extra depth and meaning to such an already heart-warming melody.
“Peace”, a gospel-infused, hopeful melody about having the peace of God fill us from the inside out, is as inspiring and moving, while Danny emphatically delivers a future smash hit with the highly successful single “Stand In Faith”. With an emotional and moving music video, Danny encourages us all to rely on Jesus, and to stand in the faith that we have in Him, with Danny also declaring out promises that ‘…this is how blind men get their sight, this is how dead men start to rise, this is how small things multiply, nothing’s impossible, nothing’s impossible…’. Jesus People then ends (apart from the Spanish version of “We All Need Jesus”) with the vulnerable, authentic and prayerful piano ballad “Stay Strong”. With Danny declaring that his faith won’t waver, even if it seems like he is tested and even if it seems like the world is crumbling all around him; we are encouraged to build our faith on the Rock of Jesus Christ rather than the sand of the world- so that nothing will shake it, not even life itself. And as Danny eloquently relays that he may not like that healing or anything else may not be made right this side of heaven; we are nonetheless encouraged that Jesus will make everything right one day in heaven- and so as we wait for that day, let us keep pressing on and being faithful to the calling He has for our lives. As we are ‘Jesus people’, let us stand firm in the faith.
On par with Haven’t Seen It Yet but not as compelling and moving as his first two albums, Danny Gokey’s new project doesn’t come without disappointments (“Truth Is”, the title track), however there are more than enough standouts here to create a well-thought out and enjoyable album. It’s not my favourite album of the year (leave that to albums from Phil Wickham, Delta Goodrem, Jon Foreman, Riley Clemmons, Needtobreathe, Ellie Holcomb and Thomas Rhett!); however for fans of CCM and inspirational music- this release is a must-listen. Quite breathtaking, grandiose and anthemic, Danny Gokey’s Jesus People is fantastic for listeners who are longing for a theme of hope in their lives and reassurance that Jesus is with us right at this moment. An album that’s certain to be a best seller in both Christian and mainstream markets, Danny’s album will be around my iTunes playlist this year and beyond- and it will grow on me! Well done Danny for such a poignant and powerful album, and one of my favourite CCM male vocalists since Josh Wilson, Brandon Heath and Matthew West.
3 songs to listen to: Agradecido, All Are Welcome, Stay Strong
RIYL: Brandon Heath, Josh Wilson, MercyMe, Casting Crowns, Matthew West, Mark Schultz