Release Date: June 22nd 2018
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Beautifully Broken
- Crazy About You
- I Can Do This
- Somebody Loves You
- God Help Me
- I’m Not Alone
- Fight For You
Plumb has had story for the history books, one where her music career has been a whirlwind and rollercoaster over the years. Starting her career under her stage name Plumb (her real name is Tiffany Arbuckle Lee) in the late 1990s, she has garnered much success over the years, presenting to the public chart-topping songs like ‘Stranded’, ‘Cut’, ‘Real’, ‘I Can’t Do This’, ‘Here With Me’, ‘In My Arms’, ‘Hang On’, ‘Better’…you get the picture. But then 2013 rolled around, and Plumb delivered what was, and what will always be, her most vulnerable and personal album yet- Need You Now. Borne out of a re-igniting of a marriage under strain for so many years, Plumb and her husband were on the brink of their relationship heading down the aisle of divorce, but that was not to be the case. What resulted from a lot of counselling, prayer and seeking the Lord together, we have been blessed with Plumb and her husband still going strong in their marriage years later, and her testimony of healing and hope after a period of hurt. Plumb had a career revival of sorts after a return from a 5-year hiatus and therefore, her new passion to tell heartfelt stories about her own life and use that as an encouragement to others is enough for me to be excited for whatever she releases in the future.
Enter into 2018, and we as fans of Christian music receive yet another musical offering from Plumb, her first studio album in three years since 2015’s Exhale. Beautifully Broken is Plumb’s new title, where most, if not all of these songs on the album, come from a state of brokenness. While much of the 11 song album, was from her 2017 5 song EP titled God Help Me (the EP was released independently, while Beautifully Broken was distributed under Centricity Music), Plumb nevertheless delivers powerful melodies and heartfelt songs of redemption and sifting through the mellow and heartbreak to find that God indeed can make beautiful things from the broken pieces that are in front of us. As Plumb transitioned from being in a band, to solo, hiatus and now back to touring and making music, she continues to create music, having something to say, and nothing has changed with her new release. Beautifully Broken is a must have for anyone who has been a fan of Plumb’s earlier music, or anyone who wants to hear a collection of songs that each have the message of hope, prayer and believing into the wholehearted message of us being beautiful in the eyes of the Lord, even if we are still in our physical and mental broken states!
Released last year as the title track for her God Help Me EP, we are met with arguably her most vulnerable song on the album (aside from ‘Beautifully Broken’ of course!). In fact, dare I say that ‘God Help Me’ is quite possibly one of the most poignant and heartfelt melodies I’ve heard since ‘Need You Now’? As we read from Plumb herself, ‘…I’ve said the words “God Help Me” so many times last year and a half of my life. “God Help Me” to stay faithful and obedient, when I’ve wanted to just give up from the frustrations of my career, marriage and parenting challenges and personal insecurities… of anxiety, depression and fear. Sometimes it’s been as simple as God, help me breathe through this moment. “God Help Me” is a prayer; a sincere and simple call for help in the moments we need Him most. I’ve discovered my favourite songs are the prayers that can be screamed at the top of my lungs. “Need You Now’ was that way, as was ‘Lord I’m Ready Now.’ ‘God Help Me’ is most definitely like that. I’ve even taught my kids that when they’re stuck or scared and don’t know what to say they can just say His name. Jesus. God Help Me. And He always listens. He is always there…’ In a nutshell, this above quote is what ‘God Help Me’ is about. It is a prayer, a moment when we realise that we can’t do anything, and I mean anything, without the Lord God with us and fighting for the battles we know we can’t face on our own.
But just like every pop song written and arranged by Plumb in the past for radio, the track itself is safe musically (but still edgier and more interesting than any other song you’d probably hear on K-Love though…), but it has and always will be the lyrics that stick out for me the most- especially the chorus. As Tiffany expresses in confines of the chorus, we are able to see the desperation in these words, and how she wants the Lord to ‘…help me to move, help me to see, help me to do whatever you would ask of me, help me to go, God help me to stay, I’m feeling so alone here and I know that You’re faithful but I can barely breathe, God help me…’ It is by these lyrics and these lyrics alone that this song ought to be considered by anyone who can appreciate vulnerable music to at least listen to the track just once (maybe more), and maybe, possibly, be encouraged that God can handle our honesty, and that asking the Lord for help isn’t a sign of weakness but rather it is a moment of humility, knowing that we can’t handle everything, and that the Lord is big enough for us to place all our hurt, worry, disappointment and shame on His shoulders. ‘God Help Me’ are three words of courage rather than weakness, and this song hopefully can shed some light on such a discussion point!
