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Brooke Fraser “A Sides” Album Review

Brooke Fraser

Prime Cuts: Something in the Water, Shadow Feet, Albertine

Brooke Fraser is an enigma.  On one hand, she writes and leads some of Hillsongs' most Christ-exalting worship songs geared for the worship of the masses. Over the last 14 years, Fraser has crafted the soundtrack of corporate worship with tunes such as Hillsong UNITED's and Hillsong Worship's "Hosanna," "What a Beautiful Name It Is," "None But Jesus," "You'll Come," "Desert Song" among many others.  Many of her church-focused songs are never shy to be Jesus-saturated and Bible-drenched. Take a listen to Hillsong's "Incense (Sometimes by Step)," every phrase of this song's verses is gorgeously lifted directly from Holy Writ. 

On the other hand, when she writes songs for her own solo releases, they hardly ever mention the word "Jesus."  Though her own solo pieces are by and large Christian in nature, Scripture is at best echoed or alluded and seldom cited.  While her Hillsong songs are encompassing, written for all to understand and sing, the lyrics of her solo compositions are idiosyncratic and often require to be studied to be understood. So, if you approach the music of Brooke Fraser as a solo artist, you shouldn't think you are getting another dose of "Hosanna" or "Lead Me to the Cross."  Brooke Fraser as a solo artist is more introspective, complicated, artsy, and more peculiar than Brooke Fraser the Hillsong writer/worship leader. 

"A Sides" is a retrospective collection of Brooke Fraser the solo artist.  The disc covers a span of the last 14 years with some coming from all 4 of Fraser's solo releases with a new track "Therapy" thrown in.  Fraser's first two solo albums, "What to Do with Daylight" and "Albertine" get the lion's share, with 4 tracks lifted from each record.  These 8 songs represent Fraser in her more acoustic and roosty days where her songs were warmer and less mechanical.  Albeit many of her songs are more poetic than her Hillsong compositions, they were still mostly God or Bible focused.  "Shadow Feet," to this day, is still one of the best exposition that our days here on earth is just a "shadow" of the reality to come.  "Albertine" is the type of songs that get into your psyche and makes you want to be on our feet helping the orphans in our globe.

Her third album "Flags" is a turning point in Fraser's career.  Decidedly more upbeat and moving away from her folky roots, the album begins to encompass broader issues beyond faith and God.  "Something in the Water," the album's flagship single, with its whistles and finger snaps, is also Fraser's catchiest (and most commercial song) to date.  But the lyrics are so ambiguous that it could easily be taken as both a love song to another human being or to God.  "Betty," from the album, deals with the issue of the brokenness of the human soul without much attention paid to Christ's redemption.

2014's "Brutal Romantic" continues with this humanistic plunge.  "Kings and Queens," a track about our need to belong, is staunchly a secular song with some fringe allusions back to the lostness of humanity.  Moreover, with "Brutal Romantic," Fraser's music has become steely as she has ditched the warmer wooden instruments for big electronic beats. Lyrically, her latter songs, such as her new song "Therapy," have become more and more obscure, making them less and less palatable to the average listener.  Gone are the narrative frameworks, and what you have are loosely stringed phrases that keep you guessing, "What on earth is she singing about?" 

"A Sides" is an interesting project that chronicles the evolution of Brooke Fraser the solo artist.  Instead of moving towards clarity, warmth and greater Biblical insights, sadly, this record shows that Fraser is moving in the opposite direction.  One would wish Fraser the Hillsong writer/worship leader would offer Fraser the solo artist a hand or two to steer her towards becoming a more explicit Biblical/God-centered artist.   

 

 

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