Release Date: May 20th 2022
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
Essential Records / Provident Label Group
Release Date: October 22nd 2021
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
Warner Music Inc.
Release Date: October 1st 2021
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
Not too long ago, the Dove Award nominations released. For those of you familiar with Christian music, and for those who have read our site since the inception back in 2014; I’m sure you’ll all believe me when I say that throughout the past few years, both myself and my brother Jon have always eagerly anticipated the Dove Award nominations every year. We’ve even written predictions for these awards on this site here, here and here (2017, 2018 and 2019); as well as our analysis of winners and nominations here and here (both 2014). But for those of you who are unfamiliar with the Dove Awards though, let’s just say that it’s like the Christian version of the Grammy Awards. It’s probably the most prestigious award show in the history of CCM music. And being that Jon and myself basically grew up solely on Christian music, the time of the year when nominations of the Dove Awards roll around is always nostalgic and sentimental to us. Even though of late, we have mostly read the nominations and shrugged our shoulders and rolled our eyes and written our own fantasy ‘fake’ lists. And it’s just because over the past few years The Dove Awards’ nominations have been somewhat spot on but somewhat off the mark at the same time. Yet… guess what? We always come back to these lists, and we always are eager to see the same things over and over and over again. And I reckon it’s what most of us (lovers of mainstream music as well!) do anyways, in a broader sense. We see these award shows nominate the same people year after year after year; and we’re still a sucker to watch them. And the Dove Awards nominations this year actually was a catalyst for me to ask the question… of why is that so? Why do we watch awards shows even when we know what’s going to happen? I’ve been thinking about how ingrained we all are in our likes and dislikes, even though we sometimes are indifferent to them as well. And it seems to me that with award shows with the biggest celebrities, we latch onto these events and spectacles like church services, and we hang onto the words of our biggest idols like they’re God. We elevate our role models like they’re perfect, and even if we know that award shows are like a popularity contest and that the nominations may not reflect in totality if these actors or musicians or artists actually have any talent or even have anything worthwhile to say; we’ve fallen into the trap that they’re still the best thing the world has to offer. And it’s because… I don’t know, actually. We love living vicariously and vivaciously through people, and it’s easier to be persuaded and encouraged to love someone who is popular and has nothing much to say than to be really invested in someone influential with something to say. If you think about most of these 100 artists we’ve written about in this blog series, from artists like Keith Urban, Pentatonix, Skillet, Jason Gray and Carly Rae Jepsen, to John Mayer, Carrie Underwood, Owl City, Train and Hanson… is it likely or probable that the majority of them would be present as a nominee, presenter or performer at a major awards show like the Grammys or The American Music Awards or The Billboard Music Awards or The MTV Video Music Awards? Yes? No? Yeah, I reckon it’s probably not. And that’s not a reflection on the talent and prowess of the artists in question I’ve blogged about… it’s just the way the music industry is these days. Popular artists sell and influential artists do not.
Sometimes I wonder about all the detrimental and harmful effects that social media, the internet, youtube, smartphones, iPhones, Androids, PlayStations, Nintendo, even the home theatre system and streaming juggernauts like Disney +, Netflix, Hulu, Stan, Foxtel and Amazon Prime; have all had on the society of today. Or better still, how much we rely on all of these aforementioned technological advances, to better our lives, when in fact, its actually making us rely much more on the technical and less reliable and less connected in an overall sense, when trying to connect face to face. There I said it. Controversial thought and opinion. Yes, the advent of advancements like Youtube, streaming services, smartphones, google, Facebook, Twitter and yes, even Disney +, have all changed the landscape of society now, but with all of it, has made us realise this very one thing- that behind all of the façade of trying to enjoy what is on offer to us, we are just people trying to not admit to ourselves, that we are suffering from FOMO (fear of missing out), and even realising that what we consume on a daily basis, be it youtube, Disney +, iPhones and the like, are just masking what we feel deep down inside of our very souls, that we are lonely, and want human connection more so than anything else!
