Capitol Christian Music Group
Release Date: June 10th 2022
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Fake It (feat. Aaron Cole)
- Use A Friend (feat. Jon Keith)
- Come Home
- Crazy About You
- Afraid With You (feat. Tiffany Hudson)
- Joy In The Morning
- When We Get There
- Has To Be God
One of the most powerful, inspiring, joyous, moving, honest, emotional, and vulnerable artists that I have heard recently… is CCM pop singer and songwriter Tauren Wells. Originally a founding member of Royal Tailor, Tauren penned and sung the hit songs “Hold Me Together”, “Make A Move”, “Freefall”, “Remain”, “Ready Set Go”, “Got That Fire”, “Original”, and “Jesus Love”; amongst others. Since the band split though, Tauren has been making waves as a solo artist, wowing us all with his pop sensibilities and his poignant, heartfelt lyrics. Songs like “Until Grace”, “Hills And Valleys”, “Citizen Of Heaven”, “Undefeated”, “Miracle”, “When We Pray”, “God’s Not Done With You”, “Hold Us Together” and “Echo”, to name a few; have been giving us a sense of vulnerability and honesty; as Tauren pours his heart out and graciously peels back the layers of his own heart in order to get real with God. Tauren has been nominated for many Grammy Awards and Dove Awards, and while he has released three albums which we reviewed here, here and here; Tauren has now embarked o his Capitol Christian Music Group debut- his third studio album called Joy In The Morning.
My dad played everything for me from Winona Judd to the Isley Brothers to Bonnie Raitt, Black Sabbath, ZZ Top, AC/DC, James Brown, Prince. I realized I could make music as inspiring and exciting as Michael Jackson while also talking about things that actually matter to me through this lens of faith and love. Now I can sit down at the piano and talk about what I’m going through and, because of the power of song writing, someone else can identify with the same thing I’m feeling even though we’ve never met, and I’ve never heard their story. That was the thing that propelled me to sing and write and dance and perform and create.
Throughout the sessions, I was thinking, ‘How many people can I encourage with this album?’. You can consider the pain. Consider the disappointments. Consider the dreams. And now, all of a sudden, you have a soundtrack that helps sooth the wounds or awaken the dreamer.
Performing is my favorite part of what I do. I love it. I love the entertainment aspect of it–just being able to get out there and dance and sing and crack jokes and tell stories. It is life-giving and it’s a great privilege to have people showing up every night to go there together.
Having released this latest album this past Friday, Tauren delivers probably one of the most vulnerable, personal, and emotional albums yet, despite the track listing being only 10 tracks long. Album opener “Fake It” is the lead single, and contains guest vocals from Aaron Cole, as Tauren emphatically and compellingly dishes up a 3-minute bundle of pop goodness. A testimony type track where Tauren declares that ‘…You’re changin’ my altitude, Your love is a whole new mood, somethin’ I can put my faith in, oh-ooh, You struck a match in the dark, You’re meltin’ my plastic heart, this is real, don’t have to fake it…’, we are presented with a catchy, confident, reverent and revealing melody about wanting to be authentic before God and knowing that we can be. “Use A Friend”, with Jon Keith on guest vocals, is a powerful, vulnerable mid-tempo ballad, whereby Tauren speaks about a friend who is leaving town for whatever reason. With Tauren relaying and admitting that that friend can lean on him whenever they want to and need to; we are presented with a song that is as real and honest as it is relevant and relatable- everyone can use a friend- and this song is similar in theme to Mariah Carey’s “Anytime You Need A Friend”.
