Release Date: July 7th 2017
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
Natasha Owens– We Will Rise (iTunes/Amazon mp3)
- I Am Loved
- No One But You
- Your Love Will
- One Name
- Move Me
- New Eyes
- We Will Rise
Natasha Owens. Not necessarily a household name, not years ago when her debut album I Made It Through released on iTunes, and maybe not even now since the release of her EP No One But You in 2015. Yet you don’t have to be a household name for your music to be poignant, enjoyable, heartfelt and impacting, which is exactly what Natasha’s music is. From accepting a music ministry position at her local church and the tragedy of her father’s untimely and unfortunate accidental death, to releasing one album and one EP, each to critical acclaim, Natasha’s earnest and honest lyrical and musical layering of her new album We Will Rise (an album that encapsulate her new song “I Am Loved” alongside all her songs from No One But You as well as some new songs) makes her soar into one of my favourite independent artists of late, and an artist I reckon ought to be at least considered for a major label signing in the upcoming months ahead. Maybe Integrity Music or Capitol CMG? “I Am Loved”, alongside all her other songs on this new album, is first and foremost worship in nature, and has an overall theme of being loved beyond measure and understanding, as Natasha reminds me vocally of Laura Story and Janna Long of Avalon. Natasha’s music is certain to be enjoyed by anyone who loves artists like Natalie Grant, Avalon, Laura Story, Amy Grant or Mandisa.
“I Am Loved”, the first radio single from this new offering, while generic in song title, is far from it. We hear declarations spoken over ourselves as if this is what God believes us to claim for ourselves even if we may not necessarily believe it ourselves at that certain moment. Vocally reminding me a lot like Laura Story, especially in this song; Natasha passionately evokes a moment of comfort as we are fully aware that we are unconditionally loved, the way that it should be. That what we do or don’t do is not our identity, but rather, that we are loved and treasured by the Holy and Triune King. At times lyrically cliché (yet still very much powerful), Natasha’s song, though it has been done to death a million times (see “I Am Loved” by Above the Golden State or “I Am Loved” by Israel and the New Breed), is still very much needed in this society. A song that’ll continue to be on my iTunes playlist in weeks to come, Natasha has herself a winner in this single, and one that’ll be a must-listen for months to come!
“We Will Rise”, “No One But You”, “Wings”, “Move Me On” and “One Name” are all from her latest EP (prior to this album release) and are all present on this new album (even though I reckon some songs could’ve been done away with and maybe some more new songs added by Natasha, what this means is the quality of these 5 songs that they need to be present on the album, rather than what people could think when glancing through the song list, that Natasha may or may not have enough new songs and therefore these 5 tracks are just there to fill up space). In “No One But You”, Natasha channels both Janna Long and Mandisa as the theme of giving everything we have, good or bad, to God is approached in this song. Vocally powerful, maybe even on par with some of Natalie Grant’s powerhouse melodies in terms of vocal quality, Natasha evokes a necessary theme, that no one but God can take everything in our lives and turn it all around for our good and His glory. It is the chorus that is the most impactful, for me at least, as Natasha reminds us all that ‘…no one but You can turn all my pain into peace, can turn all my doubts to believe, no one but You, can take all the tears that I’ve cried, and mend all the pieces inside, I’m giving it all to You, no one but You…’
“We Will Rise”, debuting as a music video on NRT in November 2015, is the central message of what the new album from Natasha is about (alongside her new song ‘I Am Loved’). While Natasha’s first album was all about making it through adversity and disaster, Natasha’s new music conveys the fact that after making it through, we will indeed rise above it all and become the people God has created us to be, and that through the adversity, we’d trust us less and Him more. Fit for radio, and in fact, fit for Sunday worship services around the world, Natasha uses a simple, yet equally profound chorus to draw us all in as we focus our eyes on Christ. Knowing that ‘…we will rise, we will rise, rise above the ashes, rise above the fire, lift your heads, lift your eyes, Jesus is faithful, faithful to revive…’ ought to be comfort for many, myself included. Natasha’s 3 remaining songs that were also present on her 2015 EP No One But You are also enjoyable, poignant and heartfelt- “Wings”, another radio friendly song, adds to it a sense of humbleness and vulnerability and asks the question- if we knew all the trials and tribulations, the hurt, the despair, yet also the triumphs, blessings, and wonderful moments in our lives thus far, would we still make the same choices and decisions, knowing full well the life we have lived? If we had a do-over, would we change a thing? “One Name”, a worshipful track that is reminiscent of something that Mandisa or Laura Story would record, is a timely and powerful reminder that God’s name is the only One who we can call upon during our time in need. While “Move Me On” rounds out the 5 tracks that were on her 2015 EP (and also on this new album), and was borne from the day when she learned about her father’s untimely death, and the powerlessness that came in the days after the realisation.
