Tenille Townes – Masquerades

Sony Music Entertainment

Release Date: April 22nd 2022

Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre

Tenille TownesMasquerades (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. When You Need It (fe Wrabel)
  2. When’s It Gonna Happen?
  3. The Sound of Being Alone
  4. Villain in Me
  5. Shared Walls (feat. BRELAND)
  6. Same Road Home
  7. Light in Your Eyes

Canadian musicians, especially Canadian country artists, have thrived for quite some time recently. Artists like Shania Twain, Lindsay Ell, Jess Moskaluke, K.D. Lang, Meghan Patrick and Tenille Arts have all had varying degrees of success in both the Canadian and American markets of late, and further extending to just Canadian artists in general, artists like Drake, The Weeknd, Celine Dion, Bryan Adams, Justin Bieber, Avril Lavigne, Shawn Mendes, Carly Rae Jepsen, Michael Buble, Matt Maher, Marc Martel and The City Harmonic, are just some of the many Canadians who have been in circulation in music for quite some time over the last decade or two. So it comes to no surprise that rising country superstar and powerful vocalist, Tenille Townes, also comes from Canada. In fact, her rise to the top has been so exponential and instrumental, that she’s been recognised for various Canadian Country Music Awards (CCMAs) and Juno Awards within the last few years. Her 2020 album The Lemonade Stand was a critical success, we as a site even reviewed the album here. Birthing singles like ‘Somebody’s Daughter’, ‘Jersey On the Wall’ and ‘When I Meet My Maker’, Tenille’s trademark voice and her enthusiastic passion had made The Lemonade Stand one of 2020’s most unique albums, and one of the best kept secrets (album-wise) for that particular year. 2021 then came around, and we saw Tenille continue to deliver powerful hit singles- for upon the heels of her powerful and emotive July 2021 radio single ‘Girl Who Didn’t Care’, alongside her vulnerable and emotive ‘Villain in Me’ and her relatable and compelling ‘When’s It Gonna Happen?’, comes her follow-up project after The Lemonade StandMasquerades, a 7 track collection of songs of a larger project Tenille has started to become invested in for the remainder of 2022. Inclusive of the emotive hits ‘Villain in Me’ and ‘When’s It Gonna Happen’ (but unfortunately leaving out ‘Girl Who Didn’t Care’), this EP is as heartfelt as they come, as this project from Tenille is fast becoming one of 2022’s most compelling EP releases thus far (alongside EP’s from Maddie & Tae, Bella Taylor Smith & Casting Crowns).

Both ‘Villain in Me’ and ‘When’s It Gonna Happen’ are the two previously known songs here on this 7-track EP, and both these two songs form the backbone of this EP, both thematically and sonically. Standing at a bit over 3 and a half minutes, we see Tenille offer up an acoustic guitar riff and personal lyrics in ‘Villain in Me’, as we see vulnerability take centre stage…and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For too long have songs danced around issues because it was seen to be taboo in songs for feelings to be shown- in particular, being vulnerable and admitting through song that you don’t have it all together as you seem to portray. ‘Villain in Me’ allows listeners to see that Tenille struggles with things that everyday people seem to do, listeners included. And the chorus seems to hit home, allowing us to relate to Tenille as she voices that ‘…the voice that I don’t wanna hear, the hurtful words I say, the long list of things about myself I wanna change, the heavy cloud that won’t leave even after it rains, I try to be a hero ’til it brings me to my knees, yeah, there’s a villain in me…’ More often than not, we want to hide the fact away that there are things within us that are as capable of doing villainous things, as there are things inside us capable of doing heroic things. There are parts of us that we want to hide away, and then there are parts of us that we celebrate. And yet we hide the things away that we deem to be ‘not worthy enough’ or even not ‘inspirational’ enough. We hide things away because we believe what we have to offer isn’t what people want to see. But sometimes even the ‘villainous’ things about us that seem to shame and bury us deep, are nevertheless things about us that we have conquered in our lives before; and will do again. For when we become honest and unveil that we do struggle with things in our lives that we want to be rid of, it makes us become much more relatable to the people that are dealing with similar struggles to us. And others can open up and share that they also have these things inside of them as well, and people won’t feel as alone as they think they are.

