Jars of Clay- Christmas Songs, and Mindy Smith- My Holiday

Jars of Clay- Christmas Songs

Quality: 4

Clean: 5

Genre: Christmas, alternative, rock

I haven’t kept up with Jars of Clay that much since their first release in 1995. They have been prolific since then however and carved out a little niche for themselves in the alternative-Christian sector. Their Christmas album, Christmas, Songs, was released in 2007 but I didn’t pick it up until the end of the season last year, so didn’t really listen to it until this year.

One of the ways I personally try to keep Christmas fresh and meaningful is to pick a favorite Christmas carol every year. I do this by listening to the words of the carol, thinking about them and celebrating the truth that is contained within them the entire season. Past favorites have been O Holy Night, and Come Oh Come Emanuel. I seem to like the dark reminder that the reason Jesus was born was because of sin. Remembering sin and its ugliness helps me truly celebrate the hope of Jesus’ birth. This year, as I listened to Jars of Clay’s rendition of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, I was struck by the modern reminder of sin and hope. I had never paid attention to the words, especially the second verse,  until I was reading the liner notes to this album.

In despair I bowed my head,
“There is no peace on earth,” I said.
For hate is strong and mocks the song
of  peace on earth good will to men,
of peace on earth good will to men,
of peace on earth good will to men.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
God is not dead, nor does he sleep;
the wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
with peace on earth, good will to men.

I was struck with what a common thought this must be among people. That there is no peace and hate is strong, but that Christmas presents an answer, a hope for us all to cling to.

After listening closely to I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, I read the back of the liner notes jacket: In the Christmas Season, here are ways to celebrate peace in the midst of chaos (insert list of charities), and I realized that this was their theme: Peace in the midst of chaos. Instead of putting a smattering of Christmasy songs together to make a buck, JOC had actually put thought into the album, had come up with a theme, and most of the songs represented that theme. Peace is Here, In the Bleak Midwinter, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, even God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. There is a fair share of just plain fun songs, for example: Hibernation song. But for the most part the album is reminding us that there is peace in the midst of chaos.

The music of this album is characteristic of JOC, containing a hint of strings, solid guitar and percussion, and even some Christmasy sounding bells/chimes at parts. There is a balance between organic real instruments and electronic elements. In the Bleak Midwinter is a highlight musically as it contains a beautiful horn part. Drummer Boy is also a hit with its minimal drum beats at the begging and then climaxing with a really fun snare part in the second half of the song. JOC keep the album interesting but not too crazy. It would be appropriate to put on for the rents and even g-rents.

Christmas Songs has been my favorite Christmas album this year, and I would recommend it unreservedly to anyone who likes Christmas music.

Mindy Smith- My Holiday

Quality: 3

Clean: 4

Genre: Christmas, folk, alt-country

Mindy Smith’s My Holiday is another “new to me” release from 2007. I normally like her style. Its a little country, but not too much for a non-country fan like me to be put off. Its more folky, which I like. Her voice and lyrics are sweet. My Holiday however didn’t sound Christmasy to me. It could have been any other album, it was a little too country and a little too bland. I didn’t pick up on a theme, which always increases my enjoyment, and the songs were more just fun, sugary, happy happy.

My favorite song would probably be the forlornly sung The Christmas Song because it sounds the most like a Christmas song with strong piano and jazzy percussion and even a clarinet solo.

It is a nice album, but I haven’t played it much. It doesn’t stand out in my Christmas album collection but I’ll play it a few times each year.

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Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago

Quality: 5

Clean: 3

Genre: art-folk, indie

I’m a bit late. For Emma, Forever Ago, was released last year, February 2008. Not to mention that last week Bon Iver released a new EP, Blood Bank. But after hearing NPR’s unabashed applause for Emma, I decided I couldn’t skip it just to be with the times.

Bon Iver is pronounced Bon EEvar, French-ish for “good winter.”  Not just a pseudonym for Justin Vernon, the vocalist and composer of the songs, the name is also for the band and for the spirit of the album. “It’s more of a sentiment that I’m trying to attach to what we do musically, as a group and as a project,” he says. “That sentiment being one of, I don’t know, geographical reference. And us being from where we come from, I think that’s who we are. And we are who we are because of where we come from.”

Holed up in a northern Wisconsin cabin in the dead of winter, Justin Vernon wrote the collective of songs in a two month period . There, he confronted his demons. He says: “everyone kind of builds up negative energy in their life, and for me, it just built up a little too long. And I think I went up there to really fix myself. That’s what it was kind of about for me.”

