Release Date: November 6th 2020
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Normal (Prelude)
- Gown Up Lullabye
- Be Okay (feat. Morgan Harper Nichols)
- Truth (Spoken Word)
- Hope (Spoken Word)
- Breathe Deep
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, 29 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 2020 brings a new album called Normal, her fourth in her career, and second as an independent artist (on the heels of ’91!)- and it is this album that contains many of Jamie’s most emotional, honest and vulnerable 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”. 2017’s ’91, an autobiography of sorts in that Jamie subtly references the year of her birth, was no different, as plenty of musical genres here were explored, and relevant topics discussed about. Normal takes those very themes and then goes deeper, as this release- though not musically polished enough, is very much needed in society today and lyrical content that we all need to hear and fully understand.
Opening with the 30 second “Normal” prelude, whereby Jamie encourages us all to be unique and an individual; the project truly starts with the acoustic guitar driven laid back and reflective “Grown Up Lullabye”, whereby Jamie relays to us that whenever we feel tired, stressed and at out wits end, we should take a deep breath, meditate and try a ‘grown up lullaby’, probably a metaphor for trusting more in God and surrendering everything to His hands. “Be Okay”, an acoustic guitar driven mid-tempo ballad with Morgan Harper Nichols on guest vocals, is next, as Jamie and Morgan fervently relay to us that circumstances will turn out to be ok, no matter how dire they are; while the ukulele driven “Chance” is a prayer of sorts, asking God to take a chance on us, to stay by our side despite our brokenness and our messy stuff-ups.
“Breathe Deep”, a piano prominent inspirational and hopeful tune, encourages us all to ‘breathe deep’ and slow down in our living- allowing time to mediate and bask in the promises of Jesus; while the title track ends the EP with a hard hitting and confronting punch- with Jamie relaying to us that she’s going to act more normal than before, and not trying to conform to the patterns of the world. Yet the crowning achievements of Jamie on this release are the two spoken word poems “Truth and “Hope”. It’s a sight to behold to read along with Jamie- so that is what I’ve done. Below are the lyrics of the two poems in full, each linked to the audio slide. And now you can read long and be blessed- because what else can you say about these two masterpieces?
I choose to let truth have the final word
Even though lies are much easier to believe
I fight in a daily battle against anxiety that tells me that “I’m not enough
I’m not beautiful, I’m not successful, my voice doesn’t matter
And my words don’t hold value”
And I can’t even say that anxiety says that “I’m not loved and cherished”
Because anxiety takes a step further into my insecurities and says
“I’m not even able to be loved. I’m not even capable of giving love.
I should hang up my coat or throw in the towel or give up the hope of hoping to matter
Because I am far from lovable. Not even decent,
Just breath and bones with density decreasing moment by moment each minute of the day.”
Every second of every hour I hear my mind say
“Just stay in bed don’t get up, why would you add to the world?
You’re a burden. You’re too much. You’re too cliché, rhyming girl with world.
You have nothing to offer, you have nothing to say.
The songs they liked were a one time thing, the videos will fade.
Just stay in bed, don’t get up!
Don’t brush your hair, don’t eat, don’t sleep
Just stare at the wall and think about the most awkward things you’ve ever said.
Ruminate over the worst parts of your day.
Start a cycle of pain, fear, and doubt
Where you can’t function or process freedom or being freed from the weight on you heavier
Than shame, heavier than pain because it bears the reality of every negativity ever named.
Don’t text your friends.
Give it weeks at a time, don’t answer your phone but let it ring, but
Push that little button so it rings on silent,
So people think your changing the world and writing songs
When your really in a dark quiet room staring at the wall.”
Some would say to fight is to be free from all pain
But the reality is my fight is the ability to see pain
To see my brokenness broken before a battle everyday
Where I choose to let truth have the final say
I’m not asking my pain to never exist
Because without disgust, beauty could never exist
Without pain I would never understand healing
And without being weighed down I couldn’t appreciate freedom
So when my mind starts to wonder and my thoughts start to scream
I let them have their moment, open the show
Because this gig doesn’t pay a thing
Not my time, not my attention, not even a lousy applause
I write down the exact lies that my mind wants to tell
And I let truth step up to the mic and be the headliner
Because my mind says that “I’m not enough,” but truth says that “I don’t have to be”
Because I was made by the epitome of enough for me
And He does His best work when I am weak
And my mind says “I’m not beautiful and I’m too big and I’m too weird”
But truth says “There’s something wonderfully made about me”
And I can’t get my truth from a skill or a mirror
My mind says “I talk too much and I should just be quiet.”
