Stolen Pride Records/Capitol CMG
Release Date: June 16th 2017
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Word of Life
‘…it has been said that whenever an artist moves from their original genre to another midway throughout their career, that either they feel called to change their genre and in all intended purposes, thrive in their new genre, or they have lost their initial purpose as a band (inclusive of genre) and are just grasping at different musical styles because they are unsure of which genre to latch onto, choose and run with. With many people thinking the second possibility when it comes to artists like Sanctus Real, Kutless, Hawk Nelson and even Group 1 Crew, from their respective genres of rock, hard rock, pop-punk and hip hop to CCM; I like to assume the 1st possibility whenever an artist switches genres for whatever reason. While it may take a while being used to an artist’s different style, it is still at testament to whomever listens of the versatility of the artist in question. Moving onto Jeremy Camp, whom this review is about, starting his musical quest in hard rock, then moving to rock, worship and pop, you can be easily forgiven to think that Jeremy’s latest album I Will Follow will be a further departure from the rock he embraced in Stay…’ This above paragraph was written a couple years ago, as an introduction into the review of I Will Follow, Jeremy’s latest album release via Capitol CMG. While in that review, I concluded that his February 2015 album release was much more rock than I initially anticipated, his subsequent release of ‘Word of Life’, that dropped on iTunes and other digital outlets a few days ago (also released on Capitol CMG), sadly seems to be moving into the direction of corporate worship/radio friendly CCM a la Chris Tomlin.
That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with Jeremy or his music per se. To be fair, if Jeremy feels like right now, he’s called to minister into the CCM market, then fair enough. However, this song feels like a drastic departure from his early days of hard rock in his 2002 album Stay. Sure as artists continue in such an industry, their sound evolves. However, upon listening to ‘Word of Life’ a few times, while the message is great and the heart and passion behind the song is undeniable, this song only stands out because of rhyming lyrics and a catchy beat, rather than unique lyricism and heartfelt poignancy (think songs from artists like Jason Gray, Andrew Peterson, Nichole Nordeman, Josh Wilson etc.). But this is not a review to knock down Jeremy in any way- but rather, it’s to point out what I think is lacking in this song- which is the originality of it. Put it this way- if any other artist was singing this track, it wouldn’t have mattered. Put Chris Tomlin on it, or Danny Gokey, or Phil Wickham, or MercyMe, or Kutless, or anyone who is currently ‘big’ in the CCM industry at the moment. Anyone singing this, I’d automatically think they’d wrote the song. It’s like, there are certain songs that have a feel to it, and you know that it’s a Hillsong-esque track or a Jesus Culture-esque one. In this instance, ‘Word of Life’ sadly doesn’t have a ‘stamp’ on it, which is a shame.
The song and message is good- and probably needed and relevant in society, in a way that Jeremy Camp sings about the message of Jesus being the word of life and that and that alone ought to be our source of hope, encouragement and salvation. That’s not the issue. Rather, the trademark Jeremy Camp sound that was initially brought to life in his earlier albums and songs is sadly not present in this release. Even during I Will Follow, Jeremy experimented a bit with various sounds and even went back to his early rock days with the title track, ‘Living Word’, ‘Can’t be Moved’ and ‘Only In You’. But a few years later, ‘Word of Life’ lacks any unique sound that Jeremy possessed in albums past. Hopefully this is just a glitch and his new album slated to release later in 2017 possesses more of a unique style akin to songs like ‘I’m Not Ashamed’ (a song that released just 6 or so months ago), ‘Breathe’, ‘Lay Down My Pride’, ‘Speaking Louder than Before’ and ‘Tonight’. Maybe someone will listen to ‘Word of Life’ and be encouraged. And maybe that’ll be me in a few months time. But right now, I’m not really feeling the song. And that’s ok. Maybe the Lord will speak to me in the next few months. Maybe I’ll feel exactly the same about this track then. Maybe I won’t. But what I will say is this- Jeremy’s new song is fit for radio, and has a message we all need to hear. Will it satisfy die-hard Jeremy Camp enthusiasts? Probably not. Still, Jeremy’s heart is in the right place, and his motivations behind the track cannot be denied. Here’s hoping the next song Jeremy releases is much more musically refined and less radio friendly than ‘Word of Life’, for the sake of artistic expression and creativity in CCM.
3 songs to listen to: ‘Word of Life’ three times- that’s if you are heavily into CCM
RIYL: Kutless, Hawk Nelson, Chris Tomlin, Phil Wickham