‘Beautifully Broken’, the title track of the album, is yet another song that has made an impact on the charts this year; and is a song that is a standout on this new collection by Plumb. With a message of us being able to admit that we are broken to begin with, and that it is in our brokenness that we can allow God to come and use us as we are to show the world that no one is alone in their difficulties; Plumb invites us to understand that it is ok to be broken, that we don’t always have to have it all together all the time. That to show our vulnerable messy selves can give others permission to do so as well, as people around the world know and contemplate that they are not alone in this world we are in. As we hear the vulnerable words of how ‘…you’re beautifully broken and you can be whole again, even a million scars doesn’t change whose you are, you’re worthy, beautifully broken…’, we are reminded that the pressure we place on ourselves is unrealistic, and that what God sees is far more complete and beautiful than what we can see in ourselves on a daily basis. As Plumb states herself in a recent CCM Magazine article, about the song and the album in general, ‘…brokenness is a theme for humanity; I’ve experienced a lot of it in my own life. We get so scarred up, and all we see is our brokenness. It’s important to accept that yes, we are broken and flawed, but at the end of day our identify is not found in our mistakes—those aren’t who we are. Who we are is God’s children; that alone makes us beautiful. We need to hear human stories and songs about people going through these battles with brokenness so we can say ‘I’ve been through the same,’ and feel the hope of not being alone…’
Throughout the rest of the album, we hear a myriad of musical sounds and styles, as Plumb all but offers in all her songs a message of asking the Lord for help and doing life together with our Maker and our fellow man, all the while being vulnerably broken in the process and allowing her real self to shine through. ‘Crazy About You’ is a track sung from the Lord’s perspective, a song that reminds us all that the Lord our Father is in fact crazy about us, that He wants to be in communion with His creation. Musically crafted full of strings, looping percussion and eerie sounds of reverb and layered vocals, ‘Crazy About You’ is a song that is as emotive as it is encouraging, and a song that could succeed on both Christian and mainstream radio. ‘I’m Not Alone’ has more of a soundtrack/older Disney-esque moment musically as Plumb features in this 3:00 track a moment of surrender, knowing that ‘…I have nothing to fear, I’m not alone…’, and though the song itself could feel a little rushed (personally another minute at least would’ve been good), the message is still a valid one. Both ‘Acrobat’ and ‘Fight For You’ (alongside ‘Crazy About You’ and ‘I’m Not Alone’) are the remaining songs that were previously on God Help Me EP and are also present here, the former being a track that features more of a rock ‘Firefight meets The Letter Black meets Paramore’ sound as the message of feeling like an acrobat, juggling all our aspects of our lives, can feel universal and relatable; while the latter is a song sung out-of-genre (someone like Britt Nicole or Francesca Battistelli could be better suited to such a song like this) as Plumb incorporates a ukulele in a song that encourages people in relationships to fight for each other if they believe their relationship is worth preserving. Relationships themselves require hard work, and ‘Fight For You’ acknowledges this, that sometimes even travelling through the hard times, we can appreciate a relationship more!
‘Impossible’, ‘Somebody Loves You’, ‘Human’, ‘I Can Do This’ and ‘Sleepwalking’ are the 5 songs that have been recorded and released after the successful independently produced God Help Me EP and while these songs aren’t as familiar to myself, Plumb nevertheless has placed her heart and soul into songs that imprint on the listener that being broken isn’t necessarily bad, but rather, being broken and admitting that is a sign of strength. ‘Impossible’ leads on from ‘Beautifully Broken’ and is track 2 of the album, imparting to us that God makes the impossible possible with His presence in our lives. The musical backdrop of the melody is a fun-filled summery pop moment that makes this song a certainty for a radio single in the future…maybe later on during the year? ‘Somebody Loves You’, the longest song on Beautifully Broken, presents a message of hope to those who need it, reminding us all that God loves us, even the unlovable parts, and the parts we don’t necessarily want the world to see because of fear of condemnation or judgement. God doesn’t do any of that, and ‘Somebody Love You’ ought to give us that comfort to be ok with our scars and broken parts.
‘I Can Do This’ is a somewhat sequel to ‘I Can’t Do This’ way back when Chaotic Resolve was recorded, as Plumb invites us all to declare the words that we can do things because of what Christ has done in our lives, and who Christ is to us. He is our Father, our Provider, our comforter and hope, and ‘I Can Do This’ ought to be a catalyst for anyone feeling inadequate that God indeed carries us during our difficult moments, so we can certainly that we can do this…with His help. The album then ends with ‘Human’ and ‘Sleepwalking’, both arguably the best out of the 5 (the aforementioned 2, plus ‘I Can Do This’, ‘Somebody Loves You’ and ‘Impossible’), with the former being a vulnerable look at the human race, and reminding us all that we are all humans with the same ache inside, that we are all just doing our best to survive this life, while ‘Sleepwalking’ invites us to partake into the piano ballad about how we were all indeed sleepwalking before we met Christ, that His presence and what He has done for us should awaken something within us that changes us completely, from being asleep to being wakeful, from being dead to alive. ‘Sleepwalking’ is a great way to end the album- a contemplative and reflective state!
‘…I think this record gives the broken permission to acknowledge their brokenness. Every song is inspired by a broken story. I think sometimes, although we are all human and fallen, we are afraid to acknowledge that we are broken because some–how we think, that’s where our identity will be found. But what is beautiful is that what really matters is who we belong to and our identity there, because what He can do with that brokenness can make beauty to advance His Kingdom…’ This above quote sums up not only what her new album Beautifully Broken is about, but what Plumb wants to embody in her music going forward as well. Plumb has had a unique and humbling career, and this new musical offering Beautifully Broken isn’t any different from any other vulnerable song/collection of songs she’s written in the past. But it is the topic of not hiding from your brokenness that is very much needed in this society, as we realise that the states we are in, however broken they are, can be used by the Lord to show more of His glory and things about ourselves we may not have seen if we weren’t ‘broken’. From “Cut” to “Real”, “In My Arms” and “God Shaped Hole”; fans of Plumb’s older melodies, and other artists like Jars of Clay or Natalie Grant will be sure to check out this new album. The title track itself has quickly shot up to be one of my favourite songs of the last few months, and I’m sure that anyone who hears the track will agree as well. Plumb isn’t going anywhere in a hurry, and this new release under Centricity Music is a testament to how much the Lord has stayed faithful to Plumb throughout her years of relationship and marriage difficulty of the past. Kudos to Plumb for such a vulnerable collection of songs that meet us where we are in our own brokenness, here’s to impact and encouragement to whomever hears the album in months and even years to come!
3 songs to listen to: Beautifully Broken, God Help Me, Fight For You
RIYL: Switchfoot, Colton Dixon, Rebecca St. James, Fireflight