Release Date: March 17th 2017
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
Various Artists– Re-Covered – EP (iTunes)
- Hollow (Jordan Feliz) [originally recorded by Tori Kelly]
- Scars to Your Beautiful (Carrollton) [originally recorded by Alessia Cara]
- Brand New (Grayson Reed) [originally recorded by Ben Rector]
- Drag Me Down (feat David Dunn) (Jordan Feliz) [originally recorded by One Direction]
- Hard Love (Grayson Reed) [originally recorded by needtobreathe]
- I Lived (Carrollton) [originally recorded by OneRepublic]
- If I Ain’t Got You (Jordan Feliz) [originally recorded by Alicia Keys]
- Holy Spirit (Carrollton) [originally recorded by Jesus Culture]
Never before has there been a project like this. Sure, there’s been albums by individual artists within the Christian industry where one or two songs on such album are covers of famous mainstream tracks. But to release a full length album of sorts (8 tracks) where every track, except for ‘Holy Spirit’, is in fact a ‘mainstream’ track is a feat in and of itself. There seems to be a stigma surrounding the notion and perception of Christians who sing and perform music that was originally focused towards the mainstream industry. There’s the people that downright oppose that there are some Christians who sing mainstream music, and claim that Satan has come to twist and reshape, that what these artists are doing is in fact immoral. Then there’s others, like myself, who are of a different viewpoint- that whatever music we sing and we hear, God can use anything to bring people closer to Himself, and if someone is impacted by a mainstream song such as any from the track list to this compilation, then so be it. Still, regardless of what view you all hold of mainstream music in general, we cannot deny the fact that these renditions of some of today’s most popular songs are in fact, near-flawless, often at times catchier and musically more balanced and refined than the original. With some songs here on this EP much more famous and popular than others (I reckon more people know a song like “Drag Me Down” compared to a song like “I Lived”), Grayson Reed, Carrollton and Jordan Feliz (the three artists represented, all of them on Centricity Music) have all done a great job quality-wise, making this EP one of the most different and musically invigorating that I’ve heard in all of 2017 thus far!
One of the most unique and fast-becoming powerful voices within the Christian industry at the moment (and with a musical style similar to Unspoken, Jimmy Needham, Chris August and Newworldson), Jordan Feliz has become one of the most popular new artists we’ve heard within Christian radio in the last few years- giving us songs like “The River”, “Never Too Far Gone”, and more recently, “Best of Me” and “Beloved”. Ahead of his new deluxe edition album releasing on the first Friday in June (which is essentially his debut album along with 4 remix tracks and one live song), we see Jordan deliver to us 3 out of the 8 covers, each of them delivered with such poise and emotion…and with all three of them vastly different musically and stylistically. Starting off the EP, Jordan presents to us his own version of “Hollow”, quite possibly one of Tori Kelly’s most famous songs ever. Originally recorded on Tori’s 2015 album Unbreakable Smile, “Hollow” reminds me of how a song can be as ambiguous as it wants in its message, and still be applicable and impacting to both listeners of mainstream and Christian music. The universality of the message (Tori could’ve easily been singing either to God or to another friend/loved one) is its strength- yet for the purposes of this EP, we can say that this song has two meanings, that we are hollow without God and therefore need Him in our lives in every aspect, as well as we’re hollow without the people we surround ourselves with, our family and loved ones. Regardless of how we all see the song, we can’t deny its power, and Jordan has painted his own picture of what this song means- even altering the melody of the bridge until it’s unrecognisable.
“Drag Me Down” and “If I Ain’t Got You” are the other two covers from Jordan and both are vastly different stylistically. On face value, “Drag Me Down”, originally recorded by teen pop band One Direction, is just another song about singing to a loved one, most likely a girlfriend, declaring to them that ‘…if I didn’t have you, I ain’t got nothing left, a shell of a man, who could never be his best, if I didn’t have you, I’d never see the sun, you taught me how to be someone…’ The song even has a few ‘baby’s thrown in for good measure, so with these words littered around, it is definitely a mainstream track, right? Yet when we look deeper, we realise that this song can equally evoke a message about our own Father in heaven as it can evoke a message about a loved one close to us- since we are made in God’s image, the relationship we have with our fellow man mirrors the relationship we have to the creator. And thus the message we can get out of this track is this- with Christ’s love surrounding us and inside us, nobody can drag us down. I know this message is cliché and has been sung about, yes, in the Christian industry for quite a while, yet such a message can be literally identity shaping and redefining as we come to terms with the central truth, that with Christ in us, before us and behind us, nothing can stand in the way between us and the Lord, between communion and fellowship with the Almighty King…so how does Jordan Feliz (and special guest David Dunn) deliver this song musically? With enthusiasm and passion, and is the most enjoyable song on the album, despite only clocking in at 3:00. “If I Ain’t Got You”, a cover of the famous song from soul singer Alicia Keys, speaks about a relationship, as Alicia sings to a loved one, and says that they are nothing if they don’t have this person. This is how we should feel like when we sing to our Lord Jesus- that if we don’t have Jesus, then we have nothing at all. With both “Drag Me Down” and “If I Ain’t Got You” reminding me of the importance of relationships (both heavenly and earthly) as we move across this life, Jordan’s passion is one of the high points in Re-Covered, and further highlights the talent and flair that Jordan embodies, not only in these songs, but throughout his whole album as well!
