Release Date: October 15th 2013
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
“…I really felt like a Hurricane was going on in our lives these past few years, and I wrote the songs on the album from the perspective that there is always a better day coming. These are the strongest songs I’ve recorded in a long time and are a true reflection of the hope I find in my faith – songs I am eager to deliver to audiences night after night. It’s one thing to do something creative and cool in the studio, but I really want to deliver them even better and with more emotion onstage. The best part of the experience of making the album was being reminded of the truth once again…”. Five time Dove Award winner for Female Vocalist of the year, and Grammy nominated artist Natalie Grant is one of my favourite female vocalists ever. With radio hits such as “In Better Hands”, “I Will Not Be Moved”, “The Greatness Of Our God”, “I Will Be”, “Live For Today”, “Held” and “The Real Me”; it is the combination of radio friendly pop songs, heartfelt & personal emotional ballads, musically aggressive rock songs, and gospel infused jazz type tracks (not to mention almost every other genre in between) that has made Natalie’s prowess as a songwriter and singer very appealing to me. So it’s no surprise that the new album Hurricane releasing this week shoots up to one of my favourite albums of 2013 (within my top 10). Granted, I’ll listen to and give my time to Natalie singing anything, however on this vulnerable, musically diverse, and creative album, Natalie is the most honest and captivating of her career to date; and Hurricane deserves the praise I’m going to give it. So what makes Hurricane so relatable and brilliant, even more so than the successful Love Revolution? Maybe it’s because Natalie herself has experienced many of the issues explored in this 10 track album, or maybe it’s because she’s bolder, in encompassing many different genres within the same album. It’s a host of others factors as well, so read on and see!
“Closer To Your Heart” is the first song, and as a opener, it draws me right in with the upbeat and electronic backdrop of instruments, loops and mesmerising keys. The way the track list is arranged, it’s ironic that the first song shows us the most personal side to Natalie, and at the same time it’s poignant, as we can identify with Natalie’s emotional and poignant journey (all the way to the joyous “In The End” at #10). As the explosive synth heavy rock opener shows us through imagery and passionate vocals, we are imprinted with the harrowing and sometimes uncomfortable image of Natalie crying on the floor, feeling very inadequate and so far from God’s love and His heart. Yet there is solace, comfort and hope in the words of the chorus, which extrapolate that ‘…I’ve been running so fast trying to get back to the start, I’ve been holding so tight but it all just comes apart, pull me in, break me down, make me new and bring me closer to Your heart…’. Sometimes we have this expectation, either from ourselves or the world, that our feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, anger, sadness, and every other negative emotion needs to be suppressed, and that we need to ‘suck it up’ and pretend that everything is fine. Yet Natalie proposes a different way to handle overwhelming feelings, which is to bring them to God. That’s a very awesome way to combat anything, and as the first song, Natalie has recorded a winner, paving the way for the first single of the album.
As the title track and lead “Hurricane” is now the fastest rising single of Natalie’s career, with it rising to number 1 on the iTunes, as well as climbing up the Billboard charts within hours of its release in May, the song describes how that God is near us even when we feel like life is like a hurricane. The fact that the song has done so well compared to her smash hits earlier, proves that Natalie’s presence in the CCM industry is still relevant. Driven by the stirring keys, it’s clear that the first song written for the album, with Matt Bronlewee and Cindy Morgan, was responsible for the spiritual breakthrough and healing that Natalie so desperately needed, which was based on Matthew 14:22-33, where Peter was walking on the water to Jesus in the storm. As the ever true words of ‘…step out on the edge, don’t be afraid of it, and when you feel the rain, call His name, He’ll find you in the hurricane…’ minister to so many, Natalie outlines that God comforts us in our storms, and rarely do the storms subside at first instant- “…people think sometimes every life situation resolves itself easily and we come out happy with a little bow on it. But…He’s there reaching out His hand even as the winds continue to rage. We always want the storm to stop, but instead He says that He’ll come to us in the middle of it. That imagery inspired the song…there is hope and a resource for peace amidst the darkest storms…”. With that in mind, “Hurricane” has the power to heal and help many; well done Natalie for one of your most relevant and one of my favourite songs of yours ever!
“For All of Us”, originally recorded by Hearts Of Saints, is a great cover by Natalie, and in my opinion exceeds the first version (sorry Hearts Of Saints!), with Natalie’s pristine and beautiful vocals radiantly shining forth and skilfully conveying the message of Jesus and his death bringing life for us. Bringing Christianity back to the simple message of Jesus, the piano led worship ballad speaks about how Jesus loves all of us that He died on the cross, and rose again three days later, so that we all could live. How ironic and special are these words in the chorus that Natalie proclaims ‘…here at the cross, it’s finally done, Your victory is won for all of us, You did it for all of us…’! No matter our past transgressions, we can rest in the knowledge and hope that the grace of God that has covered us and our sins, is big enough for our worst sin. So hats off to Natalie for highlighting this fact, and all the more reason to celebrate the fact that Jesus is our Saviour and that His death on the cross followed by his resurrection is the best thing to occur in all of history!
