Release Date: September 7th 2018
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Still Rolling Stones
- This Girl
- Your Wings
- You Say
- Love Like This
- Look Up Child
- Losing My Religion
- Rebel Heart
- Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
By now in 2018, everyone, and I really, really mean everyone, should know Lauren Daigle, or at least the songs of hers. Maybe even her unmistakable voice, that sounds, very, very, eerily similar to that of British songstress Adele. If you haven’t heard of Lauren Daigle…well, just check out google, because well, google’s your friend, right? So…now you’ve done your information about who Lauren Daigle is, and what her music stands for, let me just say, that this Louisianan native has been able to capture the hearts of many of her fans around the world for the last 3-4 years, and now this past Friday, Lauren has unveiled her brand new long-awaited and anticipated album, Look Up Child. More than three years in the making, Lauren has literally taken the CCM world by storm since her debut album How Can It Be a little over three years ago in May 2015. Spawning the radio hits ‘First’, ‘Trust in You’, ‘O Lord, ‘Come Alive (Dry Bones)’, as well as the title track (that was penned with One Sonic Society front-men Jason Ingram and Paul Mabury), Lauren Daigle, aside from For KING AND COUNTRY, Zach Williams, I AM THEY and NF, is fast becoming one of my favourite new artists to give rise within the last decade (I guess, the other five to round out my top 10 new artists to influence the decade of 2010-2020 would be Hollyn, Urban Rescue, HillaryJane, Dan Bremnes and Jordan Feliz). Quite possibly one of Christian music’s most exciting and unique new artists to ever have as much success with their debut album since for KING AND COUNTRY’s Crave way back in 2012, Look Up Child basically had a hard act to follow.
3 years and countless tours later after How Can It Be, this 27 year old Louisianan native has become an icon in a CCM industry where new artists can come and go at the drop of a hat. And with the solidifying of her album Look Up Child this last week, there is all but assurance that Lauren’s music will impact in months and even years to come. On a label that houses a plethora of artists, from For All Seasons, Jason Gray, Unspoken, Andrew Peterson and Carrolton, to Jonny Diaz, Jordan Feliz, JJ Weeks Band and Plumb; Lauren’s ability to bring a song to life with her passion and heart is what makes her music special, and just one look through Look Up Child and we see something special. As Lauren herself relays about the process behind recording the album as a whole, ‘…one of the things I try to do is write from a place of experience. If I was going to create a follow-up album that was pure and true to me, I had to get experience under my belt separate from the craze of highs and lows, and get my life back to as simple a place as I could. Successful as it was, I didn’t just want to regurgitate How Can It Be. I wanted to honor the fans and other people who were on the journey with me through that album, and give them new songs that were valid and beautiful—that could not only reach those who support me but also others who haven’t yet heard me and maybe don’t believe the things I do. I had to return to the beginning, to remind myself why I love what I do. Get out of the expectations and the pressure…’ And so, out of these last three years comes Look Up Child, bearing to the world 13 powerful and life-affirming tracks, songs that, though treading vocally and musically between the Lauren Daigle line and the Adele line, still impact and encourage. I’m sure hundreds and hundreds of people would say that Lauren’s vocal similarity to that of Adele is a hindrance, yet I say the exact opposite. Lauren does sound like Adele, I’ll admit that much, but that is where the similarity stops. Lauren’s music, for me, has been instrumental in my own walk with Christ over the years, and hearing these songs on what I reckon is one of 2018’s best (in both CCM and mainstream circles), I can safely say that Lauren’s second album is no different- there are songs that lift up and songs that make you contemplate and reflect. While much of the album is more on the reflective standpoint (there’s hardly any upbeat songs, aside from ‘Still Rolling Stones’, the title track and ‘Your Wings’ to name a few), Look Up Child is a must for anyone who has been a fan of Lauren’s for a while, anyone who is a fan of Adele, or just a fan of Christian music in general.
‘…there’s something transcendent that happens in the studio or onstage when the trombone has something to say, the sax responds with its piece, and the drums kick in with its statement. I wanted that whole cultural community in that space. Especially on songs like ‘You Say’ and the title track ‘Look Up Child,’ I wanted to communicate that rootsy Louisiana soul-jazz element I grew up in. I thought about how my grandfather would teach me how to dance in the living room, that great cross-generational creative passion, and wanted to express that as well…’ Look Up Child is a long time coming, and hearing the album from start to finish, a few times, remind us all that there is a lot of emotion and hard work and toil that has gone into this album, that this is not your run-of-the-mill whimsical CCM pop album like the majority of the releases of 2018 thus far (nothing against CCM releases, it’s just that sometimes, we hear an artist like Lauren that comes and blows expectations out of the water!). That this album is up there with others of 2018, from The New Respects (Before the Sun Goes Down), Michael W. Smith (A Million Lights), Phil Wickham (Living Hope), Rend Collective (Good News), and Building 429 (Live the Journey), to Riley Clemmons (Riley Clemmons), Vertical Worship (Bright Faith, Bold Future), I AM THEY (Trial And Triumph) and Lincoln Brewster (God of the Impossible)…did I just name my top 10 albums of 2018 thus far (mind you, albums from for KING AND COUNTRY and Francesca Battistelli could make it, so I may need a little shuffling as the year continues to progress!)?
