MUSIC REVIEW: JOY by FOR KING & COUNTRY

Album: Burn the Ships
 
Release Date: 18 May, 2018

Genre: Christian Contemporary Music/ Christian pop

Record Label: Curb/Word Entertainment
 
Reviewer: Ikenna Nwachukwu
 
I struggle to keep a straight face while casting myself as an unbiased commentator on For King & Country’s Joy. I’m a fan! How do I try my hands at stabbing and slicing up this piece of melodic goodness?
 
Unless you’re a die-hard hymns-only fella who doesn’t fancy contemporary Christian music (and that’s fine), you’ll almost certainly find yourself bopping your head to the beat of this song. The more careful listener will warm up to its simple, brilliant and powerful lyrics. It’s not your regular stereotypical cliché stuffed Gospel song (For King & Country aren’t in that business), so you’re unlikely to get bored by it after just a couple of replays.
 
Now that I’m done with gushing, let’s see about having a proper music review.
 
Joy
Australian-American band For King & Country released Joy as a single in May 2018, as a foretaste of the band’s then upcoming album, Burn the Ships (the third they’ve produced thus far). Like the rest of the album, Joy draws on the everyday experience of our lives, and speaks of a hope beyond the troubles we face- a hope we should embrace.
 
Band members Joel and Luke Smallbone are keen to point out that Joy is a call to the faithful to defy the turmoil and uncertainty around them by choosing joy. They say they’re presenting an alternative to fretting and pessimism (perhaps even animousity) as reactions to the turbulent state of the world’s environment, politics, societies and the personal problems that besiege our individual lives.
 
As you’d expect of a well thought out song (more on this shortly), the message is kept afloat by the melody. Its rhythm and beat make it very danceable- and joy inspiring. It’s essentially an encouragement to rejoice in the face of trials and tribulations, wrapped in an exotic, almost festive sound that makes its optimistic content even more attractive.
 
The lyrics of this piece of music also hint at the source of the circumstance-defying joy that it invites us to. The bridge does justice to this, albeit in a covert way characteristic of much of contemporary Christian music:
 

“When I walk through the valley of the shadow of night

Oh with you by my side, I’m stepping into the light

I choose joy!”

 
My take on Joy as a work of art is that it’s expertly created. And when you realize that it took six months and more than 80 rewrites to come up with the current 3:53 minute version on the album, you appreciate the effort put in by the Smallbones and their co-writers to craft a sweet summon to joy for a world that sorely needs it.
 
The Story Behind the Song



Luke Smallbone has explained that the idea for Joy cropped up two years ago, while the band was having a discussion about what their next album would be. The discussion soon tended in the direction of encouraging people to be joyful in spite of the troubles they were facing.
 
“There’s a lot going on these days,” he said, in a video about the song, “and I think it’s really important for us to be people that have joy in our lives, no matter the circumstance.”
 
They finally decided on Joy as a theme when a friend also spoke to them of his strong belief that the world needed to hear the message.
 
The Music Video
The music video for Joy was also released in May. The mostly black-and-white video portrays a 1960s newsroom, and features Joel and Luke Smallbone, and Candace Cameron Bure, a well known TV personality in the US.
 
In the video (which starts off with Joel and Bure relaying news of a mega storm sweeping across the USA), Joel and Luke spread the talk of joy as they walk through the station’s premises. Eventually, their black-and-white environment turns polychrome as they lead the staff (including an initially pessimistic Bure) to dancing. The viewers (an old couple) join in the dancing when they see the gloomy broadcast replaced by live images of media people rejoicing.


 
The video’s symbolisms are, in general, easy to grasp (especially for Christians). Joel and Luke weave through the passages at the TV station and invite other workers at the station to join them; that’s an allusion to spreading the (joyous) Good News. The old tape which the brothers dump in the bin is a recording of bad news (fill this space with whatever trials and terrors you’ve faced). The new tape, which plays to display colour images (instead of the dull black-and-white in most of the video) is a reference to Christ; when it’s pushed to the ground in anger by Bure (i.e. when it dies) it gives out its colour (life) to everyone and everything- including Bure -and gets them all dancing for joy.
 
Chart Performance
Joy peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Christian songs chart, and is in the top five of the top Christian songs of the year for 2018. It’s safe to say that it would have done even better on the charts if it hadn’t been for the exceptional runs enjoyed by Cory Asbury’s Reckless Love and Lauren Daigle’s You Say this year.
 
My Final Note
Joy is a feel good take on a crucial aspect of the Gospel- or one of its benefits. It’s the sort of song that ages very slowly, and sparks life in you when it floats into your ears.

