Nichole Nordeman “Every Mile Mattered” Album Review

Nichole Nordeman

Prime Cuts: Anywhere We Are, You're Here, Sound of Surviving, Dear Me

Overall Grade: 3/5

Many publications are going to sing the praises of this record.  There won't be a shortfall of 5 star reviews.  Indeed, Nichole Nordeman is a stellar lyricist.  She waxes sublime poetry with keening insights and acute observations in her songs.  You will never hear her spinning clichés or borrowing phrases from Darlene Zschech or Natalie Grant.  Rather, what you get are heart wrenching words that come out a cocoon of a heart that has spent hours and hours in sufferings, meditations and prayers.  As a lyricist:  Nordeman deserves an A++ grade.  But there's the other side to the equation of what makes a great record:  the melodies.  Despite copious attempts to immerse in these songs, the tunes are pretty nebulous.  Like water on a duck's feathers, nothing sticks after countless listens. And to make matters worse, all the songs have a similar progression, making them sound like they are all of one fabric.

This does not in any sense discount Nordeman and her influence on music, both Christian and secular.   Within CCM, Nordeman was commissioned by Zondervan to create a concept album for The Story campaign, in which churches nationwide go through nearly the entire Bible in one school year, realizing the overarching story that affects everyone. Nordeman wrote 17 songs written from a first person perspective of characters of the Bible and applying them to today. Then in the secular side, a year before his untimely death, even pop music's Prince gave Nordeman's "What If" his own purple spin. 

"Every Mile Mattered" is Nordeman's first full since 2005's "Brave."  "Every Mile Mattered," in keeping with Nordeman's signature sound, is a piano-based pop-centric record.  Lyrically, one has no qualms about any of the tracks.  The title track "Every Mile Mattered" is a must-hear for those who feel that their lives are wasted just because there are detours and missteps along the way.  "Dear Me" is an exercise of both creativity and heart.  Written from the perspective of an older Nordeman to her younger self, the song is saturated with wisdom that every line is tweet worthy.  If you have had ever been surrounded by naysayers, "Sound of Surviving" is such an encouragement to the heart.

Tempo wise, the album is neatly divided between the ballads and the uptempos. "Anywhere We Are" and "Slow Down" are exquisite examples to showcase Nordeman's way with a ballad.  And when those ivory keys of the piano are struck, you know magic happens.  But this is also where the album falters: many of the songs sound similar.  Even Nordeman's rendition of U2's "Beautiful Day" sounds like one of her own ballads.  Like many singer-songwriters, she tends to use the same template for the majority of the songs, so they tend to collocate together into a long, long song.    


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