Written by: Laura Chambers (August 1, 2018)
I used to wonder why so many artists self-titled their first albums. Thinking about it now, I suppose it serves to reinforce the name of a new artist in the mind of listeners. It would also seem to suggest that the album is a window to the heart and soul of the artist; all of the lessons they’ve saved up for this moment, the issues that resonate most strongly with them. That’s certainly true with Riley Clemmons. Her debut introduces us to a young woman of depth, substance, and strength.
We start off with “Hold On”, a bright and encouraging reminder to never let go of your faith, no matter how precarious your grasp may be. Riley assures us that surrendering to our problems can be our ruination. Above all else, we should never give up.
“Better For It” tells of a time when it seemed as though suffering was an unbearable punishment. Yet it’s only by looking back on the difficult times that we can see our struggles can refine us and draw us closer to God, becoming more of the person He wants us to become. We would be worse off without having gone through these things.
“Saving Me” checks off the “struggles with self-image” box for Riley’s album. Admitting to feeling the need to fit in, hide feelings, and the occasional critical attitude, she’s more than grateful for Jesus’s salvation, continuously renewing and restoring.
“Broke” confesses the shattered state of her soul without fear or shame to a God who sees the broken pieces and loves her anyway. We don’t have to hide the damage from Him to make Him care for us. His love makes up for whatever is lacking. Riley’s voice somehow manages to sound broken, like she’s been crying; something of the little girl inside every woman peeks out.
“Remember” appeals to hurting, scarred individuals to recall the God-given beauty and strength they possess, regardless of what others tell them. Silenced for so long, only their hearts could cry out. Especially timely given all of the women who are coming forward with their stories of abuse and pain these days.
“Running After You” confesses the pursuit of temporary, unsatisfying pleasures, coming to the realization that God was who she was chasing all along. There is no substitute for His love.
“Honest” gets vulnerable and truthful with someone who may believe that she’s got everything together. She recognizes that the person she’s speaking to may not want to hear what she’s saying, but it won’t stop her from admitting her own struggles.
“Broken Prayers” paints a picture of the supposed perfect prayers we believe we have to offer up. God doesn’t mind, and in some cases, prefers our raw emotions to a perfectly composed recitation. He values honesty and sincerity more than perfection.
“Drop Everything” depicts the strain of struggling under the weight of oppression and being surrounded by cacophony. Riley lets go of all the confusion and silences herself to surround herself with the peace and voice of God. The song displays the power in her voice to full effect; she transitions expertly from admissions of weakness to a burst of strength.
“You First” recognizes that something in her heart has changed and resolves to come to God before going anywhere else. She knows she shouldn’t have waited so long to be released from her burdens, but the important thing is that she’s chosen Him now. We tend to look at our outward appearance, but He sees deeper.
“I’ll Stay” admits that it’s hard to respond to the hurts of the world when so little of what’s happening makes sense. If all she can do is just stand beside the broken, then that’s what she’ll do, even if everybody else abandons them. I think this would make an excellent addition to a TV or movie soundtrack – one of those touching scenes where friends come together in a moment of crisis.
A piano-driven version of “Broken Prayers” completes this album.
From song to song, Riley Clemmons proves that she’s not afraid to be honest about her experiences and feelings. Her debut offers up a dose of sisterly kindness and Godly guidance with every spoonful; she is both friend and fellow soldier in the war against doubt and fear. Stand-out tracks include “Better For It”, “Broke”, and “I’ll Stay”, particularly the last one.
Released: August 3, 2018
Label: Sparrow Records / Capitol CMG
- Hold On (3:49)
- Better For It (3:16)
- Saving Me (3:06)
- Broke (3:23)
- Remember (3:05)
- Running After You (3:10)
- Honest (2:59)
- Broken Prayers (3:13)
- Drop Everything (3:55)
- You First (3:15)
- I’ll Stay (3:51)
- Broken Prayers (Piano Version) (3:06)
12 Tracks, 40:08
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