Prime Cuts: All Along, Trust, Over and Over
Overall Grade: 4/5
With its fuzzy colors shading a cartoon-ish character donning the cover, it is easy to dismiss this record as dump down effort to appease today's hip-hop listening youths. Sure, the focus of ELEVATION RHYTHM (stylized in all-caps) is on youths and young adults, but these 12 songs are far from predictable. In fact, the word "eclectic" would be a much appropriate term to describe this new record. Though the team, which emerges out of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, has had released a slew of singles, such as "QUIET" and No. 1 Christian CHR / HOT AC radio single, "NEVER WALK AWAY," "Growing Pains" is their debut full-length studio album.
The album canvases a whole gamut of sounds, starting with the lead single "Fake Love." Boasting a modern 808s and retro punk rock feel, "Fake Love" revels in the fact that only Jesus truly loves us for who we are. Mitch Wong (formerly associated with Planetshakers) joins the team on the title cut "Growing Pains." With elements of revved up electric guitar rock, surging pop and reverb R&B, the song is a potpourri of sounds. Just when you think you have the sounds nailed down, you have the old-school harmony sounds of "All That You've Done for Me." A sound you would never have thought you could hear on an album made for Millennials.
Message-wide, there are a few songs that do pack a punch. "Trust" is the album's theological anchor. Reminding us to delegate the control of our future into the hands of God, the song makes its title palatable in our daily lives. Tiffany Hudson, who has sung leads on several Elevation Worship songs, offers her breathy vocals to "All Along." On this gorgeous ballad, Hudson reminds us of God's abiding presence even in times when we don't sense it. Lyrically, "Over and Over" is on the lightweight side, with cliché phrases being strung together without much of a narrative framework, it is redeemed in the second half with the mighty Gospel-ish choir sound.
Though the hip-hop "Back When" is predictable, Aaron Cole's lead raps are engaging. Meanwhile, "Easy" is a throw-away pop without much of a melody. The album may not be perfect, but it is still an adventurous affair. With songs that dabble with hip-hop, pop, rock, Gospel and even four-part harmonies, "Growing Pains" is anything but boring.