‘…how I felt when I wrote 21, I wouldn’t want to feel again. It was horrible. I was miserable, I was lonely, I was sad, I was angry, I was bitter. I thought I was going to be single for the rest of my life. I thought I was never going to love again. It’s not worth it. Well, it was worth it, because, obviously, of what’s gone on. But I’m not willing to feel like that to write a song again. I’m not…If I wanted to just be famous, like be a celebrity, then I wouldn’t do music, because everything else I’ve been offered would probably make me more famous than I am just with my music. Commercials, being the face of brands, nail varnishes, shoes, bags, fashion lines, beauty ranges, hair products, being in movies, being the face of a car, designing watches, food ranges, buildings, airlines, book deals. I’ve been offered everything. And I don’t want to water myself down. I want to do one thing. I want to make something. I don’t want to be the face of anything…’
If I am being completely honest, this upcoming blog post would have to be the one, out of all the 60 (61st currently right now) I have undertaken, where I’ve been literally worried and scared to do. I know I shouldn’t really be worried, because this post is just one mere man’s opinion, but in all honesty, I just can’t help it. Maybe it’s because Adele is one of the most popular British icons in British music history, and she has one of the most emotive, poignant and prolific voices ever, and therefore whatever I say won’t ever be enough to say about one of the 21st century’s most impactful and articulate singer-songwriters this generation have ever seen. Or maybe it’s just nerves, and this blog post is simultaneously the one where I’m prepared to a point, but also neither prepared at all, all at the same time. Regardless, this blog post about Adele would have to be, like U2, the one where people would automatically slot into their list of influential artists- if people even had lists nowadays. Across every person’s musical preferences, enjoyable melodies, and genres that they gravitate towards over the years, one cannot deny the importance, influence and impact Adele has had across her 3 albums, on music history. This blog post quite possibly can be the shortest blog yet that I’ve ever written (what can be said that hasn’t been said already by publications and news articles online from songfacts, songmeanings and medium.com, to NPR, Rollingstone and video interview on the youtube site Skavlan), but also simultaneously one of the most heartfelt, emotive and poignant that has ever been written within my 1 and a half year musical journey from February 2019 till now. For we all know Adele’s vocals can pierce depths of our hearts that only certain people can go- for that is why her albums are such relatable for people, and her down-to-earth atmosphere she portrays in video interviews is certainly contagious and a joy to watch. We are reminded through Adele’s career that these people we call musicians (that we often place on a pedestal) are in fact humans like me and you. They have faults, they’re not some super-people that we often idolise and believe they can do no wrong. It is in these moments of vulnerability in interviews that we see the transparency of these artists, and we respect these people whose music we listen to, all the more.
Think about life for a moment in all it’s ebbs and flows. It’s ups and downs, ins and outs, valleys and peaks. It’s not that hard to do now, when we see what’s happening with the world, with COVID-19 wreaking havoc around the world. We look at our lives and think and wonder. What are the constants in our lives when everything around us seems be less certain? And then hopefully we start to think, and we can then write them all down. Our friends and family. Check. Our relationship with God. Check. Our endless supply of DVD’s and movies, the streaming services of Stan, Foxtel, Netflix, Amazon, Apple TV and Disney +. Check. Well…then again, maybe streaming services isn’t as constant in our lives as we ourselves initially think. But you get the picture. And then last but not least, something in our lives that has been constant for forever, in ways that maybe we ourselves don’t even know it, is in fact music. Music, just like film and TV, has the power to delve deep into our souls, and minister to our very core of our humanity, hopefully bringing to light, issues that maybe we ourselves need to work on, while also highlighting our very relationships with our friends, family and God Himself, in the whole process of us enjoying a song and reflecting on its meaningful lyrics. For me, music has always been a staple in my life for as long as I can remember- I started listening to children’s music like The Donut Man and Psalty the Singing Songbook when I was younger, and as time went on, my musical tastes continued to expand. Artists like Delirious?, Carman, Steven Curtis Chapman, Chris Tomlin, Newsboys, Tim Hughes and Rebecca St. James were all artists I thoroughly listened to throughout my primary and high school years, while my university days were impacted by a lot of CCM- artists like the ones aforementioned, alongside others- Third Day, Casting Crowns, MercyMe, Nichole Nordeman, Natalie Grant, Bebo Norman, Kerrie Roberts, Paul Baloche, Phil Wickham, Matthew West, Kari Jobe, Britt Nicole, BarlowGirl, Hawk Nelson, Sanctus Real, Building 429, David Crowder*Band, and Jason Gray (to name a few of the many, many artists we- my twin brother and I, branched out into). Now here I am in 2020, one year and a half into my blog series, and my musical tastes have continued to grow and expand even further. Yes, this blog series (which you can read more about here) has been daunting and at times, uncertain, but on a holistic level, has also been rewarding, as I felt the Lord’s presence and Him speaking to me through a lot of music that one wouldn’t necessarily call ‘Christian’. And that was my own conundrum that I was working through- and am still working through. I’ve concluded that mainstream music isn’t ‘bad’, as a lot of fundamentalist Christians believe. And maybe I believed that statement too, even though I didn’t grow up in such a fundamentalist environment.
