Release Date: September 1st 2017
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Different (Prelude)
- The Happy Song
- One of a Kind
- Spotlight (Interlude)
- Dance On
- Party Like a Princess
- Reverb (Interlude)
- Daughter of the King
- Bella (Acoustic)
- Heaven (Fix Things)
Struggling with Tourette’s Syndrome from a very young age (or shall we say living with and actually thriving!) yet still always being positive, jovial, and happy in her outlook, 25 year old Jamie Grace, found as an artist by TobyMac and signed to his label Gotee Records in 2011, took the world quickly by storm with the hit song “Hold Me” off her debut album. She has since gone from strength to strength in the coming years after her debut, both as a role model, especially to young teenage girls, and as a songwriter. Winning a Dove Award, and being nominated for many more, and a Grammy throughout her vibrant career; now 2017 brings a new album called ’91, her third in her career, and first as an independent artist- and it is this album that contains many of Jamie’s best songs to date, in my opinion. Personally, I was pleasantly surprised and proud of Jamie’s debut album from the smorgasbord of genres encompassed throughout the entire duration, and the vast topics explored in the lyrics too; as well as her sophomore album Ready To Fly, comprising of hits such as the pop single “Beautiful Day”, inspirational tune “Fighter” and the country inspired melody “White Boots”. ’91, an autobiography of sorts in that Jamie subtly references the year of her birth, is no different, as plenty of musical genres here are explored, and Jamie should be very proud of herself- ‘91 probably will end up on my favourite albums of 2017 (and that is a very bold proclamation!).
Opening up with the very musical different country themed 80 second “Different” (the first interlude), we quickly recognise that this won’t be your standard pop album, in fact, the lyrics here are quite prophetic, as Jamie sings out ‘…I was meant to be, a little different not ordinary, I don’t fit in with everybody, but I stand for who I am and who I’m made to be…’; while Jamie segues into the happy-go-lucky CCM radio friendly 3 minute pop tune “The Happy Song”. A song that actually brings a smile to my face, and is a track that will make any person who listens, happy for a while; Jamie passionately belts out her assertion that every day she will choose to be happy when she sings out ‘…the happy so-o-o-o-ong, singing all day lo-o-o-o-ong, and when the sun is go-o-o-o-one, I’m still happy ’til the brand new dawn, my so-o-o-o-ong, singing all day lo-o-o-o-ong, and maybe I will see the rain but happiness is here today, so won’t you help me sing? The happy song…’. It also makes me smile watching Jamie play almost every instrument on this track’s music video as well!
The rest of the album, though comprising of quite different and unique genres, still is vintage Jamie, and is an insane ball of energy and fun, as Jamie fervently reiterates her love of Jesus, and telling us how much it has shaped her life today. 3 minute electronic dance number “One Of A Kind” speaks about how Jamie is unique as a person, with all of her oddball quirks, yet one of a kind in the eyes of our Heavenly Father, our Creator; while album highlight “Here”, a slick, smooth, hand clapping, guitar pounding, and foot stomping southern gospel/country duet with sister Morgan Harper Nichols, is a song that has plenty of replay value, with both sisters vibrantly pointing out the enternal truth that Jesus is right here beside us, in every situation, even if we can’t see it. God’s fingerprints are on every situation, and everything does work out for the good of those who love Him, and even if sometimes in the moment we may not see or understand, God will show us the answers in His timing. What a fantastic encouragement from Jamie and Morgan. Interlude number 2 on ’91 is “Spotlight”, and with some fancy electric guitar work, simply reminds us to always live life to the fullest, and ‘…dance like no one’s watching, even though the spotlight’s on me tonight…’, which lyric-wise is a great way to move into “Dance On”, a silly, fun, bubbly, infectious 2 minute melody where we can dance with abandon and inhibition, because Jesus Christ has set us free from sin.
Personal and emotional to Jamie in that it’s probably the one of the most meaningful tracks on the album, “Bella” features a host of different languages, as Jamie sings about a daughters love for her father and how that mirrors a tiny fraction of the love our heavenly father has for us, and the love we should and hopefully do for Him. As Jamie ardently cries out that ‘…I could go to Mexico, France or Panama, but nowhere in the world can make me feel like ya, when you call me your Bella, I know I’m your Mia, love being your daughter, always your feela, thanks for being my papi, every hour I need thee, cause no other papa could love me so dearly…’, we are presented with a prayer of thanks and gratitude, to our earthly father and our Heavenly Father as well. Sung as an acoustic track as well, Jamie has recorded this melody to perfection, as we are presented with a glimpse into how Jesus Christ views us and how He loves each of us immensely and more than words can say.
