Album Review :
Francesca Battistelli - Hundred More Years: Deluxe Edition

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Artist: Francesca Battistelli
Title: Hundred More Years: Deluxe Edition
Label: Word Label Group
Release Date: 3/12/13
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre

Tracklisting:

  1. Strangely Dim (New Track)
  2. This is the Stuff
  3. Constant
  4. You Never Are
  5. Angel By Your Side
  6. Motion of Mercy
  7. Emily (It’s Love) (feat. Dave Barnes)
  8. Good to Know
  9. So Long
  10. Don’t Miss It
  11. Worth It
  12. Hundred More Years
  13. Hold Out For Love (New Track)
  14. Something More (New Track)
  15. Trampoline (New Track)
  16. In Your Eyes (New Track)
  17. This is the Stuff (Take 1) (New Track)
  18. Angel By Your Side (Unplugged) (New Track)

With the success of her second album Hundred More Years with hit singles ‘This is the Stuff’, ‘Motion of Mercy’ and ‘Angel By Your Side’, alongside the critical and commercial praise and acclaim for her first Christmas album released in 2012; Francesca’s presence in the CCM industry is certainly felt. One of today’s most popular CCM artists, along with Chris Tomlin, TobyMac, Casting Crowns, MercyMe and Tenth Avenue North; the New York native with Italian background is now back in 2013 with a deluxe version of the Dove Award nominated album. Though many listeners may not necessarily be a fan of releasing deluxe editions a few years later than the original album (besides- aren’t they just milking the success of the previous album instead of writing new material?); Hundred More Years: Deluxe Edition still has a collection of great songs and is a must for any Francesca Battistelli fan. With Francesca releasing her new 2013 single ‘Strangely Dim’ during the first week of February (and is now track 1 on this new deluxe version), which speaks about how as we fix our hearts and direction on Christ, every worry, hurt, pain and insecurity will fade in comparison to His glory and grace; her songs continue to impress fans and speak to many listeners around the world. Francesca’s presence within a male-dominated music industry is certainly a role model to many listeners and fans around the world, and alongside artists like Meredith Andrews, Natalie Grant, Kari Jobe and Britt Nicole, Francesca has given us great music with a power-pop and worshipful influence. From the cheery song ‘This is the Stuff’ that gives us a great reminder of the everyday things that are so trivial that may cause us panic and grief when they’re not supposed to, to the rocker anthem ‘Don’t Miss It’, showing us that we aren’t to miss life and be worried about the future or the past instead of just enjoying the moment God has given to us; Francesca’s 2013 deluxe release ahead of her new studio album possibly by the end of the year is a great appetiser to hold out eager fans as they await an album that will certainly be another highlight in the 2013 calendar year.

Hundred More Years was released in March 2011 to critical and commercial acclaim. Even if you haven’t listened much to Francesca’s 2nd studio album (or even listened to her music at all), I can guarantee you’ve heard songs like ‘This is The Stuff’, ‘Motion of Mercy’ and ‘Angel By Your Side’ on the radio these last few years, certainly promoting Francesca as one of today’s popular and well-respected female CCM artists, as well as one who’s great writing skills and honest lyrics remind us of how there can be moments when ‘…this is the stuff that drives me crazy…’, yet fully comprehend and realise in that moment that sometimes, it can be the stuff that affects our lives in a not-so-great way that God can use to further our spiritual growth. With a pop-acoustic musical style, Francesca’s big heart and bubbly personality (just listen to her interviews on youtube) certainly come through with her singing, creating a variety of songs one can either dance to or sit back and reflect to the meaningful lyrics. With the singles given heavy radio airplay, a variety of topics and themes were expounded upon throughout the album, and sometimes it can be the songs that aren’t singles that could potentially speak to us more than the highly publicised melodies.