‘Villain in Me’ isn’t a song solely about the acknowledgement of the darkness inside of us- it is, but that isn’t the initial point of it all. The song first comes as a reminder that yes, there are villainous things inside of me, and yes, I do have to acknowledge that there are things within my very being and soul that long to undertake dangerous and treacherous things…but that just reminds me of how much in need of a Saviour, I am. ‘Villain in Me’ is a great reminder of my own sin, but it doesn’t stop there. Knowing my sin, should spur me on to long for a Saviour, and as I have mentioned countless times on this site before, I know my Saviour is in Christ Jesus. And if a song by Tenille can evoke a reminder like this, then I’m sure God Himself was in the process of writing this song together with Tenille…right? ‘Villain in Me’ reminds me of Romans 7:13-25, and how Paul spoke of how he longs to do the right thing, but sin keeps him from undertaking what he knows to be right, and true and good. Tenille’s song can hopefully be a lifeline to many who may be struggling from feeling like they have let people down by what they have done in the past (or what they’ll continue to do in the future)- ‘Villain in Me’ reminds us that we are not alone in this thing called ‘sin’ that we’re all dealing with; and whether we call it ‘sin’ for what it is, or even call it ‘demons’, ‘inner ghosts’, ‘things inside us’, ‘spirits’ or even ‘wickedness’ and ‘evil’; we still have to deal with it. A song that has become a great way of dialoguing about this thing inside us that we all have to acknowledge is there, but really see if we want this ‘villain’ around in our lives anymore; this is a great song to anchor Tenille’s new EP, and a great, personal, vulnerable direction she is moving her music towards. Well done Tenille for such a powerful and compelling song, here’s hoping the Lord will use it for His glory and our good in the upcoming weeks and months ahead.

Just like ‘Villain in Me’, ‘When’s It Gonna Happen?’ is equally as emotive and poignant, being released as a single in early 2022, and discussing this theme that we as listeners may understand- singleness. Tenille starts off the song with light percussion as the lyrics seem to come to the foreground all the more. And with a song that I’m sure a lot of people can relate to; the song relays this theme of singleness and what it means and feels for those who are single and are seeing everyone around them become married people. I know with me and my singleness, I see a lot of my friends become married, and while I know that the Lord will use my time in singledom in a way for Him to show me things about myself that I may need to fix; I can’t help but wonder what my life would be like if I wasn’t single. I also often wonder if and when I will get married, and therefore this song has hit home for me, a lot. I don’t know when I will get married, and if that is a possibility for me. What I do know is this- that I may plan this or that, but the Lord orchestrates the steps, and yes, this song hits hard, and is as emotive as they come; but what this song seems to lack is a sense of hope. The song asks questions, like ‘when’s it gonna happen to me’, but nothing really much else.

What I know as a Christian, is that as much as I may long for a spouse and a family, and how I need to be actively looking for someone to spend the rest of my life with; I also need to focus on the Lord and follow where He wants me to be. I need to be as content as I can be when I’m single; because I know God’s plans for me when I’m in this stage in my life, may be far beyond what I could even comprehend. And it is on that note that I’ve appreciated Tenille’s new song; and acknowledged it for what it is- a track that allows us to feel some lament and longing. If we want hope though, we may need to look towards other artists like Switchfoot or for KING & COUNTRY? Regardless, this is a great song by Tenille that compliments ‘Villain in Me’ quite nicely, showcasing a much more vulnerable side to Tenille as we see artists in general becoming much more transparent in their music (and that is a very good thing, indeed).

Throughout the rest of the album, we see Tenille continue to offer us songs of vulnerability, as this EP release becomes one of the most hard-hitting country collection of songs in quite some time. ‘When You Need’, the first song on the EP and a duet with Wrabel, showcases this theme of friendship and being there for people in their times of need. Especially throughout these last few years because of COVID-19; this song really hits home as a timely reminder to be there for our fellow friends and acquantinces, especially in the last few years. Or as Tenille herself puts it, ‘…this song was the beginning of [Wrabel’s and my] friendship, which I think is so cool, because this song is exactly about that, about finding those people in our lives that we really can show up for and that we can be our honest and true selves with. To be able to say how we were doing, talking to each other through that period of not feeling fine as an entire globe—I think it’s just so important to have those people in your life. And it meant a lot to get to talk about that in this song and felt like a really special beginning to the friendship…’ ‘The Sound of Being Alone’ showcases a sense of vulnerability that can only be seen throughout these last few years because of COVID-19; as the song is exactly what the title suggests- organising and sorting out feelings about being ‘alone’ because of this pandemic. It’s a way of us understanding that maybe we were really more alone than we thought- because once we were isolated from 2020 onwards, the isolation really showed us all what was really there to begin with. Maybe, just maybe, we flood ourselves with a lot more technology, friends, social media, and things; than we care to admit. Because maybe, if we have more stuff, then we’d feel less alone, right?

