Prime Cuts: The Best is Yet to Come, When We Fall Apart, With Your Life
Overall Grade: 4/5
Listening to Ryan Stevenson's new album is like reading the book of Proverbs. Filled with lots of memorable lines of wisdom and truth, these songs are going to be make it into sermons and books in time. Who would not be arrested with lines such as: "But You come in between the stone throwers and me/You say I'm worth redeeming" or "The shadow's never overcome the light" or "Seems a little crazy to say/But I'm thankful everything didn't go my way"? When a song like "When We Fall Apart" opens with "You were 43 when you got the news..." You can't help but be drawn into the song's narrative. In a milieu where songwriters pander upon the trite and the pedantic, these songs are a breath of fresh air.
Stevenson doesn't just sing; rather, he creates stories and realities, where he invites us to step in so that we can experience God's love and joy in fresh and engaging ways. This explains why Stevenson is currently one of the hottest artists at CCM radio. He is releasing this new record with 5 top 10 hits and a #1 smash "Eye of the Storm" under his belt.
"Wildest Dreams" is Stevenson's ever-popular 2018 album "No Matter What." Leading the way is the release of the record's vanguard single "When We Fall Apart." This ballad contains a slice of biography as Stevenson writes this song at the 10th anniversary of his mother's death. A tearjerker of a song, "When We Fall Apart" even contains words from Stevenson's mother as she was dying from cancer. The heart gets another massage with album closer "With Your Life." This time around Stevenson tips his hat towards his dad. Don't expect it to be a sentimental Hallmark tribute; instead of spouting cliches, Stevenson thanks his dad for his deeds of love. The details are fascinating: Stevenson, for instance, thanks his dad for treating his mother like a queen.
The title cut "Wildest Dreams," a testimonial praise of God's sovereign care over Stevenson's life, deserves deeper pondering. Listen to how Stevenson sings about how God can use our disappointments to craft his perfect will is so liberating. Not to be missed is the pop-centric "The Best is Yet to Come." The infectious groove and the song's hopeful lyrics make this a must-hear. Those struggling from the weight of the current pandemic will be encouraged by the average-sounding beat ballad "Through It All" and the slightly contrived Gospel-ish "Amadeo (Still My God)."
Stevenson takes a recess from the overtly theological and deeply personal themes of the album with the fun-filled "My 90s." Those of us who grew up in the 90s will smile with delightful nostalgia as Stevenson sings about all things 90s: "CD's replacing my cassettes/It's so ironic Morrisette,/Why Sinead gotta shave her head...". This song again reminds us why this album is such a winner. Lyrics that thrive upon great attention to details and imagination plus melodies that are accessible and singable.