Album Review :
JJ Heller - Loved

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Artist:  JJ Heller
Title:  Loved
Label:  Stone Table Records
Release Date:  3/12/2013
Reviewer:  Jeremiah Holdsworth

Tracklisting:

1.  If You Fall
2.  For You
3.  Redemption
4.  Loved
5.  Create In Me
6.  Stay
7.  Better Things
8.  Come Back To Me
9.  Who You Are
10.  I Believe
11.  Come Back To Me (acoustic iTunes bonus track)
12.  If You Fall (acoustic iTunes bonus track)
13.  I Believe (acoustic iTunes bonus track)
14.  Who You Are (acoustic iTunes bonus track)

I always love a good acoustic/folk/pop album.  Something I can just pop in the cd player and enjoy with my wife, as we work around the house, or drive to a particular destination.  She’s not so big on music as I am, but JJ Heller is one of those few artists, that she’s really into.  I was excited a few months back, when JJ had announced a new album coming out, and we couldn’t wait to have it soak up our brains.

First thing I noticed about JJ’s new album “Loved” is that it is more polished pop, then acoustic/folk/pop of past albums.  I fell in love with JJ’s acoustic/folk/pop sound, surrounded by honest and compelling lyrics from her previous albums.  This album takes her more commercially driven direction from “When I’m With You”, and goes even more forward, from acoustic/folk/pop to straight pop.  Added are electronic keys and more electric guitar than ever, but the honesty in the lyrics are still as strong as in the past.

“If You Fall” kicks things off with electronic synths and beats and moves into beautiful piano.  I like how the song seems to end and then goes on for another minute.  This is by far my favorite song on the album.  The lyrics are beautiful as they deal with unconditional love.

If you fall
I fall with you
If you hurt
I feel it too
Even if my heart turns black and blue
I will love you

“For You” takes an upbeat turn with a wonderful guitar hook and piano laced throughout.  This is my second favorite track with inspiring lyrics.

I’m ready to give it all
I’m ready to step outside these walls
I’m ready to give up all that I’ve earned
If it means a new life in return

“Redemption” is by far the most upbeat song on the album and the closest to a contemporary song as well.  It could be classified as a worship song, with lyrics awaiting the new life in Christ.

We are the ransomed
We are the redeemed
We are the bride
And shall forever be
Loved from the start without end
It will not end

The rest of the songs leading up to the single “Who You Are” are good, but they didn’t resonate with me like I would have hoped.  “Who You Are” though, is a great choice for a first single.  Lyrics will cut to the heart, and deal with doubting and struggling.  Situations we expect God to have done this, or that, but he hasn’t.  Through all this though, still humbly relying on God’s will and direction.

All she wanted was a baby to hold
She’s still waiting at 41 years old
Her life feels like a tragedy
And it’s driving her down to her knees

She says, “I don’t know
I don’t know what you’re doing
But I know who you are”

“I Believe” closes things out on a high note with captivating melodies as JJ proclaims

I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands
I’d rather be led by his nail-pierced hands
I’d rather have Jesus than anything…

Overall:  This is a good pop album, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for.  “When I’m With You” outshines this, and previous acoustic/folk/pop sounding “Only Love Remains” and “The Pretty And The Plain”, are better structured.  I really liked the songs I highlighted in the review, but the middle of the album was a little boring.  If you are a huge JJ Heller fan like I am, then I would still recommend picking this up, because there are still quality songs on this release.  Also if you are into digital downloading, then I recommend buying from iTunes, for the 4 bonus acoustic cuts.  They are in vein of JJ Heller’s past albums with the acoustic/folk/pop sound.

RIYL:  Audrey Assad, Lauren Shera, Jenny & Tyler, Sara Groves, Amber Hunter

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