Prime Cuts: Great I Am, Kingdom Come, We Are Here for You
Overall Grade: 4.5/5
Dawn Michele's "Surrender" is a breath of fresh air. Too often worship albums fall into the same mechanical rut where they come across as being manufactured by the same music machine. They recycle far too many cliches and tropes that they all blend together without much distinction. But Michele's debut solo record deviates from such an assembly line of manufactured worship music. Maybe it's her background. For years, Michele was the front woman behind christian rock band Fireflight. Though she has abandoned the heavy pounding percussions and aggressive guitar-laden explosion of her former team, she brings an enticing rawness and urgency to her worship that really sets her apart from the countless Darlene Zschech-wanna-bes out there. Thanks to producer Rusty Varenkamp (Tenth Ave North, Ellie Holcomb, Jon Foreman), the songs are given further identity with Varenkamp's measured used of electronica to give these songs a more contemporary vibe.
"Surrender" almost didn't see the light of day. Michele tried to raise funds for this recording via PledgeMusic. However, with the collapse of the crowdfunding organisation, Michele was left in a financial pickle. By taking out a personal loan, Michele has fulfilled all her obligations to her fans who supported her in the first place. Despite all the faux pax, the album is quite good. Opening with a stately slow pace, Michele takes her time to lead us into a majestic chorus with the Elevation Worship-esque "Now and Forevermore." Michele delivers "We Are Here for You" with a commanding presence matched with a thudding beat declaring her trust in the Lord.
Frankly, lead single "I Surrender" is not the strongest track on the record despite the vocal contribution of Tim Timmons. "I Surrender" is a neo-soul ballad that doesn't have a strong enough melody with electronic percussion that is a tad intrusive. "Overcome," which incorporates electronica into worship, is okay. Better is the pensive beat-driven ballad "Kingdom Come." What makes "Kingdom Come" a standout is the way the song opens us up to God's working with faith and anticipation.
Michele does include a few covers: the first being Phillips, Craig and Dean's 90s hit "Great I Am." Michele certainly does the trio proud with a convincing rendition of this classic. Michele's Bjork-like rendition of "How Great Thou Art" certainly is innovative and fetching. While Andrew Peterson's "Is He Worthy?" (recently popularized by Chris Tomlin) gets a more pop-centric approach making it sound more contemporary with those elongated beats.
Michele certainly is not a follower. She breaks away from the countless worship teams out there by putting her own imprints on her songs. Never afraid of experimenting with new and different sounds, "Surrender" will make for an interesting experience. And with lots of God-focusing moments, "Surrender" will make our worship experience even richer and deeper.