For Emma, is beautifully produced with warm instrumentals. Acoustic guitar is central, but there are highlights of base and electric guitar, snare drum, whistling, brass and others. Unlike so many other indie artists, the instruments aren’t there just because, but they add to the story of each song, producing their own perfectly crafted artistic affect. Justin’s voice is another instrument, sung in falsetto, it communicates an other-worldly and choir-like feeling. One song, Wolves, surprisingly uses Auto-tune, however it doesn’t sound out of place or pretentious on this organic album. Instead, the emptiness of the computer-generated voice perfectly emphasizes the lifeless love sung  about.

The album is minimal and stark. Somehow though, after listening to it over and over, I am not dragged down into hopeless despair. The music is cathartic, as if listening to it I have worked out some of my own issues. NPR’s article expressed of Skinny Love perfectly what I was thinking of the entire project: “But as dark as it gets, the song, with its unforgettable steel-guitar hook, is too gorgeous to function as a true downer.” Written in winter, the album embodies the season by capturing the mood of foggy skies and desolate snow-scapes.

How else can I describe the sound of Bon Iver? There are elements of Arcade Fire, Cold Play, Smashing Pumpkins, Antony & the Johnsons, and James Taylor, but, Bon Iver is something all its own. Listen to him yourself and see.

For a Clean rating, I give the album a 3. Most of the time I can’t understand the words, or I catch a few here and there but not an entire song. If I look up the words on some lyrics website, I find that they are quite sad. Skinny Love, sounds like a suicide letter. Other songs are vague, about land, loss, cold. Good poetry, for sure. The music is what carries this album, and its ok that the words are unclear. Similar to Son Lux, the words are the accompaniment, not the star.

Listen to Flume on NPR’s media player. Scroll down to the bottom of the article. The first song is Flume. Click on “Listen.” The media player will pop up in a separate window and will begin to play.

Links: boniver.org, NPR’s interview

Family Force 5- Dance or Die

Quality: 3

Clean: 4

Genre: rock, electronic, pop

ff5

There is a Christian radio station in town that primarily plays alternative and hard rock music. I try to listen to it because I want to get to know more Christian music, and I feel like I should try to support a radio station that is at least trying to play good music. The problem is that most of the music sounds the same and I don’t even like it all that much. Consequently, whenever I hear a song that is remotely different or interesting, I try to find out more about it. I heard Fever once and had to look it up. It was different from most other songs on this station because it had electronic elements- the vocals are synthesized- and you know I am a sucker for electronic elements.

Dance or Die is Family Force 5’s second album. Their first was heavier, like Linkin Park, or Rage Against the Machine. Dance or Die is more like a throw back to 80’s synth pop, mixed together with music like The Killers and other such indie/punk music.  When I listened to the songs on their myspace page, I liked, but didn’t love them. I didn’t want to give up though, because I’m always trying to support Christian bands that are different/interesting/don’t sound the same as all the bands/at least good. So I cruised over to Christianity Today‘s music review website (which is actually pretty good). The review basically said the album was too much about fun and didn’t have enough substance either lyrically or musically to carry it. I quickly dismissed the review as being written by old people and bought the album.

I frequently wish there was more music out there, without swears or innuendos, that was fun just for fun’s sake. Fun music doesn’t have to mean anything, it can just be fun. I’m not sure if I’ve changed my mind or not, but the pure lack of substance on this album got on my nerves after a while. The lyrics are just silly. For example, Fever, is about a um, fever, that is well, burning up…”somebody call the New York Times, this fever’s gonna make the headlines.” What does that even mean? Actually, I wouldn’t mind it if there was at least one or two songs with some heft to them, but every song is silly,and meaningless. There are some lyrics that made me think: While listening to D-I-E 4 Y-O-U, I wondered if the song was about Christ, you know the whole dying thing and all…or perhaps even a martyr being willing to die for Christ…but there is nothing in the lyrics to suggest such an interpretation. If the band wasn’t signed to a Christian label I wouldn’t have even thought twice. Another song, How in the World, is a pretty sweet love song, that could be interpreted to be written to Christ, but again, there is nothing in the lyrics to suggest such an interpretation. In fact, there is nothing on the entire album to suggest that this band is “Christian.”

