The art of writing a good love song is starting to die. In today's society, a typical love song might involve slow dancing in a burning room or how much you like someone but you'd rather be in love with someone else. As much as John Mayer, John Legend, Taylor Swift, and other "love" aficionados can create great music and good melodies… they settle for lust rather than true unadulterated love. To say the least, it's sad. But that's what makes JJ Heller's latest release so special. With songs of life, love, and why, it's hard to miss the true love that permeates When I'm with You.
The album opens with the catchy "Tell It Again" with a euro-pop/indie flair. While the lyrics aren't so deep, the heart of the song is sweet as JJ sings about being reminded of how much she is loved. The title track, "When I'm With You," follows and it does so flawlessly with beautiful harmonies provided by JJ's husband Dave. And because it is husband and wife singing together, the track has more impact as they sing about how much better life is when they are together.
One of the true standout tracks on the album is "What Love Really Means." As JJ sings, from the perspective of God, "I will love you for you, not for what you have done or what you will become. I will love you for you, I will give you the love, the love that you never knew," it is an excellent reminder of the unrelenting love and grace of God. "Kingdom Come," is next and while not one of the strongest tracks, it is by no means weak. It's a pure worship song about the renewing power of God's love.
"Boat Song" is another beautiful acoustic love song about how she and her husband complete each other, as she sings, "If you were a boat… I'd be the wind at your back." "Control" is one of the rather darker tracks as it references cutting and how it gives momentary relief but true peace comes only from surrendering control to Jesus Christ. Continuing with the redemptive train of thought is the song "Love Can Make You New." This is another decent song, but sadly it seems like filler just to extend the track listing. Not to say that it is not a good song, but on the short list it ranks at 10th place. On the other hand, "Olivianna" is another excellent standout track. It is a very transparent song about a child that has passed away soon after birth. This is sure to bless and minister to anyone who has ever suffered the loss of a child or even a loved one. Along with this is "No Fight Left," as it handles the issue of surrendering to the Lord after realizing our futility in doing life on our own. The album comes to a lovely close with "Until You Came Along," explaining how the love that she has received has made her whole. While it's not definitively referring to her husband, it could also be about the love of God. Regardless, it's an excellent end to an enjoyable album.
When I'm With You might not be the next platinum selling record or be one of the featured albums on MTV, but it's probably one of the most honest musical expressions of love of 2010… and on every level. It doesn't deal with shallow feelings but instead about the love of God being seen through marriage, family, and surrender, not the insecure selfish lust of the world. With transparency, grace, and evident humility, JJ Heller has given a beautiful offering of love to the listener's ears.- Review date: 10/17/10, written by Ryan Barbee of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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