Release Date: June 21st 2019
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Help is On the Way
- You’ve Always Been
- Never Would’ve Made It
- Let It Be Love
- Human Condition
- Already Won
- Just Give Me Jesus
- Can’t Even Love Myself
- If We Only Knew
- Wasted Time
Unspoken have had quite a journey of late. Signed to Centricity Music, Unspoken have come a long way since their 2012 EP release 7 years ago. Fusing together hip hop, pop, soul, funk, acoustic, praise and CCM, Unspoken may be one of today’s most unique, energetic, interesting and powerful, even underrated bands that have spawned to life over the last few years. Mixing together a little bit of Salvador, Jimmy Needham, Shawn McDonald, Dara MacLean, Chris August and newworldson together to form one of the most engaging and life-filling music I’ve heard in years, this 5-piece band that formed all the way in the Dominic Republic, has been CCM’s bright spark in and amongst the lost sea of CCM that has been continuously played on radio nowadays. Since releasing their 2016 chart-topping successful sophomore Centricity Music album Follow Through (that spawned the radio hits ‘Miracle’, ‘The Cure’ and ‘Higher’, and even delivered a colourful and ingenious music video in ‘Open the Clouds’!), lead singer Chad Mattson and the rest of the band have reminded us that soul-pop has a place in today’s current sonic landscape and the industry of CCM at the moment. In 2018, they unveiled to us Just Give Me Jesus EP, which led to the powerful singles ‘You’ve Always Been’, alongside the title track. Now here in 2019, Unspoken have given another offering- Reason, an album that included ‘Reason’, a single released this year, alongside all 5 songs from their EP last year, and a few new ones, for the new album to amount to 12 tracks.
Released in full just this last Friday (21st June), Reason was an album that was very much anticipated by myself from a group who has been, I reckon, sorely missed from the CCM industry. With Follow Through being one of my own favourites of 2016, I expected nothing less of this new album from the band- and what resulted was a continuation from where Follow Through left off. Though 6 of the 12 songs are songs I know before (and from a business standpoint, it could’ve been better sales-wise to throw in a few more new songs, and not have all of their 2018 EP placed here on Reason verbatim), what Reason continues to give us is a Latin American flavour reminiscent of earlier Latin group Salvador, that is ever so missing right now in Christian music. A definite shoe-in for one of my favourite albums of 2019, for sure!
With the album as a whole, receiving assistance from producers like Tedd T., Chris Stevens and Jeff Pardo, alongside lead singer Chad Mattson himself; new single ‘Reason’ is as joyous and infectious as any soul-pop song that’s been done before as a band. Similar musically in style to Unspoken’s song ‘Open the Clouds’ from their 2016 album, Chad himself relays the band’s inspiration behind not only the song but for the album as a whole- ‘…every song on the album, Reason, speaks to some different kind of emotion or struggle we’ve been going through. But, everyone has the same idea that God’s love is the reason. He’s the reason we have everything needed; He’s the reason we can love ourselves; He’s the reason we can forgive; He’s the reason we’ve made it this far in our lives; He’s the reason we can look in the mirror and be confident and know that we’re going to be all right. In the hard times, I’ve sometimes wondered ‘When is God gonna show up?’ But, the truth is we’ve already been given the victory. That’s more than enough reason to believe, to persevere, and to trust. This album is about sharing with people that we have a reason. God’s love is the reason we can do anything and everything. He’s the reason we can persevere, or love ourselves, or love others, or walk in the freedom and forgiveness that God has given us, and walk confidently as children of God, believing that these truths aren’t just for somebody else, but they’re for us as well…’ ‘Reason’ invites us all to partake in the realisation that God is the reason for everything that we do and undertake, everything that we believe and trust, everything that is in our being, comes from and is from God- thus, our reason to even exist in the first place. Melodically pop and full of fun, but also heartfelt and a message that is indeed needed for society, Unspoken are back with a winner with ‘Reason’, coupled with a picturesque music video that tells a story of a daredevil child doing stunts on their own, all the while their family looking on not on horror, but through the eyes of how any parent looks at a child, in the form of safety and protection. ‘Reason’ is a powerful song full of Biblical truths, but also is a song full of fun and just a joyous song we can all jam to, whenever we’re on long drives, or just in the home doing chores. And with a chorus like this- ‘…He put that hunger in your heart, He put that fire in your soul, His love is the reason to keep on believing, when you feel like giving up, when you feel like giving in, His love is the reason to keep on believing…’, what’s not to love about the song?
