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JFH Staff Review

JJ Heller, Loved

JJ Heller

Artist Info: Discography
Album length: 10 tracks: 38 minutes, 21 seconds
Street Date: March 12, 2013

Paul writes in Philippians 3:13b-14 (NIV): "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Life isn't all roses, but the eternal goal is what matters most, and this theme is the inspiration for JJ Heller's ninth project, Loved, a foray into the tough times and the promise that keeps everything together. With Cason Cooley and Ben Shive back on as producers, Heller keeps the precedent in check throughout, giving a fresh look to her musical abilities to old and new listeners.

Unlike Heller's recent projects What Love Really Means and Deeper, Loved carries a contemporary pop sound that's less acoustic and more atmospheric. While, at first, this description could sound terribly bleak (and indeed, it's an unsettlingly "safe" sound on first glance), Heller actually develops this sound much better than most adult contemporary acts, even channeling the same vibe as Dido or Sarah McLachlan. It's sweet, serene, and never takes up more room than it is granted. It's a haunting fit with Heller's vocal style, too, full of subtle moments of both energy and grace. On the topic of Loved's album concept, Heller said, "Making a record that sounds different from what we've done in the past is a very risky thing. But if we stop growing and changing as artists, then something has gone wrong. Our challenge for Loved was to create something beautiful and new, but still maintain the same elements of honesty and transparency that established connections between us and our audience in our earlier projects." This entire quotation accurately reflects how Loved relates to Heller's previous projects: it's fresh, exciting, and most importantly, risky, and that only adds to the overall appeal of Loved.

Many artists falter in their lyrical approaches by drawing out their themes in vague terms and descriptions, but Heller continually aims on the specific side. "For You," as an example, uses detailed imagery to paint a picture of rising to the occasion when coming to worship ("If I can talk, then I will sing for you/if I can walk, then I will dance for you/as long as I can breathe, my heart will be for You"). These sorts of lyrical choices positively separate Heller from other worship artists who rely on overused catchphrases. Where this approach doesn't work as well, however, is when Heller opts for specific stories to make a point; in the same vein as Heller's well-meaning 2010 hit "What Love Really Means," album lead single "Who You Are" doesn't quite get off the ground with stories of unnamed people with disappointments ("All she wanted was a baby to hold/she's still waiting at 41 years old/her life feels like a tragedy/and it's driving her to her knees"). While these sorts of stories could strike an emotional chord for a select few, it can unintentionally limit the otherwise truth-filled song to only apply to these situations and not to the global problems of Heller's listeners. Still, these sorts of issues do little to derail the simple, but reassuring statement of the entire album: "I don't know what You're doing, but I know who You are."

With a decent mix of both the new and unfamiliar, Loved is a great step in JJ Heller's musical journey. Changing a musical approach like Heller has for Loved has plenty of perils attached, but they mostly pay off, and save for a few nitpicky lyrical issues, the album only benefits from these leaps forward. Loved isn't quite a masterpiece, nor is it even Heller's personal best, but Heller has more than proved her skill, whether she covers lighthearted or serious spiritual issues. With the eternal goal always in sight, JJ Heller has crafted yet another likable record of poise and sensibility.

- Review date: 3/10/13, written by Roger Gelwicks of

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JFH Staff's Second Opinion

Over the past few years, the soft musings of JJ Heller have been providing a healthy diet of easy-listening music for fans and critics alike. In addition, each release actively pursues maturing sound whilst not sacrificing her identity. With her latest release, Loved, Heller embraces a more polished and progressive sound that might parallel and even outrun many mainstream contemporary artists. "If You Fall," "Come Back to Me," and "Who You Are" truly venture into the newer territory of music and they are executed beautifully. The lyrics are transparent and honest while the music is layered so eloquently that they really add to the excellence of each track. "Redemption" and "Create In Me" surprisingly have a slight worshipful tone. While they don't seem like solid corporate songs, they do offer wonderful, reflective lyrics that point to our necessity of needing the Lord to change us. Those looking for a more classic Heller will find solace in "For You" and the title track. The combination of loving lyrics and the warm harmonic vocals of David Heller really stand out on these songs. While it may not be important to some, the fact that this husband and wife team sings together gives the songs a special quality to them; listeners can tell that they actually believe what they sing about. Overall, Loved is another solid offering from JJ Heller. The only slight letdown is that the album only has 10 tracks; however this isn't too much of a letdown, as Heller tends to give her listeners many opportunities by providing offerings on almost an annual basis. Once again, JJ Heller has given people everywhere something wonderful to fill their homes with: good music. - Ryan Barbee, 3/10/13


. Record Label: New Day
. Album length: 10 tracks: 38 minutes, 21 seconds
. Street Date: March 12, 2013
. Buy It: iTunes
. Buy It: AmazonMP3

  1. If You Fall (4:52)
  2. For You (4:05)
  3. Redemption (3:23)
  4. Loved (3:42)
  5. Create In Me (3:35)
  6. Stay (4:12)
  7. Better Things (2:52)
  8. Come Back to Me (3:55)
  9. Who You Are (3:43)
  10. I Believe (4:04)

    Deluxe Edition Bonus Tracks:
  11. Come Back To Me (Bonus Track) (4:17)
  12. If You Fall (Bonus Track) (4:14)
  13. I Believe (Bonus Track) (3:46)
  14. Who You Are (Bonus Track) (3:52)


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