- Laugh Out Loud
- With Every Act of Love
- Not Right Now
- Love Will Have the Final Word
- Love’s Not Done With You
- Begin Again
- I Don’t Know How
- If You Want to Love Someone
- Even This Will Be Made Beautiful
- The Best Days
- As I Am
Jason Gray. Stutterer. Changed his last name from ‘Gay’ to ‘Gray’ when he started his music career. But these facts are nothing when compared to his lyrical prowess and his ability to humbly write to expose his own vulnerabilities and to be able to write grace into each song instead of hitting us hard with guilt, hurt and pain. The songs of ‘Nothing Is Wasted’, ‘More Like Falling in Love’, ‘I Am New’ and ‘Remind Me Who I Am’ all give us comfort and clarity in the God who is redeeming us every day from the struggles and trials we so often find ourselves in. Personally in the same league as great lyricists like Nichole Nordeman, Andrew Peterson, Bebo Norman and Steven Curtis Chapman; Jason’s new album Love Will Have the Final Word continues to trek along the theme of love and that everything in our lives occur for a reason- and while God doesn’t necessarily cause all our circumstances, He does use all of them to our good and His glory. Since releasing Everything Sad is Coming Untrue in 2009 and A Way to See in the Dark in 2011, Jason Gray’s poetic songwriting ability has been applauded by many listeners, other fellow artists, and critics from around the world as they marvel at how a stutterer in his speech can be so eloquent whenever he is behind a microphone. While he still has a stutter even when he speaks now, Jason’s singing is almost flawless, with Jason’s craft to poetically write about life, the human condition, and the relationships between the created and creator, able to be brought to the fore, especially in his latest album. With Jason also giving listeners a special edition of Love Will Have the Final Word (I’m sure for diehard Jason Gray fans), we are able to witness lyrical and musical ingenuity once again, making him possibly one of the most underrated and powerful songwriters of the modern era. Produced by Jason Ingram and Cason Cooley, Jason has been able to honestly portray some of his strongest songs in his whole career. Listening to the album from 1-11, I’d have to say that this album is possibly the most cohesive of the whole year, and my favourite album of the year so far. As Jason hopes that ‘…when people hear the record they are persuaded that God deeply loves them for who they are and not for who they think they should be…’, Jason’s ability to paint brokenness as a chance to accept the grace and hope given by God, is something that ought to be commended by myself, leading to this album being my favourite since both Josh Wilson and SCC’s albums, which received 5 star ratings last year!
Known for his heart to deliver some of the most emotional and vulnerable songs that has ever been given to lovers of CCM radio, Jason continues the trend with his current radio single, ‘With Every Act of Love’. Released to radio in October 2013, ‘With Every Act of Love’ starts with rattles, shakers, hand claps and gang vocals, to give an alternative sound compared to the simple guitar driven melodies that have littered up the radio nowadays by the endless CCM artists that produce them. As I have continued to reiterate Jason’s prolific songwriting and singing style, that sets him apart from a vast amount of today’s current popular CCM artists, this is again true of ‘With Every Act of Love’, a moment of clarity and realism as Jason invites us to love our neighbours, friends and even the people we meet for the first time. As the chorus delivers some slightly cheesy lyrics (the ‘ooohhhh’s), it is still nonetheless still powerful, as we as children of God are called to ‘…oh…bring the Kingdom come, oh – with every act of love, Jesus help us carry You, alive in us, Your light shines through, with every act of love, we bring the Kingdom come…’ It is when we love others without reservation that God can shine through us and touch the hearts of the people we are in fellowship with. With an acoustic atmosphere, Jason peels back the concepts and preconceptions of what it means to love and gives us something simple to work with- that we are the vessels of God’s love to the world. With a happy guitar driven beat, and lyrics that are just as comforting as they are confronting, ‘With Every Act of Love’ requires us to understand and know that love is an action- it is what we do (that flows out of what we say and believe) that will show the people around us the love of Christ that is in us. Once again a favourite song, not just in this album but one of my favourites throughout Jason’s whole career, ‘With Every Act of Love’ places the album on great stead, and is one of the highlights on an album that’s certain to be a top 20 favourite album of mine when 2014 concludes in 10 months.
