- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2003 1 Sep
I'm guessing Integrity was attracted to McClendon's relatively unique style. She's a breath of fresh air amidst all the overproduced female groups vying to be gospel's answer to Destiny's Child. It's neo-soul, incorporating elements of jazz and modern R&B via mellow grooves and organic sounds—acoustic guitars, electric piano, brushed drums, occasional horns. There are obvious comparisons to soulful divas such as Lauryn Hill, Macy Gray, and India Arie, but there's also some similarity to the retro-jazz of Norah Jones.
As a worship leader, McClendon covers a couple of standards, Scott Wesley Brown's "You Are Holy" and Marie Barnett's "Breathe," offering soulful and jazzy renditions of both, and putting a different spin on the latter without dramatically altering it. But it's McClendon's originals that stand out. Even more striking than her sound are her lyrics. She's intent on taking the gospel beyond the church walls by tackling an array of life issues. "Stuck (Love's Anthem)" is frank in its exhortation about settling arguments and frustrations in romantic/marital relationships, while "Has Anybody Seen Love" offers stories of loneliness and depression to point to Christ as the one true source of love. And then there's the bold call to evangelism on the jazzy and soulful "Go," which uses Psalm 19:14 and Matthew 28:19 as a rallying call: "But if I keep quiet and not say a word/How will they ever know what's causing me to fear rejection?/You had to face it too, Lord/Give me boldness to share your goodness so they can know the truth."
McClendon's way with words is also evident in "Old School," a satirical reminiscence of the good ole days in church while also thanking God for reforms over the years: "Remember if your nails were red you were Jezebel?/And if you wore pants you were going to hell?" In "Capture," she wonders what impression of Jesus she leaves with people day to day: "What picture have we painted?/So many times your name has been tainted/People want the real truth/Everyday I'll direct them right to you." In "The Truth Is…" she writes: "The truth is we've all fallen short of the glory of God … no religious system can substitute a repentive heart."
As if McClendon hadn't displayed enough thoughtfulness, she's interestingly labeled her lyrics in the CD booklet, identifying verses and choruses as "celebration," "observation," "revelation," and "truth" to name but a few. Through all of the songs, she humbly deflects attention away from herself and onto God, yet never doing so with trite or overused sentiments. In recent years, it's become rare for the R&B gospel genre to challenge listeners with unique insight and inspiration, relying more on fad and cliché to entice.