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The Fire of Revolution

If you truly want a revolution
You must be willing to watch your life fade
From before your own vanishing eyes

If you crave for the heavens showered
With bright red flames and blinding white light
You must care to be consumed with it

The rebirth you long for
Isn’t held in familiar bosoms
Is never at home with soft couches, tamed roses and sweet homely dinners

The freedom that’ll last forever
Is an intense joy and a harrowing pain
Stabs of rejection, and lingering loving embraces

If you truly want a revolution
You must be willing to watch your life burn
And glow

If you want a revolution that lasts forever
How about a death that scorches us into unending life?
How about Christ, Revolution Eternal?

Ikenna Nwachukwu
© 2018

CLAD

I have been a gladiator all my life,
Wrestling with both man and beast all these times,
A complexion of my scars,
The door to my mind’s wounds,
I scarcely knew a hero within these black holes,
Far from the skies,

I entertained spectacular foes for audience,
And my evening had unfolding shows that were popular for my trophy pose,
With facades of joy,
After which I was given the raw meat to eat with a glass of some bitterness to sip,
My pride servicing my red eyes,
With lots of grin applause as envy came as a plus,

Death was my inevitable choice,
A sting option, patient for it’s active chance to occur,
And so no matter the wins, the victims, the gifts I gave,
I was yet to please him dead,
I gave my rivals befitting houses of sorrows with my lying arrows as my wrath residues,
No morrows, as my bow bows them into my memories of victory stairs,

See,
I’ve been in this game for so long,
Long before Seth was born as another son ceded,
Playing with my breathe as my life solemn song,
Yet,
I had not gone passed the dawn of game seven,
And this was no Seth’s based ball,

The summer sage started,
When the first boomerang of teenage battle, unlatched my belt and I stumbled into some piles of dirty lies,
My chest cage got broken when I mistook the right turn for the rest, having the same look as the dust after hauling down to the earth,
The crowd’s laughter grew,
As I made futile efforts to move with my trousers down clogging my boots,
This was no goodness of peace running through my restless veins,
It was vain to shield myself from this day waiting to happen,

Finally with just one slingshot,
My hard hat headed off my head,
And I couldn’t think straight,
It was obvious that I was unsafe,
I was the lad who brought a pen knife to a sword fight,
My only gifted weapon passed down from my elder brother who departed before the age of impart,
I could only keep his last statement which was..
One word of believe from,
Your lips and this penknife becomes a sword,

But as I said,
This day with the weeks following it became the years,
I was not thinking straight,
I mean whose youngster would read Eph6:10-17 and relate a thing?
So there I was unclad ,
A master at pleasing my audience,
This misery of mine became a life series served as an appetizer to Death’s main dish,

My only hope was found in two windows
One of which was an opportunity at game seven and the other, my escape plan,
This was the chance, Death never had,
A chance become the hero within these black holes,
A chance to experience the real joy,
All I needed was a new war dress,
To address this life’s mess,
I needed to get my head straight,
To speak out that Living word of believe,
I needed to guard my heart’s cage to decide what was right and just best,
My belt so tight, I would be smart enough to deliver this truth,
My boots ever ready to tell others there could be a new you,
A faith to shield all these armors cause dead men tell no ,tales,

And so here I am,
A gladiator with a different profession,
Fighting man’s spiritual beast,
Casting down every imagination that exalts itself against the knowledge of my new found Truth,
I bleed my penknife into a sword every time I speak,
My confession has been a salvation in deed,
I am the young star who reads Eph6:10-17 and relates even with 18,
Death’s sting option was quiet late,
So whenever I win these daily battles,
I prove that the Truth already had the victory in the war,
And right now, I’m gaining mastery of this course.

Hannah
© 2018

Oysters

In my restive slumber,
I realized that in these times we all want to be our own animals
But we need a shell to hide under & an epidermis to hide our thoughts and emotions
An oyster can never be hurt because of its thick shell,
But be wise for an oyster knows neither of the hurts or joy of its environs

We all are vulnerable, can be hurt
We may not be loved, in this beast; life we can’t find beauty, joy or peace
But in his shell we have rest and much more.
We become “Mufasa” even with all the scars this world have given,
So come into his shell, It ain’t weakness, but strength
All the strength you need, I need, we need!

Isoje victor
© 2018

GRACE PETAL

He is a flower of love, I’m a petal of grace.
Race me to the hour, pedal my race.
Resonate my soul to your orbit.
Traded pains… Salvation was the profit.

Drain my sins into the ocean of flames.
’cause names run off the book of life, feels like an erosion of names.
My veins were overflowing with lament.
But you made it all ferment, now my joy clouds the firmament.

My heart feels like a beating lake
’cause no emotion flows.
This vacuum you filled… I will scream till even a dumb fish in the ocean knows.
Soul once felt like a vault of darkness.
My days were spiced with the salt of sadness.

I stepped on thorns and you turn them into rose petals.
You take the drive out of my foe’s pedals.
On raging waters you left your footprint.
Your infinite love is a blueprint.

Kruise
© 2018