All the five songs from Just Give Me Jesus EP, ‘Just Give Me Jesus’, ‘Human Condition’, ‘You’ve Always Been’, ‘If We Only Knew’ and ‘Mistakes’ are all present on this new album, and while for me I felt like placing all the songs on this new offering to be a little bit of a cop-out, the songs nevertheless are good, even though I have heard them before last year. The title track itself is one such a song that can be pondered and reflected upon as we ask a similar question- when everything is stripped away, can we state the words ‘give me Jesus’, when everything else isn’t as it should be, when we’re in a Job-type situation? Maybe, maybe not. Nevertheless, the gospel choir littered through the track gives more of a sombre and reflective atmosphere as I ponder such profound and poignant lyrics that these men have shown to us. As the song delves deep into the issue of comparison, and how in order for us to declare this song wholeheartedly, we must first need to lay down all of pride and comparison, to say ‘I don’t care if this person has this or that, that as long as I have Christ, I am whole and complete!’; we realise that setting aside any of our agendas, in favour of the Lord’s, can be difficult. Because we’ve all known that comparison is very much inherent in us- and it is the thief of joy. And so this song can hopefully be a reminder to us that Jesus is all we need, more than work, money, fame, even more than the next guy we’ve been idolising and envying for a while.
‘You’ve Always Been’ is an encouragement if ever there was one- and was the second single from the EP after ‘Just Give Me Jesus’. A song that challenges us to believe into the fact that God has always been there with us every step of the way, and that anything that we’ve needed of God, He’s always been for us; Unspoken continue to encourage, with a light acoustic and hand-clapping ‘Mistakes’, a song that reminds us that even our mistakes we often hide are used by the Lord in this big tapestry that He’s weaving throughout our lives in the hope that what we will discover about ourselves and Himself is something we can use to live life differently if required. Our mistakes are not what will hold us down, because of the enveloping grace that covers our lives, inclusive of the mistakes of the past, present and future. ‘Human Condition’ and ‘If We Only Knew’ are the last tracks from the EP on this new album- ‘Human Condition’ is a realisation that the human condition of being in a rat race and wanting to look perfect and be confident all the time can seem like being a fake, and that God would rather us be vulnerable and broken rather than ‘all-together’, while ‘If We Only Knew’ is a declaratory proclamation, as we are reminded that if we knew of the level and magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice, we ought to live life knowing that He paid a high price for us to be united back to Him- surrendering to death itself!
A new song on Reason, ‘Help Is On the Way’ gives a sense of urgency and an intentional moment of poignant emotion as Chad Mattson gives us comfort in the words that help is indeed on the way, from our Father in Heaven, and though 2:53; the musicianship and the strong percussion allow this song to be a standout as track #2 on Reason. ‘Never Would’ve Made It’ is an autobiographical song about Chad’s life during his teenage and young-adult years, as this acoustically driven pop melody becomes a moment of vulnerability as we listen to the heartfelt words of how Chad wouldn’t have made it if it wasn’t for the Lord. ‘Let it Be Love’ features a similar melodic tone to that of ‘Life in the Death of Me’, as Chad and co. encourage us to pursue love and all its characteristics, even when it may seem difficult or hard. And with the message of the song also similar to for KING AND COUNTRY’s ‘Proof of Your Love’; ‘Let it Be Love’ focuses on love rather than judgement, at the forefront. ‘Already Won’ features a hip-hop vibe as Unspoken channel both Group 1 Crew and Danny Gokey to remind us, that the power of God inside us through us believing into His sacrifice, death and resurrection, is proof enough that we as Christians have already won in the end, while the band finish off the new songs with ‘Can’t Even Love Myself’ and ‘Wasted Time’, the former being a question that Chad asks of God- how can he love the Father when he can’t even love himself, and the latter is a piano only track a la for KING AND COUNTRY’s ‘O God, Forgive Us’, as Unspoken invite us into the understanding that humans are best at wasting time, while God is a God who always redeems the time wasted.
‘…We’ve written so many songs. “Reason” took four days to write. We came up with the hook, and switched up the bridge at the last minute and added in the Philippians 1:6 reference. The first verse is really my testimony over the past couple of years. The cool thing about the songs on our new album is that we set out to write music that we needed to hear ourselves. We took a lot of phrases and conversations happening in our homes between husbands and wives and we wrote songs for us, because of the things we needed to be reminded of. If we can only walk in what we know to be true, that makes a difference. “Reason” starts off with the four seasons of winter. And one of the big things to remember about hard seasons is that you forget that there are other seasons. The winter can seem so long that we can’t find God. But, it’s in those hard moments when we draw close to Him that we experience a huge change. Here’s why: need always causes us to run to Jesus. He preached “blessed are the poor in Spirit.” The idea is that we can’t become part of God’s family until we recognize our need for Him. His love doesn’t change. The cross and the resurrection is always the reason to remember His love for us. He puts the fire in our souls…’ This above quote, though the inspiration behind ‘Reason’ the song, can also be applied to any situation about music. Unspoken themselves have delivered one of this years most emotive and heartfelt, and though I myself will always hold a special place for Follow Through, this new album is still nevertheless good and one of 2019’s best. As the band continues to ride the wave which is ‘Reason’ and their EP last year; Reason the album releases to a lot of critical acclaim. From the standout track ‘You’ve Always Been’ to the title track, this is a must have if you’re a fan of artists like Salvador, newworldson, Dara Maclean and Shawn McDonald. Well done guys for such a jam-packed album…now off to have a Unspoken music marathon, shall we?
3 songs to listen to: Reason, You’ve Always Been, Let It Be Love
RIYL: Salvador, Shawn McDonald, Dara Maclean, Jimmy Needham, newworldson