From letting listeners know not to miss out on the moments Christ has given us, no matter how small or insignificant they are (‘Don’t Miss It’), and a heartfelt prayer to a girl named Emily (a duet with singer-songwriter Dave Barnes), reminding her and listeners included that ‘…it’s love that hung the moon and stars above…if you feel you’ve had enough, He’s never giving up…’ (‘Emily (It’s Love)’), to the piano ballad ‘Hundred More Years’, a song sung to Francesca’s daughter about growing up and the experiences she will have with her parents (a song, coupled with Steven Curtis Chapman’s ‘Cinderella’ that will certainly take on a whole and different meaning whenever I have children); Francesca never compromises on her faith, incorporating it throughout her lyrical material even during her continual Christian and mainstream music market success- her music video for ‘This is the Stuff’ debuted on USA Today, as well as her songs being placed in many TV shows, ranging from Jon & Kate Plus 8, ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, NBC’s The Biggest Loser and Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance. With an extra 7 songs on this deluxe version of the Dove Award nominated album (inclusive of current radio single ‘Strangely Dim’, an acoustic ‘Angel By Your Side’ and ‘This is the Stuff’ with a reimagined musical backdrop), this is a great collection to have if you have enjoyed Francesca’s music before. With these songs a certain snapshot into her writing style for her next album (hopefully ‘Strangely Dim’ is released on her new album in 2013/14), we are shown the quality and poignant melodies Francesca has created that has led to the assertion that her rise to CCM stardom will certainly continue in the future, possibly leading to her as being one of the leading female artists in all CCM history!

‘Strangely Dim’ was based upon the timeless hymn ‘Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus’, and how in the song it speaks about how we ought to be less and be strangely dim in the light and glory of Jesus- that His name and renown ought to outshine everything that we do or say. Francesca’s modern take on this timeless message of letting ourselves decrease so that Christ may shine out of us is one of my favourite songs out of the 7 deluxe tracks. Released to radio early 2013, Francesca’s scenario based song shows its relatabilty as we see that sometimes in our own lives we can say that ‘…I don’t know, I don’t know what tomorrow may hold, but I know, but I know that you’re holding it all…’ With an acoustic riff and a strong baseline emphasised in a repetitious musical hook that ought to draw in a variety of listeners, it is only when we focus our eyes on Christ and know that our problems compared to everything else in the world today (the GFC, war, famine, tsunamis etc.) is nothing, we can relax and leave God our worry and leave in the peace offered by Him to us. The idea of us becoming less and God becoming more can seem and feel a little alien to some, but the peace gained from surrendering our issues to the God who overcomes them can be truly liberating. One of my favourite songs of the year, ‘Strangely Dim’ is now track 1 of the album, and a song that’s destined to speak to listeners over the year and years to come. Well done Francesca for this modern adaption to a timeless and influential idea of giving our worries to God.

If this album was purchased from just listening to her original album (11 tracks) plus the song of ‘Strangely Dim’, let me tell you that her remaining 6 tracks does not leave a listener wanting as we hear passion and purpose sung about out in these tracks that justify Francesca’s place in the music industry. The weirdly titled ‘Trampoline’ is a fun acoustic melody about how life can be like the bouncing apparatus we sometimes jump on when we were kids, but as soon as the chorus comes, the electric guitars set in and the mood, while still light and fun, takes on a different meaning as Francesca declares that even though everything in life ‘…lifts me up and lets me down…’, it is in confidence that herself and us can declare that we are in Christ, falling into His arms during moments of up-and-down-ness (primarily every day) is a necessity if we want to circumnavigate our lives without the drama of doing it all alone. Both ‘Something More’ and ‘Hold Out For Love’ were on the iTunes version of the album released in 2011, and both songs talk about longing for something that’s more than the fleeting and temporary as we seek and search for the forever in the midst of the struggle between the now and the not yet. Showing us a feeling of discomfort and discontent as sometimes we can ‘…get everything you wanted but it’s not what you wanted after all…’ (‘Something More’), we are met with the truth that sometimes in those circumstances, all we know is that we were made for something more that will fill us rather than leave us longing. Similarly with ‘Hold Out For Love’, we are shown the crucial necessity of love in all its facets (romantic, between family and friends). With a heavy musical emphasis on keyboards, Francesca lets us know that when everything seems to fall apart, love is always there mending what is broken. A comfort to the weary and a lifter and motivational tool to assist in dire circumstances, love and longing for more out of life are themes poignant and stirring that are greatly welcomed within these deluxe tracks.