Normally on every album that has ever been made, there are some strong tracks, and there are some weaker ones, with common sense telling you that the stronger tracks are to be made radio singles, and the other songs… well, they are just somewhat forgotten as time goes by (but not so to the die-hard fans of a particular band/artist). Yet on Love Will Have the Final Word, Jason delivers strong song after strong song, with each melody, though not necessarily upbeat like radio songs you hear on Air 1 or K-Love, are nevertheless poignant and heartfelt. ‘Laugh Out Loud’, the first song on the album, brings the listener into pop acoustic fun-ness as hand claps, whistles, and a swinging beat encourage the listener to hear a fun-buzzing melody fit to be the first song of an otherwise emotional, mellow, encouraging and heartfelt album. With ‘Laugh Out Loud’ and ‘With Every Act of Love’ being basically the most upbeat songs on the album, it is great to start the album off with a bang. With Jason declaring that as we are filled with the love of God, we are able to laugh out loud- with joy, hope and encouragement coming out of ourselves and flowing over the people we meet; it is the joyous atmosphere the song brings that makes it a great song that, in my opinion, ought to be a radio single at one point during the next few months and years to come. While the chorus can sound a little cheesy, with Jason singing out ‘ha ha’s’- ‘…ha ha, don’t it make you wanna laugh out loud, oh, oh, and shout hallelujah, oh yeah, if you got joy, go on, let it all out, ha, ha, ha, ha, laugh out loud…’; it does provide us with a crucial and necessary truth that as Christians, our joy should ooze out of us and show others what being filled up with God’s love actually looks like. With a great whistling bridge, the musical nature of ‘Laugh Out Loud’ negates the somewhat corny nature of the lyrics completely as we hear some of Jason’s most prolific, heartfelt and lyrically genius songs I’ve ever heard since Steven Curtis Chapman’s The Glorious Unfolding.
Both ‘Love’s Not Done With You’ and the title track ‘Love Will Have the Final Word’ call for an importance of love in the lives we lead as the former shows us that love, and especially God’s love, isn’t finished with our lives, even if and when we see hard and troubled times come and fall on us when we least expect it to. With an acoustic musical backdrop, Jason sets off to declare the truths to ourselves, and especially the ones that we may not necessarily want to hear when we find ourselves in such circumstances. This song is a reminder- that ‘…it’s not what you’ve done, but what love is doing, it’s not who you were, it’s who you are becoming, have you heard that He makes all things new? Cause I believe that love’s not done with you…’- and it’s comforting to know that it is not what we have done or said or have been in the past, but rather, that God’s love changes and transforms us from who we are now, to who He sees us as- spotless, blameless, and children of God. ‘Love Will Have the Final Word’ travels along a similar theme- that the final word that’s going to be spoken will be Love, and God’s love that carries us from start to finish in our lives, will make everything that was once broken whole again. Along with the theme of love, making broken things whole is another lyrical message shown through each of Jason’s albums, and this album, and in particular his title track, is no different. The heartfelt chorus, amidst the pulsating drums, of Jason’s plea to God that ‘…of all the things I’ve ever heard, let me remember when it hurts that love will have the final word, as long as God is on His throne, I am carried by the hope that love will have the final word…’, is enough for listeners (at least myself) to sit back and reflect on our own lives, and whether we have had moments where we didn’t think that love would have the final word, and what happened for God to show us otherwise. Both these melodies remind us of the truth of God’s love, and having them sandwiched in the middle of the album is great- with both of them, alongside the upbeat singles, anchoring the album as a whole as Jason delivers the theme of new things, coming alive, and God’s love throughout each of his 11 tracks.
