Prime Cuts: If We're Honest, Write Your Story, When the Crazy Kicks in
If we're honest, Francesca Battistelli's new album is one that will go into unfathomable terrains. It's the time of album you can suggest as a Christian alternative to friends who love Sara Bareilles or the Civil War without any hint of embarrassment. Battistelli knows how to blaze the trail between top 40 pop and CCM with her slick, polished and hook-laden tunes. It's also the type of records that will appeal to those who like bop around to the latest beat as well as those who don't like their ears blasted by a wall of drum and guitar sounds. Battistelli is wizened enough to strike a balance between summery upbeat burners and introspective piano-led ballads. And for those who like to get their money's worth of music, the deluxe version of "If We're Honest" runs for over 50 minutes with a whopping 14 songs (though the standard version only has 11 songs).
Starting off arrestingly is the ubiquitous lead single "Write Your Story." Ornate with a pulsating electronic drum beat over a catchy tune, "Write Your Story" is a prayer of surrender to God's lead as Battistelli sings: "I'm an empty page/I'm an open book/Write Your story on my heart/Come on and make Your mark." If there's ever a follow-up to Battistelli's break through hit "I'm Letting Go," it has to be "When the Crazy Kicks in." Featuring a similar enthralling hook "When the Crazy Kicks in" speaks of the need for us to carve out time for God in our crazy busy lives. Offering more Godly wisdom is "He Knows My Know." Instead of grounding our identity in the accolades of life, "He Knows Your Name" finds God as one who shapes of our values:" I don't need my name in lights/I'm famous in my Father's eyes/Make no mistake/He knows my name."
"Choose to Love" shifts lanes from CCM pop to an insularly jeep funk groove as Battistelli tells us to be more deliberate in the way we live out the Gospel. Featuring a relaxed Battistelli singing an infectious "la la la" tag, "Unusual" has a Beach Boys rollicking vibe. While the piano introduction of "Run to Jesus" brilliantly builds up to a full-fledged power chorus showcasing once again what a stellar vocalist Battistelli is. Nevertheless, the album's centerpiece has to be the title cut "If We're Honest." Backed only by a stark piano, "If We're Honest" is a soul-searching ballad that invites us to look through the crevices into our hearts to our mistrusts and doubts.
Yet, if there's any constructive criticism to be directed at the record, it's that the album comes across as being too eager to please CCM radio. As a result the songs can come across as being far too polished and slick. At times the desperate search for a distinguishable hook and its busy use of looping drum machines tend to make the music a tad too predictable. Other than this, "If We're Honest" is one of those albums that has an encompassing appeal. It's the type of album that you can listen to riding in the car on a summer afternoon with the windows rolled down. And yet it's spiritually deep enough that will get us ruminating, drawing us closer to the Savior.