Album Review :
Debra Arlyn - Heartbeat

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Artist: Debra Arlyn
Title: Heartbeat
Label: Homeslice Music
Release Date: 4/21/12
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre


  1. Hush
  2. La, La, La
  3. Pull Me Closer to You
  4. Why do I Run?
  5. Wake Up
  6. Beat of Your Heart
  7. Behind the Scenes
  8. Reckless
  9. Lights out at 9
  10. Still be Thankful

Newcomer to contemporary Christian music and known as ‘the girl with the incredible voice’ according to her website, Debra Arlyn has created 10 softly acoustic yet equally powerful songs that strike the hearts of many who listen. With soaring vocals, gorgeous piano melodies and honest and vulnerable lyrics; I was able to enjoy the album that speaks of how God continually wants us to know Him more and more as each of our days on Earth progresses. Hailing from Oregon and previously winning the Oregon Idol contest; I was amazingly surprised at how this album is equally mainstream and Christian at the same time, and as her music penetrates into the mainstream market, listeners can understand the motivation behind and focus of her songs; as well as the personal and spiritual growth she has undertaken since her last album in 2008.

Recently made into a music video, ‘La, La, La’ is a jovial and energetic, piano driven song about how ‘…when somebody loves you, everything is alright no matter what stars will shine in the sky…’ A simple song at heart, I can’t help but mirror and see that this is how Christ first loved us, that even if everyone in the world seems that they’re against us; we know that God isn’t. God loves us the way we are, but too much to leave us there. When we realise that God is using all things in our lives to the glory of His name, we can live life reflecting this. As I sing through all the ‘la’s’, I am confidently sure that God is singing along with us too.

As I listen to the songs on this album, I am struck by a few in particular. ‘Wake Up’ speaks about our lives before and after Christ. As I begin to soak into the soft piano melodies and acoustic guitars; I am immersed in a sea of promises and guarantees. With the chorus sung from God’s point of view, He is urging us to ‘…wake up to my love… with one touch I will make you shine…’ God is always speaking to us, whether or not we listen; pulling us close, His voice ‘…Like the sound of a gentle whisper…’ ‘Why do I Run?’ is a song that speaks to the heart of many people, running from our problems. With the piano once again at the forefront on this track, Debra asks the poignant questions that everyone seems to ask ‘…Why do I do these things when I know I should change?…’ As I listen, I am reminded of Paul, and how he always said that ‘…I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time…’ (Romans 7:17-20) This song, as much as confronting, is also redemptive, as we know that with God’s help, we can change our patterns and behaviour. As we continue to grow in relationship with Him, He will give us the strength to face our challenges.

Each song on the album has something to ponder to. ‘Hush’, the first single from the album, is a jazz-style acoustic guitar infused with piano. Speaking of being still and quiet, we need to trust that ‘…love can find you right where you are…’, and that ‘…everything will fall into place…’ Though cliché, these statements stir the listener. God is love, and He does where we are at, no matter how broken we are. This song is cliché but also emotive, and as we quiet ourselves down, we may hear what the Lord has been speaking to us all along. ‘Behind the Scenes’, a potential single from the album, is a ballad, starting with a piano and soaring into a crescendo of guitars and percussion as the song progresses. This song ministers to the broken; to those who find it difficult to see a horizon to the pain that they are feeling. The message is simple; God is always there in any situation and is ‘behind the scenes’, the painter behind the painting; the designer behind the building. ‘Reckless’ is a song for the prodigal son inside all of us, how we are ‘…drawn to the big city lights, sleep all day, stay up all night…’ We are reminded by this song that God’s mercy catches us whenever we fall, we are ‘…falling right into the palm of your hand, with the grace…[we] could never earn…’ A song that you can sway to with percussion and catchy piano melodies; the message of hope and redemption is clear, that God is our protector.

‘Pull Me Closer to You’ is a love song to the God of the universe, asking Him to pull us closer to Him because ‘…that is where I belong…’. With honesty beyond words, this song speaks to the heart of many people around the world, wanting someone to love them in spite of what they have or haven’t done. With mesmerizing percussion and piano; this song ventures into the topic of love and acceptance, and as Christians, we know that God’s ‘…love never fails…’ The last song on the album and current CCM single; ‘Still Be Thankful’ is my personal favourite. This is a Job song, posing the questions we avoid because of the subject matter; are we still going to be thankful and praise the One who made us if ‘…everything was taken; if my whole world was breaking into two…’ Similar to ‘Blessed Be Your Name’ by Matt Redman, this piano ballad has captured the raw passion and vulnerability of Debra. As I listened and reflected upon the song, I was able to sing along in worship, knowing with full assurance that I can be thankful to God for everything that happens in my life, the good and the bad. God doesn’t cause the bad things to happen, but if it does happen, He knows how to weave and use whatever circumstance at hand to further His plan for our lives. God is painting the picture of our lives, and it is going to be a great masterpiece, and as we trust the Lord with everything that we have, we can enjoy our lives knowing the fact that the ‘…promises You’ve spoken will be true…’

Overall: With her vocals similar to Jessa Anderson, and using metaphors and motifs similar to Audrey Assad and Brooke Fraser; singer/songwriter Debra Arlyn has created an album full of moments of surrender and worship; hope and wonder, realisations and truth. Through her acoustic atmosphere threading through her songs, this is an album of many themes, but one central that cannot be glossed over; that God is always there for us whenever we need Him. If you’re a fan of Jessa, Audrey or Brooke; then this album is a must for you to purchase; strengthening your faith in the process!

RIYL: Jessa Anderson, JJ Heller, Audrey Assad, Brooke Fraser

Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon mp3