I wasn't really planning on writing a review or anything, but when I saw that the thing was called "God", I decided that I would have to at least give it a shot, for the title, if nothing else, tickled me pink.
I suppose the funny thing, or one of the funny things, about Christian music, is that, like the source of its inspiration, it is something of *niche*, and yet it also has universalist aspirations. There's a certain sort of people who will make (or listen to) Christian music, but it's supposed to be accessible to everyone. (And, incidentally, I got this CD from my dad.) So it's always interesting, when someone sets a very high mark for themselves to hit, to see how they'll actually get it turn out. And so much the more when they actually call the album, "God".
The other funny thing about the genre (that comes to mind) is that obviously traditionally Christian, or church music, was decidedly Bach-y, but more recently, it has accepted more pop-y models to follow, or at least, to tweak with. (If the preceding sentence can be said to have been written in something like English.)
And, to be fair, even someone like Taylor Swift has ideas and outlooks that not everyone.... and yet, everyone (has to), you know? Like in "Change"-- "But there's something in your eyes that says we can beat this, 'cause things will change." (*perfunctory clapping*) Or that she called one of her albums, "Speak Now". Some people get drunk when they turn 21, or write goofy love songs like, "Please Please Me". But Taylor Swift talks about speaking up for the revolution. ^^
So, in a sense, Rebecca St. James is one of those sorts of girls, the type that you don't always hope for, if you have a certain disposition: like the title character of "Dear Prudence", who would rather sit at the feet of the Maharishi than "come out and play". But it would be too much to read too much into this in the wrong way. She has a pretty sunny disposition, and at least she has little ill to say of anyone, speaking neither in the form of worldly complaints, nor biblical jeremiads. (Although of course she draws upon the Bible and old Irish blessings that mention God and all that sort of thing, because that's the sort of thing that it is.)
Although, of course, some of the religious lines of poetry, like in "Me Without You", could probably be re-imagined along romantic lines, although I imagine this being denied, somehow, and anyway it probably would have had a different flavor, someone, if it had been written with a different intention.
But anyway, if I'm to decided whether or not she does a good job in doing stuff that both draws on all the specific materials of her tradition, while still being broadly accessible to different sorts of people, I would say, (based on my own reaction, at any rate), that she does a pretty good stuff. Of course, "That's What Matters" draws a bit of a line between putting your attention towards What Really Matters, and passing this-and-that, but not in a terribly brusque way. It's not too different from some of the songs the Byrds did, "Satisfied Mind", comes to mind, and they even did one called "The Christian Life", ("I, like, the Christian life"), (from their 1968 album, "Sweetheart of the Rodeo"), and of course the one-- the famous one, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"-- that Pete Seeger did, based on the Bible, so it's not like it's some unexpected shock-tactic, or anything like that. At least I don't think so.
But, if you take the lead track and the single, and the title-song, "God"-- that fits the bill pretty well, I think. (And, I think, five singles is definitely too many to pick from an album with ten, but that song, at least, really does stand out.) It's of course difficult to put into words why a song is pleasing. I suppose that part of what explains it good is that it is lively (and with drums and everything). And the chorus, when she goes, "It's God, truly God; I can't explain it any other way"-- it's just very good. It expresses the religious feeling, which is meaningful to anyone who has felt it. And the words are very broad, musical, and not caught up in the scribe's paper and ink, reaching for a feeling, caught up in a feeling, broadly extending the arms. And the words are so mystic, that I think that they could speak to different sorts of people who feel that word, God; they could easily be repeated by a pagan (I personally imagine some raised extended arms in an old Roman temple, with these neat columns), although certainly they are also acceptable to Christians.
Although maybe that very quality would make some people look twice at it, who think that church music must fit theological norms very nicely and snugly, with little room for broad mystic feelings. But at any rate I think it's fine.
But anyway, the other way in which you could measure the music, if you will, would be how well it compares to other works of pop or pop-esque music, although again, that may be a little controversial for some. But who cares. So, to look at, say, Selena Gomez ("Stars Dance")-- as good of an example of pop music as any. It would make good party music, and it's, although it's easy to make fun, feel-good; it feels good and it fills the atmosphere with a sort of pop-y vibrations. Again, it's difficult to marshal the right words for this sort of thing-- but clearly it fills the atmosphere in a certain way. Rebecca St. James is a little different here, and it is somewhat more difficult to imagine it being used as party music. It is a little cosmic, although some music is-- not everything has to make the heart race, necessarily, whether it's The Beatles '68 album, or Taylor Swift rhyming up the revolution of consciousness. But, despite that, and the influences it obviously takes in, it can be considered pop music. In fact, you could probably say that it's more pop-y, than rock-y, if that makes sense.
So then, whether or not "God" is more to your liking than "Stars Dance" depends, on, whether or not you think it's chill to see Selena Gomez dressed up as a fashionable Oriental dancer, and whether you're pagan or Christian, or what type of whatever.
So, you see, that was clever. Totally non-obvious.
At any rate, it seemed okay to me-- the CD didn't skip, or seem to, for any reason: nothing like that, for me. It worked out okay.
And I did get the chance to review "God", which is of course a real treat and an aspiration for any budding critic.