Artist: Elizabeth South
Title: I Love You
Release Date: 2/26/13
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre
- Kiss Hello
- I Love You (feat. Vince Gill)
- Let Love Shine
- Don’t Give Up
- Never Too Late
One of my favourite independent recording artists alongside The Sonflowerz, Audrey Assad, Tiffany Thompson and Willet; Elizabeth South’s heartfelt melodies full of emotional lyrics and uplifting musical arrangements have touched many listeners around the world. From the encouraging ‘Just a Prayer Away’ to the confronting ‘Do It Afraid’ and the comforting ‘I Will Trust You’, Elizabeth’s faith has always been central in whatever she does. A full time elementary school teacher as well as a recording artist, the deviation from contemporary pop to incorporate rock and country may be a little different than what fans would normally hear, yet Elizabeth’s passion is just as evident. While each melody may not necessarily be that worshipfully based as her previous tracks, her undeniable heart and emotive passion seen through these tracks, together with the uplifting messages, regardless how universal they are, can certainly be seen through I Love You. Technically a country rock album with a few uplifting messages thrown in, knowing her heart for music ministry and her faith grounding her gives me great assurance that whilst the songs can easily be applicable to non-Christians just as much as Christians, God’s light and life still shines throughout each of these tracks. With ‘Don’t Give Up’, a motivational song about not giving up in tough times, the only double-up on a 10 track album of otherwise all-new song material; Elizabeth’s music will certainly be a joy to listen to if you love the contemporary pop genre, or if you enjoy artists like Francesca Battistelli, Natalie Grant or Rebecca St. James.
‘Don’t Give Up’, released as a bonus iTunes track on her 2011 album Do It Afraid, is one of the album standouts on I Love You, with Elizabeth giving listeners a pop dance melody infused with electronic beats to create a song that almost anyone can dance to. Reminding us not to give up during the hard and difficult times, we are challenged with the heartfelt chorus of how we ought to ‘…don’t give up, don’t give in, find the freedom that love can give…’ Speaking about how we must continue to love Christ and love others around us, this is certainly an out-of-the-box song recording from Elizabeth, who normally has written and recorded reflective melodies, from ‘Have Faith’ to ‘I Will Trust You’. Nevertheless, this is an encouraging song not to let go of God and each other during times when we need someone to lean on the most. God hasn’t given up on us, and so we are thereby encouraged not to give up on God and His love either. While placed on this album even though it was recorded for Do It Afraid, it is nice to have a familiar song amidst the 10 track lineup, and I’m sure that the album interest will be peaked if a familiar song was on the album compared to one with totally new tracks. The electronic-like effects on the vocals as well as the dance-like beats thrown throughout the song as an underlying baseline are sure to bring in newer listeners as they listen to the heartfelt prayers of Elizabeth through this lively and upbeat song. ‘Superstar’, another fast-paced motivational melody, is the first single from the album, and whilst it doesn’t necessarily speak about Christ or even utter anything about faith (rather it’s just a song about rising above circumstances and believing that we don’t have to be ‘superstars’ or have fame to feel good about ourselves), the song reminds us of the worth Christ places on us and speaks to us everyday. Whether or not the world sees us the way Christ sees us ought to be irrelevant to us, with this song certainly doing a great job in giving us a timely reassurance that we are a star- sons and daughters of the most High God, and certainly something to celebrate. The first song of the album, ‘Superstar’ starts it off with such passion and emotive encouragement as Elizabeth shows the world her values and beliefs wrapped up in this identity affirming, life giving song. Well done Elizabeth for both ‘Don’t Give Up’ and ‘Superstar’, some of my all time favourite upbeat Elizabeth South songs ever!
