Release Date: February 15th 2019
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
“…Gospel music, particularly—and the black church—have been a part of black music culture for so long. If you just go back and look at Aretha Franklin, she grew up in a church and made gospel albums. If you look at Marvin Gaye, he grew up in the Church and made songs that talked about his faith and Jesus and his views on spirituality. Stevie Wonder has done it. I think all the great artists we grew up listening to, they grew up in the black Church and that tradition doesn’t just go away even though you’re making secular music…” If you were to tell me a year ago that I would be impacted and inspired by a John Legend song in the near future- I probably wouldn’t have believed you and maybe would have laughed in your face. See I first heard of John Legend via his hit single “All Of Me” and assumed every song in his repertoire was relationship style love songs. While love songs are great in small doses, albums upon albums of them was overkill in my opinion- hence I let my assumptions allow me to miss out on who I now reckon is one of today’s most inspirational pop artists currently. Perhaps I need to revisit John’s earlier music in the near future; but as with Avril Lavigne and her song “Head Above Water” appearing in my Release Radar on Spotify last year- so was I introduced to John’s latest single “Preach” via the same way. Though John doesn’t identify himself to be a Christian- even though he does come from a religious background; this doesn’t make the heartfelt, emotional, honest and emotional ballad no less meaningful- with John powerfully delivering to us one of the most relevant songs of this year thus far.
There’s a lot of talk in Christian circles- or in fact in any circle or sphere of influence; talk of changing the world. But there’s isn’t much action that we can see plain as day to us; and that’s the crux and idea of “Preach” that John is conveying to us. Because we can preach to our brothers and sisters in Christ, we can preach to the man on the street, we can even preach to our immediate family and friends; but if that’s all we’re doing, and we’re not looking to make an active difference in the world we live in, then the preaching isn’t doing any good, is it? With John subtly alluding to the Bible verse of James 2:14-26, the notion of faith without actions is dead; we are reminded that our faith needs to be lived out, and needs to be shown to the world in the form of doing.
How can people come to Christ otherwise if they don’t see the fruits of our supposed change? Though John hasn’t fully come around to that concept yet (and instead emphasises in the song that actions alone are most important rather than faith alone), I believe that these two facets of Christianity works hand in hand, and you can’t possibly have one and not the other, yet still call yourself a Christian. With “Preach” being confronting and sure to garner healthy discussions; I reckon it’s remarkable that a mainstream artist has caused this much buzz about Christianity than a Christian artist. It’s definitely something to think about and ponder over, as John ardently relays to us the pivotal question that everyone needs to ask- what can I do, as ‘…I can’t sit and hope, I can’t just sit and pray, that I can find a love; when all I see is pain. Falling to my knees; though I do believe, I can’t just preach…’
“…Jesus was kind of a revolutionary in his own way. He was fighting the power and speaking out for the underdog almost all the time throughout His life. That’s why He was so dangerous, and that’s why the powers that be wanted Him to not be around anymore. I think there’s been more of a conversation about that lately too. I think that’s a good thing…I think it’s important that we continue to examine [Jesus’] words and not to project what our own political motivations are onto Him, but to actually pay attention to what He actually said. What He said about the poor, what He said about loving one another and all the things that He preached, I think sometimes we lose sight of that…” Is this song enough for me to revisit John Legend’s earlier work? Maybe in the future- but for now I’m just sitting as letting Jesus speak to me like he has through John. Jesus is indeed speaking through one of the unlikeliest of vessels, but before we think that this song isn’t “Christian” enough considering the singer- maybe we can think about Balaam the donkey, the burning bush, the whale that swallowed up Jonah, the dreams Joseph was having…the list goes on. God was speaking through those unlikeliest of places, so why is it far-fetched for a John Legend song to be of God? Now before I go and dwell upon the ways I want to actively make a difference in the world around me; I suggest you do the same? I mean we don’t want to be preachers and not doers, right? We want to be both and do both well- so kudos to John for inspiring us at wanting to live the best life that we can- a life that points people to Christ!
RIYL: Danny Gokey, TAIT, The Katinas, Justin Timberlake, Tori Kelly, Guy Sebastian, Stan Walker