Releasing to radio mid-year, ‘You Say’ I reckon is perhaps one of my favourite songs of the year, period. Yes, period! While I was sad to see that the powers at be not place ‘You Say’ on WOW Hits 2019 (yes, that’s how impactful and inspiring the song is, to be quickly included and a bolter on WOW Hits 2019…alas, but that was never the case!), I am expecting this song to nevertheless still be present on WOW Hits 2020, even if the song is still dated- that’s how poignant, emotive, heartfelt and just plain good this song really is. With pianos, string instruments and Lauren’s soaring voice, the song itself is a reminder for us to refocus on the Lord, to get back to what we believe and why we believe it. Finding the reason to believing things about us that may or may not be true; and contrasting it to what God stays is true of us. Anthemic and stirring, rousing and declaratory, this song, and song alone, ought to be enough to listen to Look Up Child at least once. As the song is an anthem for many who would want to use it to claim their identity in Christ and sing out the lyrics of arguably one of the most enjoyable and left-field songs of 2018 thus far, we hear from Lauren herself that this song was no easy feat to write- ‘…I left too many of the places I came from, in order to keep the machine going. I had to return to the beginning. I took most of 2017 off and went back to Louisiana. I was reminded of why I love what I do. I got outside of the expectations and the pressure. I found the inner depth to say, ‘This is who I am. These are the truths I can hold onto and anchor myself to,’ and songs poured out of that place. I decided to go back to the basics. I went into the studio with all of these insecurities and realized for the first time in my career that things are changing–whether I like it or not. The old is out. The new is in. It was a shock because I didn’t think everything would happen so soon. I wrote ‘You Say’ first and out of that state. We started playing it every night, and the crowd would sing along even though it hadn’t been released. Because of that, it just had to be the first single…’ Hopeful and healing, honest and raw, ‘You Say’ stands out by a mile on Look Up Child, and is a reminder to always cling onto what God says about us, even if we don’t believe it ourselves at that particular time!
Throughout the rest of the album, we hear again and again the powerful vocal that is Lauren Daigle, delivering songs that, while not upbeat, still resonating to the soul as songs like the title track, ‘Still Rolling Stones’, ‘Losing My Religion’ and the potential single ‘Remember’ are songs that are standouts, that impact and encourage as we navigate this funny thing called life. ‘Still Rolling Stones’ is delivered in soul-jazz fashion, full with a choir and Lauren delivering her version of what could be a gospel radio hit (no seriously, this song could succeed very well on gospel radio, and has a CeCe Winans/Mary Mary feel to it!), as the song itself speaks about the power of the Lord, and how the one who rolled the stone away way back 2000 years ago when Jesus walked out of the grave, is still rolling stones (though metaphorical) today in people’s lives around the world. ‘Rescue’, a song that Lauren indicated is the most personal on the album for her, is an anthem that can be used to tackle slavery and human trafficking (though the song doesn’t explicitly say that that is what it’s about, one can read between the lines and know that ‘Rescue’ is about rescuing a girl in difficult circumstances that they can’t get out of themselves), while ‘This Girl’ goes back to Lauren’s roots as she affirms that ‘…this girl ain’t going anywhere, I can promise you this, now I know for sure…’ as we get a glimpse into how Lauren’s secure identity is firmly planted as Look Up Child comes into fruition, a journeying process that has taken a while for Lauren herself to work through. Identity and being secure in yourself in spite of circumstances is an art, and ‘This Girl’ paints a picture of, indeed, a girl that is secure in who she currently is at the moment. ‘Your Wings’ brings to the fore the musical underlying backdrop of jazz that hauntingly refreshed Behold back in 2016 as we see the theme of us being covered under the wings of the Lord regardless of where we are in life (or how we even see the world or God Himself), while title track ‘Look Up Child’ is in fact the most upbeat song on the album, as the theme throughout this 3:09 melody is to always be on the looking up-and-up, to know and realise that in the darkness and confusion, He is always there, as we look up and try to see things from God’s point of view- the whole outside-of-time picture, instead of our tiny 3D views of life and circumstances.