‘Let Love Shine’ was a promotional song released on her youtube page late last year (which was then deleted and now re-uploaded as of March 2013). Listening to the 4:50 minute ballad conveying a similar theme to Third Day’s ‘Come Together’ or Carman’s ‘America Again’ as Elizabeth describes the come togetherness that many listeners around the world ought to embrace, is an absolute joy to experience, soak into, enjoy and even motivate as I listen to a 1990s musical atmosphere tagged to the song. As we are inspired to come together and lay our differences aside and address the problems we have, not just on a local scale but nationally and globally as well, our efforts to rid our planet of the things we know will tear it down will come to fruition as we band together and let love shine in the darkest places of the world we are in. While this song has caused great controversy in terms of trying to unite the many groups that make up the U.S. (let alone the world), Elizabeth’s firm stand in releasing this song has certainly paid off, with great praise and acclaim from many listeners (myself included) with reference to the boldness associated with releasing a song like this. ‘Undone’ is another personal highlight, and for me is a musical masterpiece as Elizabeth sings across all the synths, electronics and powerful guitars as she conveys feelings of hopelessness and alienation along with the hopeful prayer to Christ for Him not to leave her in a state where she thinks of herself as undone, unfixable and maybe even unlovable. Reminding us to continue to reach for Christ in the trials, even when we think that He may be absent within them, the strong guitars in the chorus to match Elizabeth’s convictions as she declares that Christ never leaves us in our ‘undone’ state is one of my favourite highlights of the song. Well done Elizabeth for both ‘Undone’ and ‘Let Love Shine’, both equally poignant in reminding us to continue to lean into Christ during moments of despair, turmoil and heartache!
Both the reflective ‘I Love You’, recorded with Amy Grant’s husband Vince Gill, and the guitar driven rock anthem ‘Kiss Hello’ are directed towards the theme of waiting for the special someone God has planned for us to be with and indirectly, promoting and advocating abstinence of sex until marriage, while ‘Change’ is a motivational anthem full of heart and emotion as Elizabeth encourages us to ‘…just be the change you want to see…’, reminding us that we can ask God to change us til the cows come home but if we’re not willing to open our hearts and allow Christ to work within us, then our change may not be as permanent as we think. Reminding myself personally of the passage in James that talks about how faith without works is dead, and that the evidence of love within our hearts is an outward change and expression of our behaviour and attitudes; Elizabeth’s country-themed song full of electric guitar picks and a southern gospel atmosphere has become one of my favourite songs on the album as we become motivated to stand up for our beliefs, changing from the self-centred guy we were before Christ, to the one that speaks His name wherever they go.
Elizabeth also delves into the issue of waiting for God to answer in times of trials and struggling to understand God’s timing in things (‘Waiting’), as well as delivering an electronic Capital Kings-like song about how Christ’s love and presence is fascinating and filled with awe and wonder, and as we delve more into His Word and His presence, the more fascinated we become about what we discover (‘Fascination’). ‘Never too Late’, the last song on the album, ends on a note that starts off ‘Superstar’, complete with electronics in the background as Elizabeth reminds us all that it’s never too late for us to try out and discover something new, fascinating, enjoyable, even passionate and purposeful. Surrendering to God, not out of duty or obligation, but out of love, can be the most wonderful thing you have done, and that it’s never too late for us to even come to Him in repentance and acceptance of His love and sacrifice for us. A terrific end to an album that’s not necessarily something I would expect from Elizabeth, yet equally as impressed by the end result; ‘Never Too Late’ sums up the entire album as we understand that our worth isn’t measured by what we do, but rather who we accomplish it with (God!). Well done Elizabeth for a great ending to an album that’s alternative, and certain to bring in new listeners who may enjoy the harder rock genre!
Overall: Elizabeth’s 4th album within a year and a half (after Do it Afraid, Christmas EP and Just a Prayer Away) continues to carry on in terms of heartfelt quality and emotional encouragement as we hear Elizabeth’s uplifting vocals against a myriad of musical instruments and genres, showcasing her unique musical style and lyrical themes to go along with it. Whilst not necessarily the most popular of artists out there within the CCM industry, her infectious songs full of passionate enthusiasm will certainly create fans of her music even just by listening to her music even once. Riding on the success of songs like ‘I Will Trust You’, ‘Have Faith’, ‘Surrender’ and ‘Don’t Give Up’ comes an album anchored in songs like ‘Don’t Give Up’, ‘Superstar’ and ‘Let Love Shine’. As the album released on the same day as Salvador’s Make Some Noise and Plumb’s Need You Now, Elizabeth’s country-rock album has, in my opinion through this release, has certainly stood tall amidst ‘competition’. One of my favourite independent album releases of the year, alongside Kerrie Roberts’ Time for the Show (even though her album is distributed by Provident, she is acting as an independent artist right now as per an interview on CMZ); Elizabeth has delivered an album great for dancing along to, or just to reflect with as the wide variety of musical themes and genres will appeal to the wide tastes of individuals around the world. Well done Elizabeth for such an inspiring and heartfelt album experience!
RIYL: Britt Nicole, Natalie Grant, Rebecca St. James, Francesca Battistelli
Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon mp3