- Is it Ever?
- Screaming Outloud
- What Kind of Love
- We’ve Been There
- Let Them See You
- Flood Down
- All Over the World
- You Are the One
- Save Us
One of the most recent signings to Inpop Records (along with new band The Advice), JJ Weeks Band’s label debut of All Over the World releasing next week (and streaming exclusively on NRT a week before release date) is certainly an album to purchase if you enjoy music from contemporary pop artists like Newsong, MercyMe or Pocket Full of Rocks. With such a powerful voice that leads me to place JJ in the same realm as Bart Millard in terms of vocal power and quality, the re-release of the independent album Screaming Outloud is one to savour, becoming one of my personal highlights of March as these men from Macon, Georgia deliver us 10 songs full of honesty and emotiveness. With JJ being the one to originally record ‘Let Them See You’ (covered by Colton Dixon on A Messenger), this heartfelt piano-only song anchors an album that places JJ and his band as one of the frontrunners (together with Finding Favour) to garner a nomination for New Artist of the Year at the 2014 Dove Awards. From the piano-pop anthem of ‘Is it Ever’ to the electric guitar prominent ‘All Over the World’, the band has been able to remind listeners of the crucial message, that ‘…we want people to know that God has their back. That they can trust Him in the midst of the struggles of life because He loves us…’ With the album produced by Scotty Wilbanks (keyboard player for Dove Award winning band Third Day), All Over the World is sure to be the first album from many from JJ Weeks. Releasing under the label of Inpop Records (together with other artists like Newsboys, Karyn Williams, Jaci Velasquez and Mat Kearney), this album infused with a bit of Chris Sligh and Bart Millard is one of my favourites in March 2013!
‘Is it Ever’ is the first single and first track from All Over the World, and right from the first piano riff, JJ Weeks offers us a simple melody (often the radio singles are normally simple in a lyrical and musical sense so that listeners can enjoy them during everyday life) about how Christ works everything to His glory. Giving us some great questions to ponder with, JJ sings with a great powerful voice to give us a chorus that while cliché at parts (‘…is it ever gonna work itself out…’), still reflects the inward battle and struggle we so often could have- if Christ has shown us time and time again that He keeps is promises and He uses all things to work to His good, then how is the stuff that’s happening around me gonna help me in my relationship with Him? Trust and waiting and patience are something that’s certainly hard to exercise, yet is crucial if we want to fully give away our anxiety and worry over to Christ. With this song acting as a catalyst for us to trust in God no matter what, ‘Is it Ever’ can be slightly repetitious, and for a first radio single that’s supposed to make a good impression, ‘Is it Ever’ is a decent song that fulfils what it wants to say, yet isn’t really the strongest song on the album (‘What Kind of Love’, ‘Let Them See You’ and the title track are all certainly stronger musically and lyrically in my opinion). Nevertheless, it is a good start to an album full of hope and lyrical and musical diversity as fans of MercyMe, Big Daddy Weave and Pocket Full of Rocks are sure to enjoy as we realise that ‘…my God is gonna work it all out…’ Well done JJ for a start to an album that’s certain to stand out on the release date of 26th March 2013!
‘Let Them See You’, originally written by JJ Weeks, was first released this year by American Idol singer Colton Dixon on his debut album A Messenger. With just a piano and his vocals, JJ Weeks offers up a poignant song about what we live and stand for, when everything is taken away from us and we see each other for what we truly believe and value. As JJ opens up the song with a transparency as he asks God to ‘…take away the melodies, take away the songs I sing, take away all the lights and all the songs You let me write…’; we are confronted with the question- when all is said and done, are we truly living in the way Christ has intended for us? Whenever we come into contact with our friends and family, are they seeing a reflection of Christ through us? Confronting yet equally challenging and uplifting, JJ’s ability to cut through all the façades is definitely shown through one of the most lyrically profound songs I’ve listened to throughout the entire year. Title track ‘All Over the World’ is another song that has been lyrically hard-hitting for me, as JJ shows us a simple yet equally lyrically effective worship song that lets listeners just worship in abandon to the Lord. With a great amount of grunging guitars, we are met with one of the most simple choruses of any song on the album, great to sing to in churches as we collectively cry out ‘…hallelujah, all over the world tonight…’ While many listeners may describe this song as ‘generic’, I personally enjoyed this song immensely, with ‘All Over the World’ being a great fun easy-to-learn track to worship along to. Well done JJ and the rest of the band for creating a compelling and enjoyable song!