Yet it is the ballad cover of ‘In Your Eyes’ (originally recorded by artist Peter Gabriel) and her acoustic rendition of ‘Angel By Your Side’ and the alternate ‘This is the Stuff’ with altered music that really shine through, with Francesca equalling or perhaps even bettering the original versions of both ‘Angel By Your Side’ and ‘This is the Stuff’ in relation to these new recordings. With a heavier presence of guitars and drums that lead the introduction of the song to sound like ‘Walking on Sunshine’, Francesca’s quirky-ness and fun factor in this song is certainly not diminished in this musical enhancer. Leading this melody to employ more of a retro and dance party feel, ‘This is the Stuff’ still shows us that it is in the moments when we can’t seem to control that we acknowledge the One who really is. I’m sure depending on the day I’ll enjoy either rendition of the song, but as of this moment, this version, aptly titled ‘This is the Stuff (Take 1)’ is slightly higher on the enjoyableness ratings. ‘Angel By Your Side’ still feels like the original (with just the piano) with a message as poignant as ever (singing to a friend and assuring them that they’ll always be there helping in difficult circumstances), but it was ‘In Your Eyes’ that took me by surprise. While not a ‘Christian’ song, it seems like the lyrics to have a spiritual element as songwriter Peter Gabriel (who wrote the song in the 1980s) wrote the poignant lyrics of how it is in the eyes of someone special (many think it’s a woman, yet it could also be portrayed as singing a song to the creator) that he can find peace, solace, resolution, completeness and hope. With Christian artist Nichole Nordeman also covering this song on her 2002 album Woven and Spun, Francesca’s rendition of this 1986 classic is full of great guitar hooks and eerily refreshing backing vocals as we are serenated with one of Christian music’s powerful vocals to a song that is certain to bring listeners closer to wondering about the eternal, whether or not it was intentional by Peter Gabriel when he wrote the melody. Arguably one of my favourite songs released in the 1980s (alongside ‘You’re the Voice’- written by Johnny Farnham and covered by Rebecca St. James; and Michael W. Smith’s ‘Friends’), Francesca’s version of the song alone should certainly warrant a purchase of the entire album. Well done Francesca for one of the many highlights on Hundred More Years: Deluxe Edition.

Overall: Francesca’s popularity over the last few years has been phenomenal, and with the release of both her deluxe edition of Hundred More Years as well as her debut Christmas album last year, fans of her music won’t be disappointed with the album full of new songs certain to skyrocket her popularity even more, to new heights. From her inception into the Christian market at age 22 in early 2008, this New Yorker with an Italian heritage and a mother of two has given us something to listen to before her new album later on this year. From the cover of ‘In Your Eyes’ to the previously released ‘Hold Out for Love’ and ‘Something More’, Francesca’s infectious personality and fun musical arrangements added to the serious and relatable lyrical content is enough for her music to be as popular as it currently is. Whether you have been a fan for ages or just starting to appreciate her music, this is a great album to start with as we collectively understand our place and role in God’s story of grace and redeeming love. One of my favourite deluxe versions of an album since TobyMac’s Eye on It: Deluxe Edition last year, March 12th will certainly be my favourite day in terms of Christian music releases, with Francesca ‘competing’ with other artists like Passion, Audio Adrenaline, JJ Heller, Worship Central, Seventh Day Slumber and the new band Citizens to name a few. A great maturity and lyrical development since her debut will certainly continue in the future, and I can’t wait till whenever her new album releases. Well done Francesca for such an enjoyable and well-thought out album!

RIYL: Britt Nicole, Nichole Nordeman, Natalie Grant, Mandisa

Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon mp3

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