‘Shared Walls’ is another duet with up and coming country artist BRELAND, as this song tackles this understanding of trying to get to know our neighbours, with the song alluding more to apartment blocks and the shared walls neighbours have between them. But it applies to neighbours in a broader sense- that because of COVID-19, it feels like we are much more connected to our neighbours (both apartment neighbours and house-to-house neighbours) now, than we were pre-COVID. And that’s actually a shame. Why don’t we talk to our neighbours more? That it’s only because of a shared and common happening around the world that allows neighbours to be united and conversational…nothing else has allowed neighbours to be closer? That it took COVID-19 of all things, to shift our own concept of neighbours and our own ability to reach out to our neighbours, full stop? ‘Same Road Home’ challenges us in this upbeat potential radio single, with this notion of travelling ‘home’, and what that looks like from person to person. And introducing this understanding, that no matter what people may go through, that we’re all trying to reach home, wherever that is. We’re on this road, it may have these twists and turns, it may just be one straight line, but however we may often picture it, we’re all travelling somewhere, or even to someone. We have the same struggles and triumphs, even though they look a little different from road to road. We are a lot more similar and united in each of our journeys than we may think, and sometimes, it can take an event like this pandemic to see that. The EP then ends with ‘Light in Your Eyes’, a song of lament where Tenille looks at a circumstance and situation with either fondness or even regret (or even both), as we see this song as maybe being a catalyst for introspection and contemplation…a song perfect to be the end to a powerful EP that hopefully allows us to reflect on the 2 years that was, and the years in front of us that could be.

So, there you have it. Masquerades. 7 tracks of vulnerability, that is seemingly the most seen within country music, but seems to lack a lot in various other musical genres, namely pop and CCM. So, it’s great to hear a body of work that portrays vulnerability in a favourable light, because it is. Being vulnerable means being relatable to the listeners and audience that you have. Something relatable means something impactful, and maybe even influential, to someone’s life. And over the years, Tenille has become just that- influential. Her music of late has crept into people’s homes and impacted people’s lives, and while she unfortunately misses out on the top 50 impactful and influential artists of now and the upcoming years ahead (but does receive an honourable mention though); the fact of the matter still remains. That Tenille’s work still strikes a chord with listeners, and this EP is no different. Well done Tenille for these 7 songs. Looking forward to seeing how God uses these melodies, in the upcoming years ahead.

‘…you know these songs came – I could not help the way that they came from a much more personal place. I was experiencing so much, I think, capacity to process more of my vulnerable and maybe more uncomfortable emotions and thoughts because the whole world was forced to stay inside and in a lot of ways be stuck with those feelings. And I really didn’t know where else to put them other than inside songs. And it was so healing for me to be able to pick up a guitar and just… I don’t know, express what was going on in my head. My favourite place to write from is the observer, the storyteller perspective, so it’s definitely more terrifying to me to write a song that’s actually something that’s personal or on my own heart. But I’m really excited to share these songs that very much came from a new frontier for me of figuring out how to put down the mask in my life. I definitely sort of have this bright and sunny part of me that sometimes can be useful to hide behind. So, I’m learning how to hold that in one hand and also hold what it looks like to put that to the side and just be completely honest. It feels good to be figuring that out. And scary at the same time…That [being vulnerable] has given me so much courage to go, “OK yes, I wanna do a whole project of these scary songs”. Because hearing from people has just meant the world to me. To go, “oh I’m so glad we feel the same and also that we aren’t alone in those feelings”. You know, putting out Villain In Me or When’s It Gonna Happen, hearing people say “this is my anthem, I feel this, this is my emotion too” and it’s “OK, thank goodness, we can stand together in that”. I do think you’re right. I think as dark and hard as the past couple of years have been, I do think there is always something beautiful that can be taken from it. And the conversation about mental health or people being more brave to just be who they are and go, “no, life’s too short and the things that are important to me are what I’m gonna stand up for”. That’s something really powerful I think to come out of this time in our history. So I’m glad to witness that and feel a part of that…’

3 songs to listen to: When’s It Gonna Happen, Villain in Me, The Sound of Being Alone

Score: 5/5

RIYL: Tenille Arts, Lindsay Ell, Lady A, Carly Pearce, Jimmie Allen, The Shires

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