I’m breaking my own rules, because I usually think that a band or album should be taken for what it is, on its own terms, and not for what we think it should be or what it was expected to be. Dance or Die, is supposed to be fun. That was the one and only objective and in that, it succeeded. Also, because they are “Christian” the album is free of swears and innuendos. I should be happy and move on.

I’m not happy. I have to agree that Christianity Today’s review was right on. A single song can be fun, but an entire album should have balance. There should be other songs to bring out a theme, or to remind us why Family Force 5 claim to be Christians, or even that they have emotions. Dance or Die, is one of those albums with two good songs, and the rest sounds too much the same to palate all at once.

Fever:

How in the World:


Kanye West- 808s and Heartbreaks

Quality: 4

Clean: 3

Genre: r&b, electronic, pop

808

I hesitated to post this review here. You might be wondering what Kanye West is doing on a quality and clean blog. It would be like adding a review of one of Madonna’s albums- it almost doesn’t matter what the the content of their music is because their reputations are both so um carnal. Kanye has a reputation for his trash talking bravado, materialistic yet dapper fashion sense and possessing an appetite for causing and basking in controversy. Then there is the way he generally raps about women, similar to other rappers, he treats them like possessions to chalk up on his tally sheet. Kanye is a very talented beat-maker and rapper, consequently he rose to fame quickly. Maybe this is why he has such a big ego, or maybe that is just part of every rappers persona.

Actually what caused me to purchase and then decide to add a review to this blog was the contrast between Kanye’s reputation and the content of 808’s and Heartbreaks. When Love Lockdown came out I was it was not what I had expected. Stylistically and lyrically, Kanye West’s fourth album, is very very different from his past three. The name of the album lays bare the musical and lyrical themes. 808s is a reference to the analogue synthesizer the early 1980’s. It has a characteristically “hollow/tinny” sound which smoothly contributes to the lyrical theme of heartbreak. Instead of rapping, Kanye sings throughout the entire album causing the songs to feel more heartfelt. Instead of the light-hearted, feel-good tempo if his past albums, Heartbreaks is melancholy to its core. The instrumentation is sparse, minimalistic and lonely instead of fully layered and well fed. In the past Kanye has been a little different from other rappers, his production is richly layered and contributes to the message of his songs instead of just background looping. He heavily relies on his favorite tool, auto-tune, as well as as other electronic devices (ie. the electronic voice in Stronger) and uses live instrumentation (actual cello, piano, woodwinds and choirs). Heartbreaks keeps auto-tune as a faithful friend but disposes with the heavy layered devices. There are a few live instruments (including a lovely choir in the first track), but musically the themes are raw percussion with 808 sounding synthesizer beeps and shallow melodies that sound like they came straight from a midi or cheap home-Casio piano.

Lyrically, Kanye’s past songs have been full of bragging how good and easy and full of material possessions his life is. In contrast, Heartbreaks delves into the emptiness of his life, how material possessions mean little  and making lasting positive relationships with women is difficult if not impossible for him. The song that best displays the “emptiness” theme is Welcome to Heartbreak. The lyrics are rich with contrast between the “good life” and his own:

My friend showed me pictures of his kids, and all I could show him was pictures of my cribs.
He said his daughter got a brand new report card, and all I got was a brand new sports car.
Dad crack a joke all the kids laughed, but I couldn’t hear em all the way in first class.
Chased the good life my whole life long, look back on my life and my gone…where did I go wrong?

Kanye’s mother died shortly before he began work on the album. The genuine yet not necessarily romantic heartbreak and grieving portrayed on the album fits with this kind of rift, the kind that rocks you to your core, the kind the death of a mother to a young person (Kanye is only 31) can cause.

The lyrics to several songs give off vibes of a desire for change, yet he is a bit like Peter Petrelli in the T.V. show Heroes. No matter how hard he tries to do what he thinks is right and even to fix past mistakes, he just makes things worse. I can see a man like Kanye deciding to find a real relationship, maybe even invest more in the one he already has. Yet, all he has trained himself to do thus far is treat women shallowly and create relationships based on appearances. One song, RoboCop, reveals the one-sided conversation of a dysfunctional romantic fight, first laying all the blame on the other party, then sarcastically making fun of and putting down that party. He wants to change over night but most people can’t do that. Kanye’s descriptions of the inner workings of his romantic relationships (in the songs, and who knows if they are autobiographical or just songs) reveal a desire for intimacy but a lack in compassion and patience. Perhaps these qualities will develop in time and then he will find and develop a loving lasting relationship, but for now he is caught in the middle; wanting to be someone he isn’t.

