Provident Label Group / Reunion Records
Release Date: January 24th 2020
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Citizen of Heaven
- Like You Love Me
- Prelude (feat. Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Worship)
- Perfect Peace
- Famous For (I Believe) (feat. Jenn Johnson)
- Millionaire (Good Like That) (feat. Kirk Franklin)
- Until Grace (feat. Rascal Flatts)
- Love’s Worth the Fight
- Carry On
- Tu Poder (Creo En Ti) [feat. Christine D’Clario]
Tauren Wells is no stranger to music. After spending years as being the front-man of the moderately successful CCM quartet Royal Tailor in the early 2010s, a band that delivered powerful songs like ‘Remain’, ‘Ready Set Go’, ‘Making Me New’, ‘Make a Move’ and ‘Hold Me Together’, to name a few; after selling out arenas and going on tours with other artists like Capital Kings, TobyMac, and Building 429; the band decided to ‘go quiet’. They stopped touring. And while no official statement was made about the disbanding of the quartet until Tauren stepped out and released a new single, his first as a solo artist; it was unfortunate to see the band travel their separate ways, even if it meant for them to explore the other avenues that God had in store for their lives. While I reckon Royal Tailor’s best album was still to come, we would never know. Nevertheless; Tauren and his band parted ways, and Tauren Wells is still making music. He released his long-awaited ‘debut’ solo album titled Hills and Valleys in 2017; that produced standout songs like ‘Love is Action’, the title track, alongside dane numbers ‘Never Gonna Let Me Go’ and ‘When We Pray’. Now fastforward to 2020, and Tauren is at it again- this time with his sophomore album (not counting the ones where he’s lead singer for Royal Tailor!) in Citizen of Heaven. The sound? Still the same as his previous album. In fact, dare I say that Tauren’s new album is sounding much more JT-like or even MJ-esque than ever before? Yes, Tauren’s music borrows a lot musically and stylistically from his mainstream contemporaries like Justin Timberlake and Michael Jackson, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Citizen of Heaven is no different; and is a must-have for anyone who loves Tauren’s previous 2017 album, or if you’ve loved Royal Tailor’s music before. Or maybe, this album is certain to be checked out, at least once, if you are a fan of JT or MJ, or both. Because music is music, and if God can speak through the unlikeliest of heroes in Balaam’s donkey or a burning bush, then He can certainly speak through MJ or JT, or Tauren’s new album as well!
‘Citizen of Heaven’ is the album’s title track, and is also the first track on the album. Musically strong and crisp, this track lyrically delivers on point, as we are reminded that we are indeed a citizen of heaven in Christ, that we don’t have to wait to heaven to claim our identity in Christ and live like heaven’s on earth- we can indeed do that now and live like Christ came down to allow us to live like we’re in heaven now, rather than something and somewhere off in the distance. ‘Like You Love Me’, the album’s first official single (after the promotional single ‘Miracle’), features synths and layered vocals to convey a dance-pop number that’s certain to be a fan favourite live. The message- nobody love’s us like our Father. Simple concept? Yes. Something that we can often overlook because of the busy lives we lead? Most definitely. So such a song like this is paramount for us- there can never be too many songs about the love Christ has for us, and this song is indeed one of them. It helps that the melody and music is so infectiously good, that this song, though we can help it or not, is by far one of my favourite pop songs (for both CCM and mainstream) of 2020 thus far.
‘…I can remember where I was sitting when I heard Steven Furtick deliver this message. He was talking about the prophet that scripture talks about, who is running for his life. He’s being pursued by his enemies, and he’s in a cave and trying to figure out where God is. He’s in this identity crisis and consumed with fear. This earthquake happens, and the prophet said he wasn’t in the earthquake, and then a fire came and he wasn’t in the fire, and strong winds blew and he wasn’t in any of those huge moments. Then he heard God whisper, ‘What are you doing here in all of this doubt? What are you doing here in all of this fear? How did you get to this place? Do you know who you are? Do you know the purpose and the intention I have for you?’ Pastor Steven said, ‘I always wondered why God whispers. Why wouldn’t God be in the fire? The reason God whispers was because he wanted the prophet to know he was close.’ That just hit me so deeply because I’ve been in so many emotionally charged atmospheres, I’ve been in the places where you would think God would be the closest, and yet where we really find him is in the whisper. It’s in the moment that we’re not really even looking for him. He speaks to us like that because he’s right there with us in the middle of our fears, in the middle of our doubt, in the middle of our addictions, in the middle of our struggles. So I wanted that to be a part of the album. I hoped that it would hit people the way that it hit me…’
This quote above forms the basis of ‘Prelude’ and ‘Close’, the 30 second sermon-snippet of Elevation Worship pastor Steven Furtick delivering his message on the closeness of God during difficulties and trials, and the song ‘Close’ that has come out of this sermon. It is a reminder that yes God is indeed close in difficulties and trials, and that He may not, and probably will not, answer in ways we don’t expect during these difficulties and trials. Yes, He could appear in the wind, water, fire and earthquakes, but He doesn’t. He appears in the quiet and stillness, and He wants us to be still and quiet also so as to hear Him above the noise and clutter. The song’s a reminder for us to remove the noise and distractions in our lives, and such a catchy melody like ‘Close’ can hopefully be such a driving catalyst for many, myself included. ‘Perfect Peace’ follows and slows down the tempo quite a lot as Tauren imparts a theme that we as humans often strive to attain but can’t because of the stresses this life brings with it- peace. We long for peace, for us to feel like we’re steady and solid in a world full of running around and shifting foundations. It is knowing full well that we get our peace from Jesus that we can truly ask for His help in giving us the