Throughout the rest of the songs, there are absolutely no dullness or songs that are uninteresting as Jason delivers both lyrically and musically to give us an album that stands tall above another other CCM/pop album release in 2014 so far. ‘I Don’t Know How’ is a heartfelt melody full of keyboards and Jason’s distinct low-ish voice effect he places on certain tracks to show us his emotion brought out through the songs- presenting a melody that encourages us all to be vulnerable. A song about admitting to others and to God about not knowing everything, ‘I Don’t Know How’ calls us all to lay down our pride and unveil to God our own insecurities, failures, and anything else we don’t know how to do, be or say as we tear back the layers of our lives and come exposed before the Saviour as He showers us all in love. ‘Not Right Now’ also is very emotional, with acoustic guitars and a light keyboard presence enveloping a song where lyrics are placed at the forefront. The subject matter of grief and Jason singing about how he doesn’t feel like being told by Christians ‘…when I’m grieving, that this happened for a reason, maybe one day we’ll talk about the dreams that had to die for new ones to come alive, but not right now…’, is a touchy subject and a difficult one to place into song, but I’m certain that ‘Not Right Now’ will impact and maybe even heal the wounds of people who suffer with grief, and is a song that, while I didn’t really enjoy first time around, has grown on me as I’ve listened to it more.
Jason continues to pour out his heart in other similar themed melodies, from inviting us into the story of loving people by tearing back their likeable parts and pouring unconditional love and grace into their deepest and darkest parts of themselves (‘If You Want to Love Someone’), and starting over afresh in life as we give God our broken dreams and invite Him to begin again a work in us that will see us realise that ‘…it’s never too late for a brand new start…’ (‘Begin Again’), to being reminded in beautiful ways (and rather personal by Jason) that the best days of our own lives are the ones we are living right now- because God is in them and that ‘…every step belongs to You, I know You’ll never leave my side, in every season I go through, these are the best days of my life…’ (‘The Best Days’). And as the album finishes off with a quiet, sombre, keyboard driven ‘As I Am’, where Jason contemplates that Christ’s loves us as we are, rather than what we think we ought to be standing before Him; is a great theme to end the album on- freeing, liberating, and heartfelt in all the sense of the words as Jason presents an end song that’s just as strong as his first. ‘As I Am’, though not that musically innovative, is still one of Jason’s best produced melodies on the album, as we are called to come as we are to the foot of the cross- broken, yet willing to be made whole as we realise that as we are is something not to be ashamed about, but rather, for us to embrace that God Himself is willing to love us right where we are, and that is enough for us to declare alongside Jason that ‘…You love me as I am, not how I should be, with the love that conquered shame, Jesus You are saving me…’
Overall: ‘…good comedy relies on the unexpected. The best punch line is the one that surprises you. What’s more surprising than the grace of God? When we’re taken by the divine comedy of God’s love, laughter is not just an appropriate response, but an act of worship…’ Love Will Have the Final Word was a great surprise from Jason Gray, possibly one of Christian music’s most underrated and underappreciated artists throughout recent years. Within the same league as Sara Groves, Nichole Nordeman, Andrew Peterson, Bebo Norman and Steven Curtis Chapman (and possibly Josh Wilson) as some of the greatest lyricists of Christian music throughout the last few decades, Jason Gay, who turned his name to Jason Gray, has been able to weave together 11 songs full of rich themes of gems of truths to take from each song whenever someone listens to it. While still not necessarily the most recognised artist in CCM currently (because of his stutter, I’m guessing), Jason continues to forge on as a heartfelt songwriter. With Jason on Centricity Music, and possibly being one of the strongest artists on the label (alongside Andrew Peterson, Remedy Drive, Jonny Diaz and Jaime Jamgochian), his new album Love Will Have the Final Word is a gem of an album, and a must listen to anyone who loves and appreciates thorough and heart provoking music, regardless of what your favourite music genre is. Well done Jason Gray for such an inspiring album, and my favourite album of 2014 so far!
RIYL: Bebo Norman, Nichole Nordeman, Sara Groves, Andrew Peterson, Steven Curtis Chapman