I’m fascinated by songs in the main-stream that describe yearning for eternal significance. To me it shows that no one is completely shallow and we all have the same needs at our core. I also know that anyone can change but not everyone does. To me this album shows that universal struggle: “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing that I hate.” (Romans 7:21).

As an adult it is fun for me to analyze music with contrasting and unexpected images. However, If I had children between the ages of 5 and 15 I might not have purchased this album (perhaps they would be oblivious at a younger age?). It could send a mixed message to them, and they might not be mature enough to filter the bad from the good. None of the songs have swears but they do portray dysfunctional relationships and talking enigmatically about one’s sordid past. Also, unfortunately, we cannot separate the singer and his image from his music. Kanye is not the type of person I would want to put on display or admire around my young children. With older children however, I think that talking and analyzing media such as this would be very healthy. Teenager’s minds are developing the ability to think through complicated issues with contrasting messages. Parents and teachers are in the role to help teach them discernement in recognizing good and evil instead of just cool and uncool.  I think it can be complicated and I am sure I know people who would not go near this album and others who would go to a concert with their children. Here is a situation that is very gray. Also I do not have children so I can only think about and speculate what I would do. Perhaps I would act entirely different.

Love Lockdown:

Welcome to Heartbreak:

Son Lux, At War with Walls and Mazes

Quality: 5

Clean: 5

Genre: electronic, alternative

sonlux

So far, At War with Walls and Mazes is my favorite album of 2008. It is a perfect blend of all my favorite components of music. My husband makes fun of me that the music I like is always the same, all containing electronic blips and glitches (bjork, psapp, Imogene Heap). Son Lux has these electronic sounds that I like but they are blended into an ornate tapestry. Son Lux’s use of electronics to make music reminds me of when you go into a cathedral at just the right time of day when the sun is shining through the stained glass windows and all the glints and glares reflect off the icons and the cross and make the room feel rich and perfect and holy. Son Lux also incorporates a wide variety of classical instrumentation: piano, strings, flute, an operatic background voice, acoustic guitar. Its not just that he uses these instruments, but he does so in a very classically trained way. As if he is fusing symphonic orchestra music with modern electronics. I am reminded of a rock opera such as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Requiem (see the song Hosanna).

I classify Son Lux as “electronic” not to be confused with “dance” music. The album does not have a happy poppy feel and is not danceable. Rather, it feels thoughtful, forceful at times, maybe even morose.

Son Lux’s lyrics continue in the cathedral theme: they are brief and simple and repeated over and over like a meditation or mantra. Sometimes the lyrics hint at scriptural references, sometimes of powerful experiences such as betrayal and reconciliation. They get me thinking not about what he means (like Coldplay did), but of what associations they bring to my mind. Son Lux’s lyrics are powerful and demonstrate poetic skill. Perhaps the most interesting lyrics are for the song Weapons:

Put down all your weapons,
let me in through your open wounds

Son Lux is not signed with a “Christian” label and I would not label him as a “Christian” artist…but you know by now that I don’t like that label anyway. He reminds me in a way, of Johnny Cash: their lyrics only let out little hints of a profound belief. I like not knowing, and being able to let the mystery be itself.

Whereas Break is the song put forward by the label to promote the album, my favorite songs from the album are Wither and Betray.

Break lyrics: Where have all the wicked gone?
Is there no one left to break you down?
Where have all the holy gone?
Is there no one to condemn you?

Where have all the wicked gone?
Is there no one to condemn you?
Where have all the holy gone?
Is there no one else to break you down?

links: myspace, anticon records, pitchfork review

Lecrae, Rebel

Quality: 4

Clean: 5

Genre: rap

Its been along time since I wrote a blog entry. Reviewing entire albums takes more time than just one song and I am a processor, (aka slooow thinker), so today’s review has been along time coming. Historically, I haven’t been a fan of rap. The fact that I like listening to Lecrae is new and different to me, and I suspect that the only reason I haven’t liked this genre in the past is because it normally is very shall we say perverse in many avenues. Its hard for me to review a genre that I know little to nothing about but I’ll do my best.