But truth says, “What if there’s a new season that could change the world
And what if your story is the pilot?
What if our minds are the biggest liars?
Somewhere between anxiety, depression and our character flaws.
What if they’re not yet trained to always tell us what we need
So instead all we hear are despicable, disgusting things?
And what if instead of being consumed with the fix,
We sat in the hurt, the pain, and the sick.
We wrote down the untruths and the doubts and the worst
And we choose in the moment to let truth have the final word
Even when lies are easier to believe.”
When sad songs are more fun and isolation more convenient
Or when it’s painful to break down day after day
But somehow it’s easier than speaking up and asking for help
When panic attacks are easier to understand than peace
Even though they tear us apart and leave us feeling weaker than the moment we started
I fight a daily battle and I make a daily choice
In the discombobulated truth that is my world
When I don’t always believe it and even when I don’t know how
I choose to let truth have the final word.
Two words used to explain the two options for going through a door
In and out
The phrase my parents used throughout my childhood to explain how long we would be in the grocery store
And we were sometimes in there a little longer
Than in and out
The description used by my surgeon that was to represent the simple explanation of my nasal surgery
A quick outpatient procedure and I should stop having chronic sinus issues
The simplest rules that create a pattern to continue sending and receiving air through our lungs
And just like my surgery it’s much more complex
But to use two simple words explains it the best
The breath goes in as we take it all in
And the breath goes out as we send it out
And just like my parents
When they would take us to run errands
Going through different aisles
To get all we need before going to the checkout lane
There is much more that happens in between
The in and the out
As our organs play a melody that the choir can’t live without
But all we see is this simplistic remix, the in and out
The beginning and end
Breath, we take a breath
Most of us take for granted how easy it is for us to take
As a kid who battled asthma and an adult who still carries an inhaler
I oftentimes have to take conscious breaths
But even then my story can’t even compare
To the beautiful souls on a waiting list waiting for a chance
To have the advantage
Of in, out
Step one, step two, we forget how good it feels
To have in, out
We get so caught up in our list of to-dos
We forget to take a moment to say
Thank you for in, out
I remind myself to take the steps, the simplest steps
Even on the days where it feels like I can’t
On the days where work isn’t fun anymore
To love what you do and never work a day?
But what about the days where I’m working and I love it
But it’s still a pain
And on my days where my family is far from perfect
The days where apologies and insecurities are colliding and colluding
And I feel so insecure I start to wonder if it was all worth it
And on the days where the news makes me angry
Where change seems unrealistic and middle ground seems like an impossible dream
On the days where my car seems like it won’t start
When I try to make breakfast but everything ends up burnt
When I’m an hour from home and my phone is on one percent
When I start to doubt my choice to live on the West Coast and pay this much in rent
On the days when I’m tired of shopping but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
You too have had these moments when you’re just hoping for an open door
When my health is failing me, friends aren’t around
When my confidence is too quiet, when my fears are too loud
When everything is just as it seems
Broken pictures and scattered dreams
And everything I want is confused with what I need
But it doesn’t even matter because none of it is coming to me
When I feel alone
When I am alone
Somehow, there is still hope
Because just like the motions it takes to go through a door
My body is ready to do the only consistent thing that life brings forth
It tells me that there is still a chance to recover
It tells me that right now won’t last forever
With each passing breath, there is more promise of the next
Sometimes soft, sometimes consistent
Sometimes heavy, sometimes burdened
Sometimes the in is because of surprise
Sometimes the out is the reality of demise
Sometimes the in filled with disbelief
Sometimes the out is the only form of relief
I will not take it for granted
I will not lose sight of the only thing I know
With all three of One Song At A Time, Ready To Fly and ‘91 garnering many accolades, the release of Normal in November last year 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 29 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, Normal is a welcome and much needed look at feelings of worthlessness and also feelings of hope and redemption. This project 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 ‘91!
3 songs to listen to: Truth, Hope, Be Okay
RIYL: Pure NRG, Zoegirl, Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, Cimorelli, Britt Nicole