Release Date: August 28th 2015
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- The Unmaking
- Not To Us (feat. Plumb)
- Love You More
- Something Out of Me
- Slow Down
‘…Christians are so anxious to fast-forward to the healing and to the hope and the happy ending of the story where God makes all things new. All of that is true sometimes, but we just are so uncomfortable sitting in the tough spot. I think that’s what I wanted to do with The Unmaking, just acknowledge that God is with us, and there is no shame, in fact there’s strength, in sitting in the rubble and being vulnerable with Him…’ Nichole Nordeman, one of CCM’s most prolific, powerful, emotive and compelling singer/songwriters of the last 10-20 years has now come out with new music, after a stint of 10 years out of the recording-music spotlight. With her last official album release being 2005’s Brave (aside from single release inbetween, from “Sunrise”, “Finally Free” and “Turn Your Eyes”, to “Real” and “Beautiful For Me”), it is a welcomed surprise to see Nichole recording and making music again. After the public knowledge of her split with her husband of 10 years, Nichole started to wrestle, and what resulted from the last few months are these 6 songs. Released under the umbrella group of Capitol Christian Music Group (previously EMI CMG) on August 28th, Nichole’s latest six songs are some of the most vulnerable I’ve ever heard from this singer. Arguably one of my favourite Female Vocalists ever, it is great to hear from Nichole again after a long time. Let us hope that she continues to make music in the future. Here’s to The Unmaking, my favourite EP of the year so far, and with some of the most hauntingly fresh and invigorating lyrics I’ve heard ever since Kevin Max’s Broken Temples earlier this year!
Since releasing her comeback single “The Unmaking” earlier on in May, the response from many has been nothing less than stellar. With her trademark hauntingly refreshing vocals reminding us all of why she has lasted within the CCM industry for this long, we are met with a confronting notion of how whenever Christ rebuilds us, we must be taken along the road of being unmade before we can realise that He is all we need. Like how Job was stripped of everything before he knew that God reigned supreme and that He could be trusted; there are moments in our lives where, if needed, Christ will come to tear down so we can fully focus our energy and time on the things we need to focus on most- Him. While a bittersweet pill to swallow; Nichole has always been honest in her music, and this song is no different. With a pulsating looping drum beat, and a piano undertone, Nichole asks the question- ‘…what happens now, when all I’ve laid is torn down? What happens next, when all of You is all that’s left?…’ It is when we can only cling on God that we realise that He is the only thing that was constant all along- and that is a good sobering realisation to come towards. A refreshing song that’ll hopefully bring healing and hope to many, Nichole is back, with arguably the best song she’s ever recorded since “What If”!
Released to iTunes and Spotify in early August, “Name” is the next promotional single by Nichole, and while only standing at 3:02, is just as poignant, maybe even more so, than “The Unmaking”. With a piano riff and verse melody similar to Mandisa’s “Press On” (not sure if both of them collaborated on either song, or if God gave them the same melody riff), Nichole invites us to believe and soak into the truth, that our name isn’t defined by what we have done or didn’t do, but rather who God says about us. In a similar theme to Tenth Avenue North’s “You are More”, Nichole cries out above the piano and acoustic guitars, that ‘…you are still a promise, the heartbeat of God, you may have forgotten but He has not, you are not your ashes, you are a flame, do not ask the shadows, the Light of the World knows, knows your name…’ It is when we believe into the fact that who we are isn’t because of what we have accomplished but what Christ has done within us, that we can truly live free as we own the fact that our name is as precious to us as God Himself. A catchy song that I’m sure will have as many airplays, or even more, than Nichole’s comeback single, we are here to witness one of the most real and honest songs to be recorded on the EP.
As great as duets have come and gone, from Moriah Peters and Andy Mineo with “Brave” and Lecrae and Hillsong Young and Free with “This is Living”, “Not To Us”, featuring both Nichole and Plumb (possibly one of the most underrated female artists, alongside Nichole, to have recorded music this side of the 2000s), is one of my favourite duets I’ve heard in recent history. With a powerful melody and an emotion that carries with it a captivation and anticipation to hear more and more of the track; both women give us a timely and much needed reminder that it is ‘…not to us, but to Your name be glory…’ Rather, we may be tied up in our own worldly desires to even notice or care that we have lost track of our focus, which is why “Not to Us” is great for us to hear as our gaze is fixed back upon Jesus. Heavily piano focused (in fact, most, if not all of the melodies have the piano/keyboard as the forefront instrument), Nichole and Plumb give us a welcomed invitation to ‘…let us not be fooled and let us not be disillusioned, let our eyes see You clearly…’ Fixing our eyes clearly on Jesus will keep everything else in focus- well done to both Nichole and Plumb for such a lyrically rich and poetic melody, one of my favourites on the EP.
Both “Love You More” and “Slow Down” strip down the instruments tremendously as Nichole relies heavily on vocals, string instruments and the keyboard alone to create vulnerability and honesty through both tracks, with the former being a realisation that Christ has loved us since time began, and that whatever we could or couldn’t do shouldn’t make Him love us more or less; and the latter a love song to Nichole’s children, and a reminder to all of us to slow down and to be still, to not lose the minutes and precious time we have with our family before it is too late. Yet it is “Something Out of Me”, the song sandwiched between the two that is a highlight of mine. Poppy as poppy can be, this potential radio hit presents a theme of God making something beautiful and unique out of us, even if we can’t see it ourselves in the moment, or find it hard to believe there is even anything within us that God can mould. Yet Nichole makes the truth clear, that ‘…You take all kinds of nothing, and turn it right into something…You take every doubt and You make something out of me…’ Whatever we bring to God- our hurts, doubts, failure and fears, will be made to exalt His glory and for our good, and “Something Out of Me” is clear reminder, that God does make something out of us, and that something will always be good. Light percussion and an electronic radio atmosphere to prove to us there’s always marketability in radio format songs; Nichole has delivered 6 poignant and prolific songs, hopefully a precursor to whatever comes next…maybe a full length album next year or the year after?
“…I tend to, at all cost, just maintain this illusion that things are fine, when they’re clearly not fine. What I felt like God was saying to me in giving me the lyrics to this song was that, ‘Don’t rush through the process of The Unmaking and the brokenness and this thing that’s been crumbling for a long time. It’s going to come down. I’m going to sit with you in the rubble when it does, and I’m going to hold you and love you.’…’ To be unmade and broken isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as what this EP suggests. Nichole shows in all these 6 songs that sometimes its even necessarily for us to be at the end of our rope- so for us to realise that God clings onto us, even if we don’t cling to Him during these times. With around a 10 year wait for something new from Nichole, this is certainly and definitely worth the wait, from an artist that’s certain to leave a wonderful and much-respected mark on not only the CCM industry but on the music industry as a whole whenever she does move onto another area if God calls her to do so. From “Name” to “Not To Us” and the heartfelt title track, there is no dullness in an EP that is albeit very short, which is virtually the only downside on an otherwise flawless collection of songs. Well done Nichole for such a collection of songs. If you were to purchase just one set of songs for August 28th, Nichole’s should be high on your list…but what do I know? Listen and find out for yourself!
3 songs to listen to: Not To Us, Something Out of Me, Name
RIYL: Steven Curtis Chapman, Andrew Peterson, Amy Grant, Natalie Grant, Plumb