If I Had One Chance to Tell You Something
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2005 1 Nov
- God Help Me
- You Are Loved
- Love Being Loved By You
- I Need You
- Beautiful Stranger
- Thank You
- Take All of Me
- Forgive Me
- I Can Trust in You
- Lest I Forget
"I have let the cold creep in and lock my ability to feel … I'm running out of time to live/Running out of love to give/Running out of life within/God help me." Whoa, are these lyrics (from "God Help Me") by the same perpetually cheerful and hopeful Rebecca St. James that Christian music fans have come to love since 1994?
Indeed, they come from a young woman who has wrestled with burnout and personal fears since 2000's
"God Help Me" starts the album and remains one of the most impressive because it clearly demonstrates her new songwriting approach. Dark, intense, and above all, honest, it's a prayer of vulnerability that stems from brokenness. St. James has gradually come to understand that Christian music doesn't always have to offer the answers—sometimes, it's more effective to simply be relatable, since these feelings are universal to Christians and non-Christians alike. Moreover, it's one of her most rocking songs ever, similar to Evanescence, early Plumb, or Alanis Morissette.
The answer to St. James' wordy album title is "You Are Loved," a catchy tune with a Brit-pop flavor and a terrific sampled-string hook. Written while thinking about a childhood friend who has fallen away from God, it's a simple and sincere letter that shares God's love with any heart that's grown cold. The strong rocker "Beautiful Stranger" is inspired by St. James' work with Compassion International, expanding on the idea of serving Christ through "
St. James also deserves more credit for her vocals, not just because she records most of her own intricate backing harmonies, but also because she stretches herself. Though she usually resides in a lower alto range, she proves capable of belting out the higher notes in "Alive." The album's first radio single, it explains her new understanding of freedom from worry and stress when we completely surrender our lives to God. "I Need You" presents an even more impressive performance with St. James exploring a soprano range that impressively evokes Sarah McLachlan, while expressing thanks to a dear friend who's helped her with her spiritual walk.
These new levels of lyrical openness and rock intensity are the album's greatest strengths. And while the rest of the album isn't bad, it falters a bit from mediocrity—or sounding too much like things St. James has done before. "I Can Trust in You" offers more honesty, but it's a thematic retread of "Alive" and too similar musically to past songs. "Love to Be Loved by You" is a rocking potential single with insightful verses and a worshipful chorus, but its sound is too typical for St. James, and the title too reminiscent of "Love to Love You" from 1998's
But there are some effective and affecting worship songs toward the end. St. James makes Hillsong United's anthemic "Take All of Me" her own without radically transforming it. "Forgive Me" is a confessional piano ballad that places the emphasis on the lyrics and the vocals as St. James harmonizes beautifully with BarlowGirl. And then there's the tranquil ambience of "Lest I Forget," which focuses on the significance of Holy Communion and could well become her next big original worship song since "Song of Love."
This album's strengths far outweigh its weaknesses, and you can bet that as much as half of