‘…sometimes I wonder what would’ve happened if I listened to great bands and songs, and the great albums from said bands, when they actually released, rather than all these years later. How would my music tastes have changed- or would they have stayed the same? How would my outlook on life be, would I be more of an extrovert or an introvert, would my values change or would I still be in the same profession that I am currently in? I know, weird questions, but I truly believe that music and the song that can impact and encourage, influence and challenge; can really change a trajectory of someone depending on when they hear it in their lives. And at a certain point, a song can be a catalyst for change, personal or as a collective, to be something better, to look inward and see what needs to realign and refocus, or what values that is held close, need to be reassessed, and which need to still stay the same. So to answer my own question that I posed earlier…I don’t really know what would’ve happened if I did listen to artists when their respective albums released. I mean, had I did listen to artists like Avril Lavigne, Ronan Keating, U2, Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, even Owl City and Lifehouse, during the times when albums of these said artists released; maybe, just maybe, the wonder and awe, and the unique feeling that comes when discovering a whole discography of a new artist, could be less and less. Because essentially if you follow an artist’s career from year dot, you become accustomed to their music your whole life, as opposed to someone else discovering for the first time a whole discography of an artist they’ve missed out on…’
‘…mainstream music for me has always taken a bit of a back seat throughout my life, and it was only when I heavily invested my time and my intrigue and interest into this blog series that I started to undertake last year, that I truly understood that there was a lot of mainstream music out there that I was missing. That mainstream music was just another avenue of music that God can and does use for Himself to be revealed in our lives whenever we hear the music, either currently of now, or of the years gone by of yesteryear. As I’m about to undertake blog post #40 this week, I have reflected upon the artists I’ve delved into thus far: Delta Goodrem, Lifehouse, Sara Bareilles, Ronan Keating, Owl City, Martina McBride, U2, The McClymonts, Shania Twain, Ed Sheeran, Rascal Flatts, Evanescence, OneRepublic, Tina Arena and Daughtry, to name a few; have all had impacting and influential careers in music over the years. And all of them have been instrumental in the reshaping of my own views of mainstream music since my discoveries of this wide array of music from last year onward. And, all these artists aforementioned are under the label or category of ‘mainstream’ music, or just music that isn’t Christian, or ‘religious’ in any way. And maybe, just maybe, mainstream music doesn’t have to be as bad as I myself originally thought it was back in high school. It was only last year that I was stretched in my understanding and comprehension of what good music really looked like, and that it was ok for me to enjoy music that wasn’t Christian in any way, and that God Himself could move if He wanted to, speaking to me through the unlikeliest of sources, even mainstream music. And that’s ok! …’
Sometimes I sit and wonder which artist from my 100 influential list, has been the hardest to discuss and write about. From when I did start off this once a week (or so) blog posting session, till now; which artist has stretched me the most, in terms of music, lyrics, my very own perceptions of the band/solo artist, or even what I tend to believe about them as a person? Has there been an artist that has challenged my own thinking of music in general? For me personally, I don’t think an artist has come to me just yet, but as of this moment, there is an artist that is coming extremely close. Michael Bublé has been in the music business for a while, and his name as been thrown around here and there- I’m sure people have heard of him, even if they themselves haven’t heard of his music. Born and bred in the deep heart of Burnaby, British Colombia in Canada; Michael has been making music for quite some time, and while his name right now wasn’t as popular as it was back when he was creating music on a regular basis in the early to mid-2000s; we as listeners are nevertheless blessed to hear and appreciate and artist like Michael. While I wasn’t totally in the know about the blues/swing/jazz genre that Michael embodies in a vast number of his songs; I was however game enough to listen to Michael and give it a go. The result- my appreciation and admiration, respect and reverence, for Michael as an artist. Though even now Michael’s music, and I guess jazz in general, won’t be my go-to music; I can nevertheless listen to such songs without much, if not any, disdain. The same cannot be said of me even 5 years ago. And so, if Michael’s music (as similar stylistically to Frank Sinatra’s, way back in the day) can move the needle a little and challenge myself into thinking outside the box of what styles of music can be enjoyable; then Michael Bublé and his songs have served their purpose.