Jessa Anderson “Whole” Album Review
Prime Cuts: Everything, Whole, Idols
Contemporary Christian music is notorious for erecting scaffolds. Many a times only songs that deliberately mention the word "God" or have a direct trajectory towards God are classified under the imprint of "Christian music." As a result, many of our so-called Christian songs have failed to address issues that God himself addresses in the Bible: topics such as our obsession with idols, the failure to preserve in our relationships, the turmoil of marital discord and even the gift of meeting that someone special. In fact, a faith that is wholistic and Biblically informed ought to have a lot to say about all these so called "secular" issues as they are areas important to God too. "Whole" is not just the titular of Jessa Anderson's album, but it also canvases a wholistic view of the Christian life. Here you will find songs about the gruesomeness of idolatry ("Idols"), worship ("Everything"), romance ("Caught Me By Surprise"), marital discord ("Stay"), the Gospel ("Story of Grace") and ultimate healing ("Whole").
Jessa Anderson is no stranger to the music industry. In 2011 she made quite an impressive splash with two Christian radio singles "Not What I Thought" and "Fireflies." And her ensuing album "Not Myself Anymore" caused such a ripple that she has established for herself the status of a singer-songwriter in the league of Brooke Fraser, Ginny Owens and Nicole Nordeman. Again working with producer Brandon Perdue (with Joe Williams, hubby Jordan Anderson and Jessa herself assisting), "Whole" finds Anderson in the breezy melodic light pop territory without the auto-tuned vocals and the insidious wharf of towering guitars. "Idols" is easily the album's lodestar. A stately pop tune with refreshing drum loops, "Idols" addresses an issue dear to the heart of Scripture yet conspicuously missing in many contemporary Christian songs. The propensity of hearts to stray are perspicuously captured in the opening lines of "Idols:" "I set my eyes on anything that shines and tells me it will make me whole/I stack the walls surrounding me with promises and pretty things/But when I see what winter brings, I fly."
Rather than evade messy issues such as domestic disharmony, Anderson through songs like "Stay" and "Giving Your Heart Away" show that Christian couples do fight and they do have their share of problems too. The issue is not about denying that such discords exist. Rather, it is about having the Godly perseverance to "stay" and work them out. Given the right circumstances, one could see "Caught Me By Surprise" being used as a soundtrack for a romantic movie. The rustic charm, the bounce in the melody and Anderson's girlish vocals are all instant ingredients made ready for romantic sparks to fly. Shifting gears now to the transcendent is "Story of Grace." An introspective ballad that chronicles the journey of the soul from despair to hope, this is the story of most of us re-articulated with such a melodious draw.
Those who are looking for more "worship" focused tunes will be indulged by "Everything." With an affable melodic structure that calls to mind the jazzy-titled pop of Colbie Caillat, "Everything" is a delight on the ears. While it's message of making Jesus our everything bears constant repetition in our hearts. Amongst all the needs we faced in this life, the piano-laden title cut "Whole" address our ultimate. With her crystal-clear vocals Anderson has vicariously expressed our deepest prayer when she sings: "Jesus help me believe, 'cause You have done what we could never/And still in my disbelief, for all my questions You the answer/More and more I see You are the only one who makes us whole."
"Whole," in reflection, is the poster child of what every contemporary Christian album needs to look like. Not only are lofty issues such as God, the Gospel and worship addressed but out of the overflow of our faith, there are songs here that also teaches how we can take the Gospel and make it a reality in our relationships, romance and marriages.