Baring her soul and being openly susceptible and exposed may not be something that Natalie Grant has done in the past, yet these songs are her lifeline, and how she has overcome so much in the past few years. On the radio friendly pop ballad “Whisper”, we are met with the realisation that God doesn’t necessarily speak to us in the loud and the obvious, and that most times He uses the whisper to communicate to us. Driven by the electric guitar, moving electronic effects and a captivating piano riff in the background, Natalie reminds us of the fact that sometimes we are blinded by our expectations, which God clearly does not work or adhere to. But what this song skilfully does is to challenge us, to listen to God’s voice everywhere, even if it is from a non-Christian or a stranger! Another revealing track is “Burn Bright”, the piano only track written for a family member struggling with addiction. One of the highlights on this disc, Natalie emphatically and emotionally conveys to her nephew that ‘…You were made for more, so much more; child of everlasting light, made to blaze away the night, so baby, burn bright…’, a chorus that is sure to comfort and inspire, and give him, as well as us, hope that Jesus Christ in us makes us unique and special, and we are made for a bigger purpose and plan.
From the pop rock anthem “This Is Love”, inspired by the heartfelt and true words to St Francis of Assisi, where Natalie sings amongst vibrant and energetic electric guitar to show God’s love to everyone we meet as we be a light in the darkness; to the electronic synth led vivacious worship song and potential radio single “Dead Alive”, with themes similar to Ezekiel in the Bible, as well as Jonathan Thulin’s single “Dead Come To Life”, where Natalie speaks about the unparalleled nature of God and how ‘…You are the love with a deeper affection, You stole my heart, You’re my only obsession…You’re making the dead alive…’; Natalie continues to push the boundaries of CCM and pop/rock music, as she lets us know why she’s still one of today’s top Christian artists, and probably the most respected female CCM vocalist. Natalie also sings a piano only prayer to her children Grace, Bella and Sadie; as the mysterious and tear inducing ballad/lullaby “When I Leave The Room”, with lyrics penned by Nichole Nordeman, speaks about Natalie’s unconditional love for her children, and the fact that God’s love for us is even greater than a parent’s love for their child. A great analogy, this song makes tears well up in my eyes, and that’s definitely a good thing! Natalie’s vocals are out-of-this-world here, which makes the track all the more inviting and relatable.
Even though there are some lighter and softer material here (probably the greatest percentage compared to her other albums); there are musically different songs as well. One such song is “Born To Be”, featuring Rascal Flatts frontman Gary LeVox on guest vocals. A guitar led ballad at heart, Gary’s inclusion as a guest vocal is sure to gain many fans and interested listeners, for those who are familiar with his band that ministers to the mainstream in the country genre, and this definitely presents an opportunity for Natalie to cross over into the mainstream market someday, just like Britt Nicole did this year, and win souls for Christ in that way. A prayer asking God to mould us and shape us into the people he wants us to be, the earnest and emotional chorus that declares ‘…Father heal us now, God show us how to get back to the light that we’ve been missing, Jesus light the way, teach us today to be who we were born to be…’ is very impacting and powerful, with the exquisite and brilliant vocals of both Natalie and Gary harmonising very well, and no doubt the message of God’s love seeping through. A treasure of a song is created, that could possibly be on an upcoming Rascal Flatts album (who knows how God could work from here?); yet it is the album ender “In The End” that speaks the most to me.
A boisterous, energetic and rowdy southern gospel/bluegrass anthem, driven by the banjo, ukulele that is musically akin to David Crowder*Band’s forte and favourite genre; Natalie’s attempt at musically stepping out of the box has paid of greatly, as this sing-along song with plenty of loud and passionate gang vocals piques my attention. The fact that the uplifting track was recorded at Nashville’s Blackbird Studios, and that the song speaks about God’s victory over death and our celebration with Him in heaven, are bonus points, that make the good song great! With lyrics outlining that ‘…but He’s outside of what you feel, it might not make sense but one day it will…hold on my brother, things are gonna get better, you’re gonna smile again, cause we win in the end…’, it’s time for me to spin Hurricane again! After I have listened to Hurricane I can safely say that it’s Natalie’s most personal album and is in my top 5 albums of the year. Deserving of many awards in the future, Natalie Grant has recorded an album that will change many lives, and is sure to bring people hope, comfort and peace, in the midst of their successes, as well as in the middle of their hurricanes also.
“…I love this album because while stylistically I am still very much in the pop realm, it’s a much more personal project than I have ever done before. I’ve never taken three and a half years between releases, but that lengthy process allowed it to be an honest reflection of what was going on in my life during this period….Hurricane is full of my stories and is a reminder that no matter how dark the struggle may seem, we’re not alone – and hope always wins. The last thing the world needs is just another singer and just another song. I want to be a voice that will burn bright with hope. People are desperate for something real, and that’s why I make music…”. While for sentimental and nostalgic reason I will always place Relentless and Awaken above any other album that Natalie Grant records; from an objective standpoint Hurricane is her crowning achievement so far in her successful career, mainly because she recorded these songs despite feeling something else entirely. Due to the busyness and the many things surrounding her life during the recording process; these events alone make Hurricane extra special. And since we’re going to be seeing a lot of Natalie in the future (with her films Persecuted and In Plain Sight releasing in 2014), the Curb Records album makes me excited for Natalie’s upcoming projects, and reminds me why I love her music so much! So should you take a listen? Yes you definitely should! Natalie has shown us time and time again songs that will stand the test of time, and that is certainly the case on this new album. For fans of Nichole Nordeman, Britt Nicole and Francesca Battistelli, Natalie Grant’s work is peerless, and is worth a listen. Guaranteed, your life will never be the same again, when you listen to Natalie singing about how we can find Jesus in the hurricane…
- Closer To Your Heart
- For All Of Us
- Burn Bright
- This Is Love
- Born To Be (with Gary Levox)
- Dead Alive
- When I Leave The Room
- In The End