Rebel is Lecrae’s third album and the title states his theme which he spins out in many ways. What he means by rebel he explains in the first song: Rebel Intro. This is one of my favorites on the album and there are a few quotes by Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll (my husband went to his church Marshill before we got married).

I’m in rebellion (repeat a few times)
to all my rebels out there, rebelling against the culture, being transformed,
do not be conformed to the ways of this world, to this age
welcome to the revolution

Jesus was a rebel, renegade, outlaw, (something), troublemaker
but he never sinned naw
and he lived his life by a different set of rules
the culture ain’t approved
so you know they had to bruise him
that’s the way they do
man they smell so gangsta
everyone the same
everybody do the same stuff
tattoos, piercings, smoking up and drinking, money, sex
plus them extravagant weekends
man if that’s the high life I’ll puff puff pass that
(can’t tell what he says here)
I guess I’m passed that
I’m in rebellion
I’d rather have a dollar in my pocket then a million in scandal.
(don’t know what he says here)
I remain a rebel while the rest of them just carry on
this is what I live for, this is what I’m buried on
Jesus is the truth that means one of us is very wrong.
Think about it!

Chorus: I’m in rebellion (repeat)

Mark Driscoll: I know in our day, rebel means sinner, but everyone is sinning so its no longer rebellious to sin.
Jesus was a rebel who was counter-cultural.

Lecrae: no glory in me all glory is to the king on the throne
you either love him or you leave him alone
but you can’t do both
yeah I know you heard that once in a song
I pray you hear ten more before you’re gone
Hey listen I’m on stages, corners, crowded streets
Yeah I rap the bread of life because they dying to eat
hey I’m a rebel, you know the kind that die in the street
cause you refuse something something won’t eat the king’s meat

Christ rebelled by shunning the culture
he ate with the sinners, gave the pharisees ulcers
he never got married, he was broke plus homeless
yeah that’s the guy I roll with
your boy got a wife, no I never cheat, I’m praying for humility
(can’t tell here)
forget about the drugs, rebel against pornography
this ain’t how it oughta homey its how its gotta be. Rebel!

Chorus

Mark Driscoll: you’re just a conformist, if you’re drunk and naked
driving around on a loud motorcycle,
smoking cigarettes, and breaking commandments,
getting pregnant out of wedlock.
Everyone’s done that. That’s so tired!
If you really want to be a rebel read your bible, because no one’s doing that.
that’s rebellion, that’s the only rebellion left.

The whole idea on this album is to rebel against sin by living a life glorified to the Lord. This plays out in various ways, whether it is abstaining form certain activities (like in Rebel Intro), not giving into our temptations (like in Indwelling Sin) or repenting when we make mistakes (like in Desperate). One of the most interesting songs, The Bride, urges us to not give up on the church because she is Christ’s bride.  I like the message of this album because it reminds us that living a life for the Lord is difficult, and we have to make sacrifices..we have to rebel ;). I think alot of Christians take the safe route because they (myself included) are afraid of sinning, we don’t want to fail. Living for the Lord therefore gets a safe, boring and clean reputation, when really and truly it is anything but that. It involves taking risks, heart break, and discipline.

My other favorite songs of the album are Don’t Waste Your Life, Identity, and Live Free.

Don’t Waste Your Life, is about living your entire life for the Lord. A theme throughout many of Lecrae’s songs on this and prior albums is pointing out our culture glorifies money and its many friends, but that money doesn’t satisfy our deepest longings. This song does this as well, and puts it in context of the rebel theme. Don’t Waste Your Life challenges us to not just give a portion of our lives to the Lord, but everything. The lyrics are profound to me because of the whole Wall Street mess this year and because I recently moved to a new area, my husband recently got a better job and we are looking to get a house, kids a a dog soon. Here is the last verse:

So yeah, still (something) Christ
trying to figure out what to do with your life
you make alot of money hoping you’re doing it right
because the money is god, you better stick with it right
stay focused
you ain’t got no ride, your life ain’t rapped up in what you drive
the clothes you wear, the job you work, the color your sin,
naw you Christian first
people think they’re living for their jobs,
get a little money, they start living for their car
get ’em a wife, a house, kids and a dog,
then they retire, living high, going whole
yes but they never lived at all
to live is Christ and that’s Paul I recall
to die is gain so to Christ we give it all
getting a treasure we can’t buy in a mall

your money, your singleness, marriage, status your time,
they belong to you to show the world that Christ is divine.
that’s why its Christ in my rhyme
that’s why its Christ all the time
See my whole world is built around him
he’s the life to my lines
I refuse to waste my life
he’s too true to chase that ice
here’s my gift of time
cause I’m constantly trying to be used to praise the Christ
If he’s truly raised to life,
then this news should change your life
then by his grace you should put your faith in a place that rules your days and nights

Identity shuns materialism (status, looks, makeup, cars etc.), as something to give us our identity. Lecrae raps that our identity is found in Christ instead. Guest Da Truth, gives the music a bit of his flavor. Its more gospel sounding than the rest of the album.