‘You are the One’ is a poignant thankful prayer to God as JJ offers up great powerful vocals and a light acoustic and electric guitar presence as he declares in the chorus that ‘…You are the one who saves me, You are the one who made me, You are the one who can turn it all around, and put my feet back on the ground…’, while ‘Flood Down’ is a piano prominent melody describing to us the moment in our lives where we give out a prayer to God, longing for us to be closer to Him, and ‘…if it takes the rain to be where You want me, then Lord let it flood down on me…’ It’s a hard thing to do- acknowledge that at the end of everything, God is the one who can save us from even ourselves, and that He can use whatever method He wants for us to return back to Him or for us to continue to delve more into His presence, even using the things that seemingly are the things that break us the most- yet these two songs certainly help us realise the necessity in letting go and trusting our Father in heaven. ‘Save Us’ is the last track on the album, and in a similar vein to the previous two, we are met with a heartfelt yearning and plea from JJ to God about wanting the King of the universe to save us from the hurt, shame, guilt and longing that we long to be rid of. With a powerful electric guitar component and JJ singing with intense passion, ‘Save Us’ is a great album ender and one song to ponder to as we understand the complexity and enormity of Christ saving us from the things that may not necessarily be bad for us, but may shift our focus from things that really matter in this life. Well done JJ Weeks for these heartfelt songs that are certain to stir in us a compelling nature to change and motivation to keep running after Christ!
‘Screaming Outloud’ is possibly the most ‘generic’ song on the album, and while there is a decent electronic undertone with electric guitars and a ‘ohhh’ backing vocal, it doesn’t really save the song from a sense of lyrical simplicity. With JJ Weeks declaring out ‘…I’m screaming out loud like a voice in a crowd and I wonder if You can hear me, I’m beginning to see that You’re all that I need…’, and while I know that JJ is describing the moment when we cry out to Jesus, I can’t help but sense there’s something missing, and that the song could be played on a top 40 mainstream section and it would easily blend in. While we know who the song is directed to and what it is about, there is a tendency for many Christian artists to write songs with a universal appeal, somewhat watering down the effects and impacts of the song as they replace Jesus or God with the ever-tolerant ‘you’. While this technique is great as it reaches more listeners and gives great interest in their music, ‘Screaming Outloud’ sadly wasn’t really much of a song to take notice on. ‘We’ve Been There’ is another one of those tracks that seem to feel a little forced and long enough for myself to slip my concentration as I listen to JJ declare to other listeners that ‘…we’ve been there…’, a kind of encouraging word that means well but its generic theme that seems to be rehashed and sung in a variety of ways by a variety of artists shows a song that seems to waver a bit in the song lineup. On the other hand however, my favourite song on the album is the song being sandwiched by the previous two- ‘What Kind of Love’. Starting off the song with a keyboard riff introduction, JJ offers us one of the most real and transparent lyrics of the whole album. Relating to both the Christian that needs some encouragement and the seeker longing for their life to mean something more than the mundane, ‘What Kind of Love’ delves deep into the longing and need that everyone hopes to fill pertaining to something more than just living with denial and regret. As JJ Weeks sings out the chorus, ‘…what kind of love would take my place, and die on a cross just to show me grace? What kind of love would reach within and love me in spite of all my sin…’, I am able to relax in the knowledge of God loving me, with JJ giving this song as a great reminder of that. As this ballad-type song full of light acoustics creates an anthem similar to others like Kutless’s ‘Carry Me to the Cross’ and Sidewalk Prophets’ ‘You Love Me Anyway’; JJ Weeks have shown us a heartfelt song that, together with ‘Let Them See You’, ‘All Over the World’ and ‘Is it Ever’, anchor an album full of radio hits!
Overall: All Over The World is a great album for JJ Weeks Band as an introductory debut, and with ‘Let Them See You’ already garnering great interest since Colton Dixon’s cover of the song on A Messenger, JJ Weeks’ re-release of their 2011 independent record Screaming Out Loud is sure to gain a lot of commercial buzz. With JJ having a voice similar to Bart Millard, Chris Sligh and Dave Frey form Sidewalk Prophets, we are shown a heartfelt album full of 10 songs of praise and hopeful promises given to listeners through this light acoustic and radio friendly set of songs. While some can be really great and others a bit of a letdown, on the while I am greatly pleased with what these men from Georgia have released. With a bright future ahead of them in the musical industry, this is an album that you don’t want to miss if you’re a fan of contemporary pop with a worshipful edge. ‘Competing’ with both Shawn McDonald (The Analog Sessions) and The Advice (The Advice), also releasing on the same day, All Over the World will certainly do enough to warrant a possibility of JJ Weeks Band being nominated as New Artist of the Year at the 2014 Dove Awards. Well done guys for an enjoyable album!
RIYL: Chris Sligh, Sidewalk Prophets, MercyMe, Pocket Full of Rocks