Last night was a Thursday night, which is, of course, that wonderful night of the week when, at 10:00 central time, all of the new major single and album releases of the week are released to streaming and download platforms like iTunes and Spotify. This is one of my favorite moments of the week. In this and successive weekly posts I’m going to highlight my favorite new music releases.
I’m going to start by saying that I think Maren Morris & Vince Gill’s single “Dear Hate” is a great thing. The song was written some years ago and recorded last year but was not released until this past Tuesday a response to the terrible acts of violence that took place at a country music festival in Las Vegas last Sunday evening. I don’t often find much in popular songs that comment on current events, but there is something different about this one. It’s got a good melody (for which I would bet that co-writer David Hodges, one of my favorite musicians and songwriters ever, is partly responsible), and while the lyrics are nothing so profound or poetic as to blow you away they are honest and reflective, admitting the reality that the tendency to evil which gives rise to horrible events like those of last Sunday can be found in all of us, but expressing also the hope that love will win out in the end. Nor is that hope left completely to a vague ideal; references to the Garden of Eden point us to a Person in whom the hope of overcoming love is found, who reaches out to us in spite of our instincts of running from Him. (“Dear Love / …You were there in the garden when I ran from your voice.”) I hope to write a little more about the Vegas shooting incident sometime in the next couple of days, but for now, I’ll just say that I think this song by Maren Morris and Vince Gill gets us started on the right track as far as how we can grieve and grow through tragedies like last Sunday’s.
Moving on to songs released last night:
I have been anticipating for some time the release of Gabrielle Aplin‘s new EP called Avalon, after the promise of pre-release single “Waking Up Slow,” which is the first track of four. Of the other three (which all dropped last night), only one of them, “Stay” has really hooked me so far. It’s got that expansive sound twinged with melancholy of the sort that Coldplay specializes in, and the chorus, bridge, and verses meld perfectly. If it gets picked up by radio, I think it could be a pop breakout single for her.
Next we have what’s probably gonna be a big conversation piece in the evangelical world over the next few weeks. Lauren Daigle has written and released a song (“Almost Human“) for the soundtrack of the upcoming film Blade Runner 2049, which opens this weekend. I haven’t seen it but may very well at some point during its theatre run. Lauren has talked about wanting to branch out beyond Christian music and now she has done it, and she has done it very well. Once the conversation gets going I will probably get in on it. Lots of fun questions to be discussed. (Should Christian artists do songs for secular movies? Should Christians do songs for secular movies with this kind of content? Is this going to bring people to Jesus? Is that even a necessary reason for doing something like this? and so on, and so on.) I will wait to open that can of worms–or can of goodies, as I see it–until the discussion progresses a bit.
Jeremy Camp has released a new LP called The Answer. None of the singles that were released leading up to the full album release really got my attention, but there are two tracks from last night’s release that I like very much. The first is “My Father’s Arms” and the second is the closing track, “Awake O Sleeper.” Aside from being (in my opinion) the melodic standouts of the record, both deal in important themes that are under-represented in Christian songwriting today. I don’t know that these couple of songs moved me like any of my favorites among his earlier hits (“Let it Fade,” “This Man,” &c) but it’s great that Jeremy Camp is still making good music after all these years.
Rachel Platten is back with a new single called “Perfect for You.” I’ve never been a huge fan of her breakout single “Fight Song,” but I’ve liked all of her single releases since then, including this new one. She’s got some versatility in terms of style, and somehow manages to tackle themes of personal independence and self-worth without losing her vulnerability. She’s also announced the title of her upcoming record, which is called “Waves,” and is expected to drop in three weeks.
Charlie Puth is also back with “How Long“. He does so well on this groovy stuff, and his voice, as always, is a natural high. “Attention” is a big song on the radio right now, and this one might follow it up the charts pretty soon. A full length album called Voicenotes is coming out in mid January. Gonna be huge, no doubt.
“Pray” is the new single from Sam Smith. It’s a very confessional, honest song about dissatisfaction with what the world has to offer (“I’ve made it this far on my own / But lately, that s*** ain’t been gettin’ me higher), concern about what’s going on around him (“”I lift up my head and the world is on fire / There’s dread in my heart and fear in my bones / And I just don’t know what to say”), and how the chaos he sees around him is driving him to seek some kind of a higher footing in God (“I have never believed in you, no / But I’m gonna pray”). He seems to be saying that he knows he needs God deeply even though he can’t really identify as a firm believer. The song has some great lyric lines (“I don’t wanna lose, but I fear for the winners”) and his vocals really shine. I think his songs just keep getting better and better and I’m excited for the Nov. 3rd release of “The Thrill of It All,” his next full-length album.
Pink has a new single, “Whatever You Want” (note: fair bit of language here, so if that bothers you, move on from this one). Sweet chorus melody. Probably her best single from this album cycle so far. Beautiful Trauma is going to be out next week.
Maroon 5 did a collab with Julia Michaels called “Help Me Out,” but I think it’s kind of meh. Oh well. “What Lovers Do” is still stuck in my head, and because of how good that single is I have some hope for the release of the full-length Red Pill Blues next month (which, by the way, great album title).
One more to close things out for today. This is not really a release from last night, but I’m happy about it and I have to share it. Karli Webster has finally given me someone to really root for on this season of The Voice. She was one of the last to audition, and she’s now on Team Miley, in spite of some really intense competition from Adam Levine. (Which, well, okay. Miley is definitely doing better at life now.) Her song was a cover of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” and she killed it, y’all. My favorite contestants on The Voice never seem to get that far on the show (for examples, see James Dupre, Sydney Rhame, and Owen Danoff) but maybe Karli will. Either way–until last night I hadn’t bought an iTunes download of a song from The Voice since Owen Danoff’s audition song from three seasons ago. So that is saying something.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading, and we’ll pick things up next Friday with another episode of New Music Roundup!
Peace out, grace out.