Live Free, starts out with a computerized voice which is sort of funny but I like it. there are variety of musical styles included, rapping and singing, and two guests Sho Baraka and Jai. Its about how as Christians we are free from sin and don’t have to fall into our old traps. The first half of the song Lecrae raps about different people who are Christians yet they are still don’t allow the Lord to rule their lives. The second part of the song (at about 3:00) is more powerful to me. A female voice continues with the chorus and adds some victorious melodies. The background music, in a minor key, blends with her voice. It sounds happy and sad at the same time, perhaps laced with regret and tired from the fight, but relieved to be free in the present. Over her singing, a male rapper adds with his tough voice that he now lives “free by his mercy and grade, tell the world I’m gone. Live free by his patience and peace, tell the flesh I’m gone. Live free by his joy and love, tell the lust I’m gone. Live free by his truth and his justice, tell the hate I’m gone.”

Rebel is a powerful album with 4-6 excellent songs, but there are 15 in all! Not all of them are as fabulous as the 4 I highligted, so for this I give it a 4 for quality.

Links: myspace, reach records

Jem, Down to Earth

Quality: 3

Clean: 3

Genre: Pop

Jem, Jem, Jem. She let me down again. Its Amazing, her first single off of Down to Earth, was uplifting, poppy and fun. It promised more than the album delivered. While musically more mature than her first album, It All Starts Here, her new endeavor is still more on the average side of the spectrum: not exciting, not exceptional, not what I had hoped.

As an album Down to Earth, has a clear theme, which not all pop albums have. The fact that there even is a theme shows forethought and creative direction. The theme itself however is sort of “we are the world”-“why can’t we get along”-“we are all goddesses”, which I find naive and tired. It’s Amazing, sounded good when it was a single, but Down to Earth, Keep on Walking, You Will Make it, and Got it Good all have similar messages, and it blends in with the rest of them. One way that Jem pushes her theme is singing in different languages and using different styles of instruments throughout the album: Japanese, South African and Spanish lyrics as well as influences from Latin, Brazilian, Gospel, piano, electronics, and different types of guitar. Jem’s crunchy, poppy, flavorful texture is a bit like Nelly Furtado or Natasha Bedingfield.

Overall musically, the album is well done, but on the average side of quality. The songs flow well together, draw from a diversity of references yet also have unity. Unfortunately, it lacks a certain pizazz. I give it a 3 for Quality.

Although they contain similar messages, I don’t want to discount that Jem has a number of inspirational or uplifting tracks on this album. The message from It’s Amazing, is repeated and expanded in other songs. Got It Good, summarizes the message well:

Got a soul, got a mind, got a heart that meats in time.You’ve got a smile, got a voice, got the gift of love. You’ve got it good, don’t forget how lucky you are. Darling, darling. Use it to connect with everyone.

She urges her listeners to stop their foolishness and use their talents for the good, to appreciate people for who they are, and to keep on walking.

When I ordered the CD on Amazon, I read a few reviews and I rememer one reviewer said he didn’t appreciate the cynical nature of many songs. I was curious but not put off enough to not order. There is indeed a cynical element to some of the songs. I Always Knew is about how Jem won’t let anything get in her way of getting to the top, including people making fun of her. Its the negative side of Keep on Walking– sometimes in order to keep on walking one must develop some calluses and toughen up. She insists she won’t go so far as to become a *ahem* and the toughening she does is all in the name of music but I’m sure there is also an aspect of pride.

Along with about three semi-swear words on the album, there is other questionable content. One song, I Want You To… is about meeting someone on the dance floor and what you want to do with them. Another song Aciiid!, probably the most dancable and radio-friendly song, is about a woman proudly inviting men to lust after her.

As an average (4 for her inspirational songs, 2 for the two questionable songs) I give the album a 3 for Clean. I also don’t recommend it for those who are looking for an album with zero offences