This series celebrates a contentious area of Christian music: the ‘non-evangelical’ output.
Over the years we’ve sadly lost far too many hugely talented creatives to the wrong side of the unwritten, but oddly pervasive law – the one that suggests every sphere of Christian creative activity has to have an evangelical aspect to it.
I’m sure you know it: it postulates all Christian songs need ‘Jesus in every line’.
Life is nuanced – and we need our creatives to fully articulate all the variables of life and living
But life is nuanced, and if there’s one thing we need from our creatives it’s their ability to fully articulate all the variables of life and living; from the blatantly obvious to the subtleties that lie within the shades of grey.
Catch up with the series so far:
Another 5 Inspirational Songs
For instalment three I’ve trawled recent releases to find some new music gems. 2016 has been fantastic for UK Gospel music, with great tunes catering to practically every music taste.
Here are five 2016 songs that deserve a few minutes of your time.
1. Bobby Bovell
Track: Love, Love (Kriswontwo Remix) ft Dennis Bovell
Find at: BobbyBovell.com
The big winner at the 2016 Jump Music Video awards (Caribbean/Reggae, Inspirational Video and Music Video of the Year), Denmark-based Brit Bobby Bovell has always plied his trade on the more intellectual side of the writing spectrum. And – I say this pretty much every time I mention Bobby – if you haven’t already, you absolutely need to check out his fantastic debut album ‘The Emergent EcleKtic’.
Bobby’s newest release for a while offers a song on a subject that permeates 90% of popular music: love.
Love Love‘s simile-laden ode to affection and devotion is a family-blended thing as UK Dub Reggae and production legend (and Bobby’s dad) Dennis Bovell, also features.
Things are presented excellently in a fantastic 360 degree video, and the one piece of advice you need to heed is this: watch this on the biggest screen you can find – it’s well worth it.
Paternal pride from Dennis:
‘Come in Bobby ah tell dem/(Ah my youth dat yuh know)’
Find at: JustLeke.com
From the very first second my senses were assaulted by the rapid fire, technicolour flickering of Leke’s Unstoppable lyric video, I was hooked.
I love the simple, multi-layered storytelling elements of this song. Leke has pitched Unstoppable beyond church walls, lyrically designing it to possess as little friction as possible in an attempt to have it resonate with as many people as possible.
The language is universal, but the scriptural references are there for those that can spot it – but it really doesn’t matter if you don’t: you can’t miss the message.
Unstoppable is a song for these hyper sensitised racial, social and religious times, with its essential message of tolerance and acceptance. That message, coupled with Alex E’s synth-pop production sensibilities have the makings of a near-perfect Pop song.
There’s a good chance you’ll find yourself singing along as you watch the words unfold before you.
I surrender my hands are up officer don’t shoot/I live to protect you but you kill me so what’s the use/Retaliate and run this crooked race/But either way love has the final say
3. Rachel Kerr
Track: One Chance
Find at: RachelKerrMusic.com
Even if you don’t listen to much mainstream music, chances are you’ll recognise the instrumental version of Rachel’s One Chance. It’s a derivative of Drake’s One Dance, and if you knew that you probably also know there are a staggering amount of cover versions floating about.
It’s taken from her Unboxed mixtape, a 15-track set of covers (or perhaps more accurately: a series of ‘reinterpretations’) of popular and recent RnB hits.
Unboxed is Rachel’s way of pushing back against being typecast: is she an RnB singer, Gospel artist, singer-songwriter or something entirely different?
One Chance itself is a song of self-determination, of seizing opportunity in the face of overwhelming doubt and its Gospel message bubbles just beneath the surface. If you like this you’ll definitely want to check out the rest of the album.
Am I just dreamer in too deep/Maybe this is too big for little old me/Who knows, who knows, what’s next for me/I know, I know, I know, He said/You got one chance and you got the key in your hand/Opportunity waits for no one/You got to hit hard, or go home: one blow
4. K Collective
Track: Downside Up ft Faith Child and A Star
Find at: KCollective.uk
K Collective’s debut EP, Volume One is one of my favourite releases for 2016.
It’s also got one of the best engineered productions of the year (not a great surprise given the team’s background: all three of K Collective in Jonathan Owusu-Yianomah, Enoch John and George Mandizha are all producers in their own right)
It also highlights one of the very best things about the UK Gospel scene: our ability to continue to expand the definition of ‘Gospel Music’.
Volume One draws from diverse music influences and you’re going to be hard pressed to come up with a simple genre definition for this one.
As with Rachel Kerr’s Unboxed there’s much to like in the release, but I’ve gone with ‘Downside Up’ because it’s got such a strong rhythm arrangement, with two of the scene’s best (in Faith Child and A Star) bringing that lyrical sparkle to things.
Downside Up isn’t as subtle in its declaration of faith as some of the other songs in this series. Faith Child’s inspirational ‘party starter’ rallying call on the first verse sets up A Star’s proudly Christian sucker punch on verse 2. This is excellent, positively proactive stuff.
Change the topic/Not everyone that grew up on the streets had a rough background/Change the topic/That was your story then but I’m changing it now
(Faith Child, quoting a lyric originally performed by ICIE)
Isatta Sherrif (you might remember her as Tor Cesay) has always been one of the best female writers, rappers and storytellers we have in the UK.
City is replete with slice-of-life, documentary-style observations served up as a series of mini narratives about the highs, lows and baffling contradictions of life and living in London, told over its 3 minute and 52 second duration.
There’s a lot to enjoy here: the stories are visual, the canvas is wide yet intimate, and Isatta’s voice both as a writer and performer is completely assured: she knows what she wants to say, and exactly how to say it.
If you’re looking for music that’s both visceral and intelligent you definitely need to check this out.
These youngers are precious about the streets that they live in/But they’ll smash it up the first chance that you give them/This demonstrates how confused we are socially/Is this really how paradise is supposed to be