peace we want but feel as if maybe we just don’t deserve. ‘Famous For (I Believe)’, originally written and recorded way back in 2017 by ex-The Rubyz frontwoman Alexis Slifer, ‘Famous For’ was in fact one of my favourite songs of 2017, and still as a lasting impact in 2020 as well. Featuring Bethel artist Jenn Johnson as a duet partner, both Tauren and Jenn declare God to do what He is famous for- to ‘…make way through the waters, walk me through the fires, do what You are famous for…shut the mouths of lions, bring dry bones to life and do what You are famous for…’ Maybe a second official radio single in the future? Possibly. ‘Millionaire (Good Like That)’ features Tauren venture into a territory that is different for him, but it works- gospel. And with him featuring on the track, one of gospel music’s most respected legends of all time, Kirk Franklin; this song is elevated to a higher level, as we’re reminded of the goodness of God, and that ‘…if I had a dollar for everytime they said God wouldn’t gonna come through, I’d be a millionaire…’
‘Done’ moves the musical genre into the category of ‘worship’, as Tauren tries his hand to write a worship song through and through- and yes, Tauren pulls it off quite well- a song that could feel right at home on a Hillsong album or even a Passion album. The song itself? As Tauren relays himself, ‘…if I can just pull back the curtain with a worship song for people to see what Jesus has done, then that’s the real win, and this song so clearly articulates that. It’s a song about the gospel, about how each thing that Jesus went through in his death, burial, and resurrection had a direct correlation with what he does in our lives. I want that to be sung by people. I want that truth to be declared, because the gospel is the most powerful message that there is…’ The next song, ‘Miracle’ is just more evidence that Tauren’s vocals and music style is very similar to that of Michael Jackson or even Justin Timberlake that it’s uncanny. Just like how Marc Martel’s Freddie Mercury impersonation has had everybody talking around the globe, so too I reckon will Tauren Wells’ music style having parallel’s to MJ and JT- and ‘Miracle’ is a great evidence of this. ‘Miracle’ itself speaks of the little things in our lives that are certainly more than coincidence, the things that we often overlook because of the stuff we surround ourselves with, but if we peel away all the innoculous and superfluous things in our lives, we can see the little wonders and miracles God places in our way to bring us back to Him. It also helps that this song in particular has a lot of MJ homage that I’m sure fans of Michael and his music will at least check out this song…at least once! ‘Until Grace’ is by far one of my favourite songs I’ve heard from Tauren for this entire album- and the vocal complementaries of Rascal Flatts frontman Gary LeVox is a perfect fit. The song itself can certainly fit right at home on country radio (maybe in the future, someone will re-record it), as we’re reminded of how grace the concept and grace the gift God’s freely given to us, captures us with a new perspective when we truly understand this forever incomprehensible concept- that how can a God so holy extend unending and unbounding grace to each and every one of us, to rid ourselves from the darkness that is our destiny? The answer- Jesus. His death and resurrection has paved a way, and ‘Until Grace’ speaks of a moment in our lives where we realise such a gravity to grace and what happens when we accept the gift given to us- and how much our lives will really change.
‘Trenches’ brings the tempo down even further as light percussion and acoustics bring a song to life, that reminds us that the God of heaven ‘climbs in the trenches’ with me, that when I’m hurting, He is not far away, He’s right there with us. And if we are ambassadors of Christ, and Christ-followers, it is in our blood and in our nature to hopefully climb in the trenches with other people upon hearing what they’re going through- because that’s what real love is. Toughing it out together with our dearest friends and family, because that is indeed what happened when God came into the trenches in the midst of our plight- He became fully man (and also fully God), experiencing what we did, so that He can relate to the things we go through on a daily basis. And so this song not only casts our mind back to what we know God does in our own very difficult circumstances, but also what we know we should do (and hopefully want to) for others when faced with similar situations as well. The album then finishes with songs ‘Love’s Worth the Fight’ and ‘Carry On’- ‘Love’s Worth the Fight’ is a letter out of a difficult season in marriage, and the meaning and purpose of said song is that love in its very nature between two soulmates should be worth the fight- because we love the person and want reconciliation above all else; while ‘Carry On’, a piano-strings only track, is for the person who’s experienced loss far beyond any other, a song that asks and cries for the Lord to carry on when we can’t, to bring to us circumstances that will put us back together, when all we can do by our own strength is to just breathe.
Tauren’s second solo effort is as dynamic and emotive as the first, which was nothing short of powerful and unique. The album, and Tauren’s music, continue to remind us of God’s goodness in trials, and that our citizenship of heaven is just waiting to be claimed by Christians around the world, myself included. The album is a reminder of our own inadequacies and our constant need for grace…and that’s ok. Tauren has done a great job here, and that even though we may never know why or how the band Royal Tailor broke up, that doesn’t mean that the members (or in this case, the lead singer) also disband from music as well. Just like how Peter Furler continued music after his own departure from the Newsboys, so has Tauren Wells shown us that his time serving the community and ministering to others through music is not done yet. One of my favourite albums of the year? Most certainly. Well done Tauren for such a powerful second album, and one to listen to if you loved Hills and Valleys, and want to listen to more of the same…or if you really miss Royal Tailor and want to see if Tauren’s new album is as stylistically diverse as the band was back in the day.
3 songs to listen to: Until Grace, Famous For, Miracle
RIYL: Rascal Flatts, Michael Jackson, Royal Tailor, Tenth Avenue North, Bethel Music, Kirk Franklin