Lead single “Party Like A Princess” brings the tempo back up a bit, and is something I would expect Group 1 Crew, TobyMac, Hollyn or V. Rose record. With repetition and electronics abound, along with reverb, autotune and remix effects, this track is unfortunately a low point on ’91, as Jamie encourages us to party because of everything Jesus has done for us. It’s a good message, but the execution is a bit forced, sorry, but I wasn’t feeling it here. But on the other hand “Reverb” (the 3rd interlude), which is similar musically to “Party Like A Princess”, is surprisingly refreshing and unique, as we get to witness first-hand Jamie rapping in a song, an experience I’m sure we will hear again in the near future, and one that Jamie should be proud of enormously. Lyrically about how we are only on earth doing what Jesus has for us, and that we are the ‘echo’, the ‘reverb’, and that Jesus is the ‘main instrument’ in our lives; this analogy is sure to hit hard with many, or all who listen.
With the acoustic guitar in your face no-nonsense melody “Games” speaking about how petty arguments can lead to friendships breaking and sometimes being irreparable, Jamie goes on to say that she doesn’t want to play any mind games with anyone. Nor does she want to stir up drama for the sake of it, but rather Jamie wants to be a vessel for God’s love, building people up rather than tearing them down. The keys, synth and guitar pop melody “Sixteen” is next, and is based on the life of Jamie when she was sixteen, as well as her sister Morgan- and in the song she details somewhat trivial issues of what teenagers go through (homework, prom, arguing with parents, friends, boy/girlfriends) but are important in the minds of someone in the midst of them; and she also speaks about turning our problems over to God, as He is the one who can and will help us out when we are in a tight spot.
Yet it is “Daughter Of A King” and the album ender “Heaven (Fix Things)” that are two of the most vulnerable, honest and emotional songs Jamie Grace has ever recorded. The former is a simple, laid back, acoustic guitar led slow ballad, and has both Jamie Grace and sister Morgan encouraging young girls, and by extension, anyone who listens that ‘…the Maker of skies, the Maker of seas, the Maker of every beautiful thing, He made you, He made you too, the mountain high, the river wide, He tells the sun when to set and rise, and He made you, He made you too…’, as our identity as a child of Jesus Christ is reinforced. And the latter is I believe Jamie’s crowning achievement on this album, as the piano prominent ballad emotionally and prayerfully highlights the fact while God is all powerful and all knowing, and has the power to fix any problem we have, the fact of the matter is that sometimes we don’t get the help we need from God, and sometimes God doesn’t fix things, even when we want Him to. Even when He’s big enough, sometimes He chooses not to, in order for us to learn something about Himself or ourselves that we wouldn’t otherwise have learnt. Sometimes the reason is unknown, but in all things we need to learn to trust God, not because of what he did or didn’t do in our lives, but because of the promises in the Bible that are never-ending. A song that will surely test of faith but hopefully strengthen it as well, Jamie has recorded a winner here- a song everyone needs to listen to.
With both One Song At A Time and Ready To Fly garnering many accolades, the release of ‘91 this past month and a half is sure to gain more praise and applause. While Jamie Grace still maintains that youthful personality, and lyrics that are more relatable to young girls; there’s a sense of maturity and understanding of the world well beyond her 25 years, and it’s this fact that will make future albums more appealing to listen to. With Jamie wearing her heart and love for Jesus firmly on her sleeve, ‘91 is a must to buy for those who are fans of TobyMac, Britt Nicole, Group 1 Crew and Mandisa; and will undoubtedly be a highlight in this upcoming year, with Jamie’s infusion of many genres while keeping the focus on the God who created all musical genres! Well done Jamie for a worthy follow-up to Ready To Fly!
4 songs to listen to: Here, Bella, Daughter Of A King, Heaven (Fix Things)
RIYL: Pure NRG, Zoegirl, Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, Cimorelli, Britt Nicole