Prime Cuts: Run the Race, Sailing, Bruises
Overall Grade: 3.5/5
"Human" is conterminously an appropriate titular as well as the most incongruous title for Holly Starr's latest release. Given that many of the songs reflect Starr's own personal life, such as her recent marriage ("Umbrella") and recent passing of her grandmother ("Sailing"), this album is most aptly titled in this regard. No song on this record is ever devoid of Starr's personal fingerprints. However, despite the personal touches on the songs, producers Matthew Parker and David Thulin of DREAM Records, as well as Bryan Fowler have imbued these songs with a steely electronic sheen, making Starr sound robotic in many instances. Worst case in point is the Matthew Parker remix of the single "Run the Race" (which is also the last song on this record). Here Starr sounds almost like a computer. In this regard, "Human" is the most ill-titled record in Starr's catalogue.
Now, before we give more exposition on the above two observations, one should say a word first about Starr. Over the last few years, Starr has garnered two Top 25 radio hits and her music videos and video blogs have collectively earned more than 4.4 million views to date. She has also been featured on FOXNews.com and in the pages of CCM Magazine, among other respected media. In addition, Starr has graced the stages of numerous high-profile Christian festivals, including Creation Festivals and Unity Fest, to name a few. "Human" follows her three critically-acclaimed projects: "Tapestry" (2010), "Focus"(2012) and "Everything I Need"(2015).
The album opens with the bright pop-centric "Bruises." Though the lyrics which speaks of our value before God despite our bruises chart no new ground, the crisp beats and the flowing melody ought to secure Starr a radio hit. "Run the Race," the album's best song, showcases Starr's Herculean vocal muscles. But like the rest of the songs here, Starr's gorgeous vocals are hidden behind incessant computerized drum beats. And with a voice as powerful as hers, is there a need for auto-voicing? Why not allow her voice to rip and tear through the notes?
While her previous record was more worship focused, this album does have songs that pay tribute to her relations. "Umbrella" (not the Rihanna song but a Starr original), for instance, is a delightful ode to her recently wedded husband. And "You and I" celebrates Starr's bond with her brother. "Sailing," a song recorded by Starr on the morning of her grandmother's funeral, is the song least cluttered. Almost sounding folky with an understated acoustic guitar underpinning, "Sailing" is the most "human" song on the set. A moving tribute about her grandma who sailed to the US from Morocco, the song verges on being a touching tear jerker.
Shame on the production. But as far as the songs are concerned, there's nothing but praise: they are thoughtful, moving and intimate.