“Safe”, “New Eyes”, “Legacy” and “Your Love Will” are the 4 remaining songs that are originally recorded for this album, as Natasha continues to present to us themes of hope, encouragement and rising above the ashes in these melodies. And while it may still take some time for me to become familiar with these tracks (I’ve had more than a year to enjoy the aforementioned 5, and a few months for ‘I Am Loved’); what these 4 songs have is a sense of mystery about them…and that’s ok. Maybe listening to a song that isn’t that familiar can bring to the table something unique and different than a song that you may have heard again and again. ‘Safe’ strips away the instruments and presents a love song ballad between us and God and is fit for contemplative worship (and not really for anything else…which is the very drawback of the track, that it isn’t as memorable…sorry, compared to songs like ‘No One But You’ or ‘We Will Rise’), while ‘New Eyes’ stands at a little over 3 minutes and presents a southern-jazz-pop vibe a la Lara Landon as Natasha thanks the Lord for ‘new eyes’- a better perspective and focus compared to before, as she looks around with God’s point of view, on circumstances that may or may not be possible with just human strength.
‘Your Love Will’ sadly suffers from extreme repetition (in spite of the passion that is ever evident) as Natasha declares that nothing else will fill us like God’s love- thereby making this song, alongside ‘Safe’ as being some of the most sadly underwhelming songs on the album (though I’m sure it wasn’t Natasha’s intention)- yet it is ‘Legacy’ that really excels as the 10th (and last) track on the album. Channelling very much of Janna Long in this song, “Legacy” leaves us with hopefully encouragement and motivation as we are given courage and impetus to undertake tasks not for our own gain but to give hope and love to others, leaving a mark of life on every person we meet. We can be a blessing to others, but first, we need to shift our mindset, and be ok if we don’t get anything in return or even right away. Sometimes the fruit that arises after being kind can eventuate months or even years later…and that’s ok. ‘Legacy’ is the hope that we can and will do good for others, not because it is the right thing to do and we undertake out of duty, but because of God’s living Holy Spirit inside of us, that we can’t help but overflow the hope and joy that comes from being fully known and loved simultaneously!
As we are challenged by not only “I Am Loved” but the rest of the album, to not only sing out but believe fully the words that we are loved unconditionally and that whatever circumstance we are in we will rise from with the help of the Lord Himself; Natasha gives us comfort, that considering God loving us unconditionally, we can hold onto Him during those dark moments, knowing full well He’ll move us on from where we are to somewhere better and unfathomably much more healing and exhilarating than we can dream of. While pursuing music as a career later in life, Natasha’s fervent honesty and hope-filled lyrical moments in this song ought to be enough for anyone who is a fan of pop/CCM artists like Mandisa, Laura Story, Amy Grant or Natalie Grant, to check out Natasha and her music. We Will Rise is an album certain to be a vessel of encouragement to many, and one that’ll assert Natasha as one of my favourite indie artists of late, alongside others like Erik Nieder, Joy Lippard, JJ Heller and Jake & Laura. Well done Natasha for such a compelling and heartfelt album. Here’s to the next album whenever it releases!
3 songs to listen to: We Will Rise, I Am Loved, No One But You
RIYL: Laura Story, Plumb, Bethel Music, Kim Walker-Smith, Lara Landon