The rest of Joy In The Morning brings forth joy and happiness and peace; with Tauren lyrically and musically giving us something to sing about and to smile about. The vulnerable and passionate “Come Home”, probably one of the most vulnerable and personal songs from Tauren ever, is sung from the point of view of someone who’s friend is deconstructing. And as Tauren sings to this friend that he understands why he is walking away, and he mentions in this song that he will be right here and by the friend’s side in whatever they choose to do- whether to return back to the faith or not; you can’t help but wonder. Is Tauren singing about Audrey Assad or Jon Steingard or Kevin Max or many of the other singers who left the faith and left Christian music? We may never know, but Tauren’s emphatic voice here reminds us that these people walked away with heavy hearts, and they all had their reasons. To trivialise the reasons or to say that they didn’t believe at all… well, that’s pretty disingenuous, don’t you reckon? The electric guitar led mid-tempo ballad “Crazy About You”, Tauren’s attempt at trying to vividly and accurately convey God’s unending love for each of us, reminds us that Jesus is indeed crazy about us, that ‘…He’s crazy about you, didn’t wanna live without you, no, He traded the stars for a chance at your heart, just to show you it’s true…died so you didn’t have to, no, tore your failure apart, now He wears your scars, that’s how much He loves you…’; while “Empty”, my favourite song on this album, speaks about the parable of the rich fool. In the parable, someone asks Jesus to demand that their brother split the inheritance with him which he deserves; and then Jesus speaks about someone who is storing up wealth and treasures here on earth for themselves- and relaying that people like that are not rich towards God, and so their hearts and their wealth on earth will be dealt with accordingly. In the song, Tauren acknowledges that at times we can feel empty after building up our own kingdoms of material possessions- and this song and the parable remind us that it’s better to seek fulfilment and satisfaction and happiness in the eternal rather than in the transient that could fade away.
“Up”, a happy-go-lucky pop song that could easily find its way on mainstream radio, speaks about preserving through adversity and life’s troubles, as Tauren reminds us all that we cannot give up in the face of hardship because we have so much of this life to live for- our friends, family and everyone in our lives who love us dearly; while “Afraid With You”, a heart-warming, relevant and relatable piano ballad, is sung with Tiffany Hudson, and graciously lets us all know that it’s ok to feel pain and hurt and sorrow. Because the truest friends are the ones who will feel all of your feelings with you, who will sit beside you, cry with you, will love you, won’t judge you, and will be afraid with you; they will empathise with you because they are true friends, and they are always by your side.
The title track, a gospel infused powerful anthem, speaks about there being joy in the morning, and about us holding on and believing the best about life, even when we don’t understand. It’s a song that speaks to the core of our faith and is similar in theme to Steven Curtis Chapman’s album Beauty Will Rise as well as Darrell Evans’ song “Trading My Sorrows”. “When We Get There”, a hopeful, poignant melody, speaks about looking forward to heaven and looking forward to the day when we are to be reunited with Jesus (similar in theme to Audio Adrenaline’s “Big House” and Matt Redman’s “When We All Get To Heaven”); while Joy In The Morning ends with the romantic love song “Has To Be God”, directed to Tauren’s wife. As Tauren emphatically relays to us all that he feels the love he has for his wife and the love she has for him is proof of God’s love and existence; we are presented an honest, personal track and probably the best way to end Joy In The Morning– as an affirmation that the unending joy that we experience in knowing that God loves us, is probably the best type of joy that we could ever need and want.
Tauren Wells is an entertainer. He is a performer and a man with a heart for Jesus. He is a bonafide artist with a heart of gold and he is willing to proclaim the gospel to everyone he meets. This third studio album may not be the longest in terms of duration. But it does have joy and it does bring us hope. That is probably all that we could ask for these days. We need an album to pick us up, and Tauren’s album is the one. It probably isn’t the album if you want theological correct doctrine. But since when do CCM artists need to be qualified in doctrinal issues. Joy In The Morning makes us feel joy at God being in our midst- and that is certainly a good thing. Well done Tauren for probably the album so far of your career!
3 songs to listen to: Come Home, Up, Afraid With You
RIYL: Royal Tailor, Michael Jackson, Selena Gomez, TobyMac, Mandisa, Britt Nicole, Riley Clemmons, OneRepublic, Justin Timeberlake