Release Date: October 21st 2016
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Jingle Bells
- Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
- What Child Is This
- White Christmas
- O Come All Ye Faithful
- Light of the World (Behold Version)
- Christmas Time is Here
- O Holy Night
- Little Drummer Boy
- Silent Night
‘…as a little girl, New Orleans graphed its culture deep within my veins and I fell in love with the cultural vibrancy and the resonating sound of New Orleans Jazz. The city is my happy place; a place I love more each time I return home. It has been a dream of mine to make a record of this calibre, touching respectfully on the roots of my upbringing and honouring those who paved the way. I hope as you listen to this record you are taken away by the awe and wonder of Christ in this season; and peace fills your home, your spirit and you find rest in the midst of rush. And above all, I hope Jesus is found riding on the sounds and into the hearts of all who come and BEHOLD…’ Lauren Daigle. Two years ago if I said that name, you’d probably wouldn’t know who I’m talking about. Now two years later, we all know who Lauren is, or even if we haven’t, we have at least heard her soulful voice and heard her songs like “Trust in You”, “First”, “O Lord”, “Light of the World”, and of course, “How Can It Be”. Bursting onto the scene with her EP in late 2014, as well as her chart topping debut album in 2015 that led her to receive numerous Dove Awards (inclusive of Artist of the Year); Lauren’s injection onto Centricity Music, home of many artists like Unspoken, Jason Gray, Aaron Shust, Carrolton, Jonny Diaz, Jordan Feliz and Andrew Peterson to name a few; has led this powerhouse vocal to become one of CCM’s most respected and revered artists in a while, in fact, dare I say that Lauren’s popularity has been the biggest I’ve seen since a similar sounding (both in voice and style) artist, Francesca Battistelli, lent us her voice all those years ago? Lauren’s rise, up the Christian radio charts and into our homes and hearts has been quite quick, yet this Louisiana native has fast become an artist where every album she releases deserves at least one listen through from start to finish. Since her very successful How Can It Be, we see Lauren deliver another album, yet this is not studio album #2, but a Christmas collection. Normally, artists wait a few albums until they decide to venture into Christmas territory, yet here we are, with Lauren unveiling BEHOLD, not even two years since her debut album release. Nevertheless, we hear Lauren’s Christmas album. What is my assessment of an album by an artist that is fast becoming one of my favourite female CCM artists of all time? Let’s just say that this is a perfect gift for anyone who love soul-jazz and slower piano ballads…and I may not be one of them.
Let me just say that this album review isn’t one, per se. We all know the songs here on this Christmas album. “Jingle Bells”, “White Christmas”, “O Holy Night”, “O Come All Ye Faithful”, “Silent Night”…even “Light of the World” was recorded originally on Lauren’s first EP in 2014. So when someone hears this album, there’s literally nothing new. In fact, the WOW factor that made me fall in love with Lauren’s music in the first place is sadly not there on Behold. Not that Lauren’s voice isn’t passionate or enthusiastic, it is. But rather, it is the genre of music that Lauren delves into that sadly doesn’t resonate with myself. While I can appreciate the jazz/soul genre that Lauren dives into, the songs sadly lose their passion and zest that previous artists have shown the Christmas carols to contain. Artists like Michael W. Smith, Avalon, Lincoln Brewster, Chris Tomlin, Matthew West, Mandisa and Third Day all have recorded Christmas albums before, and all have recorded some, if not all, of the carols represented here on Behold. Dare I say that I may have enjoyed the other versions of the songs better than Lauren’s renditions?
Not that I’m having a go at the intentions of Lauren on this album, but rather, if all the tracks sound like each other (in terms of arrangement) and similar instruments (trumpet, saxophone, piano, bass) are shown throughout each of the tracks; it can be hard for anyone, let alone me as a reviewer, to enjoy an album, that frankly, has put me to sleep for numerous times today. While I myself reckon, that this review may be one of, if not the only, negative review of Behold that I’ve seen; I cannot shy away from this fact- maybe I just don’t appreciate the jazz or soul genres as much as I tried to tell myself I was. Maybe I just don’t like the genre, full stop. Because I’m sure if someone else reviewed this album instead, there’d be a glowing review. But then again, like I said before, this isn’t a review; just my thoughts. Sure, there are some diamonds in the sea of sadly forgetfulness, like “White Christmas”, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and the originally written song “Light of the World”; yet as a whole, Behold falters on a fair few levels. While I cannot fault Lauren’s passion, there is sadly not a connection between me and the genre that Lauren is portraying throughout Behold. I simply love the songs, yet not the arrangements.
So, who’d I recommend this album to? Jazz and soul music lovers of course. People who have enjoyed Lauren’s music before, or people who love Christmas music. It’s an odd thing to think about- who’d I recommend Behold to. Maybe just someone who can be more open minded about music genres than me. That’s one thing I’ve learnt from hearing Behold. I’m much less adventurous in my music genre listening than I thought I was. Nevertheless, Lauren’s popularity will still increase because of Behold, and just because I myself am indifferent about this album, that doesn’t mean Lauren won’t benefit from such a Christmas album release. For this is where I reckon Lauren’s rise will begin- that she is more than just a one album wonder- because frankly, I was starting to think that. Maybe Behold is just what we need, to be reminded that Lauren is still playing music…who knows, maybe studio album #2 is in the works. So how’s the album? Her vocals are great, her passion is undeniable. The songs in and of themselves have a lot of enthusiasm. Yet somehow I find myself listening to the album less and less. Still, Behold is an album experience. Will I try out another music genre for a Christmas album in the future? Maybe, maybe not. But what I will know is- Lauren is a household name since her break into CCM a few years ago. Behold will only continue Lauren’s rise in months and years to come!
3 songs to listen to: Light of the World, White Christmas, O Holy Night
RIYL: Dara Maclean, Francesca Battistelli, Kim Walker-Smith, Kari Jobe