‘Everything’ and its messages is taken straight from the book of Matthew, and the passage where Jesus tells us all not to worry, that even the sparrows have everything they need on a day to day basis. To have a song based upon the notion and theme of us not needing to worry is not a new concept- Jason Gray wrote a song called ‘Sparrows’ a few years before that deals with this concept. Yet, Lauren makes the concept and theme her own as she uses a light touch of a gospel choir and her hauntingly emotive and refreshing vocal to convey the powerful truth that God gives us everything we need, that we have nothing left to want and worry over. ‘Love Like This’ and ‘Rebel Heart’ are both heartfelt songs of revelation, the former being a declaratory prayer as we as sinners and humans try our very best to comprehend and grasp the infinite and freely given love that God graces over each of us without condition, proclaiming the words ‘…what have a I done to deserve love like this…’– and the answer to it- nothing; while the latter tells a story of God’s grace washing over the rebel heart we all seem to have, that even if and though we surrender all to God, our rebel within us won’t necessarily go quietly, that we need to continuously ask the Lord to refine us and to take our rebel hearts to mould them more like Himself as we focus on the things that break His heart. ‘Inevitable’ is showcased at a little under 3 minutes, and while I can’t deny the power in Lauren’s voice, and the overall arching theme of the song, of how God’s love will carry us and that it’s inevitable that He will use whatever is there to create something good and worthwhile, for some reason I can’t really connect with it. Maybe in the future, but not now.
The album ends with a classic hymn ‘Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus’ and boy does she do the song justice. Presented in more of a soul-jazz/gospel light, Lauren, from Look Up Child, could now move towards the gospel-soul-jazz genre and thrive, something I may not have said with much confidence after her debut album in 2015. And then there’s ‘Losing My Religion’ and potential radio single ‘Remember’- the first being a song that breaks everything wide open as Lauren reconsiders the difference between religion and faith, and states that in the working of Look Up Child, she has indeed lost her religion. As she clarifies, we are met with the enlightening moment, that ‘…this is an age where I am learning, what I believe in. ‘Losing My Religion’ I think is one of the things that I’ve learned and one of the things that I’m embracing is the freedom of taking off the checked boxes, the rules, and all those things that kind of muddy up what faith actually is…going into the next season of my life in the remembrance of being a child. A child isn’t thinking of realms of capacity. They don’t think, ‘Can I do this or can I not? Doubt doesn’t impact their decision making and I think that’s something really beautiful. I think when we remove some of those things it brings you into a complete realm of freedom…’ ‘Remember’ rounds out Look Up Child in true radio-esque fashion, as this soul-stirring moment of declaration becomes one of my favourite songs on this album. It is a song of thanks, of remembrance, of calling upon the past and how He was faithful to us then, and reminding ourselves that He will be faithful even if we can’t see it.
As these 13 songs come to an end, I sit and ponder- can I listen to the album again, and be just as excited, impacted, rejuvenated and encouraged the second time as I was the first? Most definitely. In fact, Lauren’s 2018 album is my favourite worship album of the year, and my first 5/5 review (but not the site’s first 5/5 review of 2018- that honour goes to Michael W. Smith’s A Million Lights!). Just as Wonder by UNITED was my favourite worship album of 2017, and Worship and Believe by Steven Curtis Chapman my favourite worship album from 2016. Which tells me something- that regardless how new or experienced an artist is in the industry, it is their heart for Jesus that counts- the rest can fall into place in time. Lauren has given us a near flawless worship album (the only downside is that the album is lacking in upbeat melodies…but then again, in an overall sense, upbeat songs isn’t Lauren’s forte- as of yet- maybe she can try her hand at that in her next album?); that continues to assert her as one of the most technically sound and proficient vocalists of this generation (yes, aside from Adele)- on par with other artists like Natalie Grant, Francesca Battistelli, Plumb, Rebecca St. James and Nichole Nordeman. From the title track to the ever-challenging ‘Losing My Religion’ and the potential radio hit ‘Remember’, along with the first radio single ‘You Say’; each melody is reminding us of the gravity of God’s sacrifice, and how we respond in our questions about life, love, God and everything else. A must have for any Lauren Daigle music fan, or just a fan of worship music in general; I reckon it’ll be the Adele similarities that will encourage more people to hear the album and that will bring with it new heights for Lauren in her music and reach of it to people around the world in the upcoming years ahead!
5 songs to listen to: Remember, Still Rolling Stones, Love Like This, You Say, Losing My Religion
RIYL: Adele, Dara Maclean, Natalie Grant, Plumb