“Scars to Your Beautiful” is quite possibly one of the most uplifting and inspiring ‘mainstream’ songs I’ve heard in quite some time. Originally from the 2015 album Know-It-All by Canadian singer-songwriter and new artist Alessia Cara (most people, including myself, know her now as the artist who made famous ‘How Far I’ll Go’- the theme song from the Disney movie MOANA), “Scars to Your Beautiful” is a song that has encouraged myself of late, even if it has no mention of the word ‘Jesus’, ‘God’ or anything else to do with Christianity. A song doesn’t have to be explicitly ‘Christian’ to have an effect, and “Scars To Your Beautiful” is one of these songs, a moment where we realise that the scars that we have are beautiful because it shows people around us and reminds ourselves how far we have come, from points in our lives where we have experienced hurt and betrayal, to where we are now, full of healing and hope. Carrollton have recorded an exceptional version of the track, maybe even more enjoyable (for me) compared to the original. The message is great (even though the song message at face value is directed to young teenage girls dealing with body image issues), and the application of the track in a universal sense makes me appreciate that there are still some singer-songwriters in the mainstream that deliver uplifting and inspirational songs for us to contemplate and relate to. As original songwriter Alessia Cara puts it, ‘…whether it’s in media, or in just regular life, [women are] just expected to do, and to look like so many different things, and it’s so hard to keep up with sometimes. And these things that we’re being told, whether it’s indirectly or directly, they get into our heads and it got to the point where now girls can’t look at themselves and just feel happy anymore… it’s just a bad thing to put in our heads. So I wanted to make a song that was saying to block out all that noise, and to just appreciate yourself, and not go to these extremes to love yourself…’ Well done to both Alessia and Carrollton for such a song, one that will continue to be on repeat on my iTunes playlists for months to come!
Originally recorded by pop band OneRepublic, “I Lived” is an anthem about living life to the full, and declaring from the outset- I lived, knowing that to fully live is to give everything our all, embracing whatever comes our way, and to take calculated risks if we want a certain outcome. While the song itself can sound at times a little egotistical, about living for ourselves instead of living for others and the kingdom, Carrollton nevertheless ooze passion inside this song, as we are presented with a track that ought to make us think about our own lives, and whether we have lived for ourselves up until now, or have lived for those around us. Still, the cover musically is good, but searching deep within, the lyrics have left me a little befuddled and uncertain about what the deep message of the song truly is. “Holy Spirit” on the other hand, the other song that Carrollton covers, presents a message that is far different- as we are reminded of this chart-topping track originally recorded by Bethel Music a while ago. While the version of the song isn’t as riveting or compelling as the original (because it is recorded acoustically), Carrollton still deliver a moment of worship and tranquillity as “Holy Spirit” has become one of the most popular worship songs within the last few years. While musically more subdued than I reckon the song should be, Carrollton still show us that a song can still be enjoyed regardless of who sings it- not just being sung by the original artist, but a song ought to carry the weight regardless who sings it!
“Brand New” and “Hard Love” are the remaining two tracks on this 8 track EP, and both are recorded powerfully by new duo Grayson Reed (formed by Mike Grayson of his former band MIKESCHAIR and Molly Reed of the new disbanded City Harbor). Originally recorded by Ben Rector and needtobreathe respectively, the former track is shown to be a song about what it is like to be in love and to love fully, and to put all those emotions and feelings into words, specifically, a 3 minute song- lyrically, the song is full of motifs and metaphors, that I’m sure we can listen to the song a thousand times and still get something out of it the last time as we could do the first time. “Hard Love” also imparts to us about the notion of love, in essence, that it is hard at times to pursue and maintain, that if we want to delve deep and discover what it means to be in good relationships, often work is required. Love that is satisfying often is hard in the short term, and that’s ok. Both these songs are emotive and poignant, and Grayson Reed does justice in both accounts. Tracks that are easily as enjoyable, if not more so, than their originals, both Mike and Molly present these acoustic songs with such fervent honesty, making the duo one of my favourites I’ve heard since Love & the Outcome in 2013!
So what can I say about this covers EP that I haven’t already? That this EP is one where we can hear and be inspired, even though most of the songs weren’t really written with a ‘faith’ outlook in mind? This EP is one that’ll hopefully encourage us all to branch out of the Christian music that I myself, as with everyone else, often listen to on a regular basis, as this EP reminds myself that there is still mainstream music out there that is encouraging and impacting, as much as the current Christian radio hits on K-Love and Air1 currently. Songs like “Scars to Your Beautiful”, “Hollow” and “Brand New” are just some of the songs that are standouts on the EP, and songs that’ll continue to be in my iTunes playlists in the near future. Should another Christian label, say, Provident Label Group, get in on the act at a later date and release their own EP/album full of mainstream covers? Maybe, maybe not, but what I do know is this- Grayson Reed, Carrollton and Jordan Feliz have all done a great job in these 8 songs. A must have for anyone who is a fan of mainstream music, or a fan of music with a message, Re-Covered EP is an EP that is going to be on repeat as the months roll on!
3 songs to listen to: Scars to Your Beautiful, Drag Me Down, Brand New
RIYL: Switchfoot, for KING AND COUNTRY, U2, Lifehouse, Daughtry