V.Rose is Moving Christian Music Forward
Posted August 17, 2011
By MarcusHathcock_NRT, Staff Reviewer
It's a very exciting time in Christian music. The genre has gone from being just a tad behind the musical trends of the day, to now matching—and exceeding—the sound, style and quality of its secular counterparts. Carrying the unashamed message of the Gospel no longer comes at the cost of musical and lyrical excellence.
Just this year, we've seen amazing strides taken in the pop/rock genre from bands like RED and newcomers Royal Tailor, and Beckah Shae's recent release, Destiny, is raising the bar for what Jesus-centered R&B/pop sounds like. So is new kid on the block V.Rose.
When talented hip-hopper Flame released his hit song, “Surrender,” the question that inevitably arose after listeners were blown away by the sheer awesomeness of that record was, “Who is singing on that track?” We wanted to hear more.
The honest, talented, undeniably urban yet delicate sound of V.Rose—the sound that earned her instant credibility with listeners—quickly garnered her a record deal with Flame's Clear Sight Music label. The result of that partnership is V.Rose's self-titled debut album, a project I believe continues Christian music's advancement.
Classy orchestral hits and acoustic guitar strums introduce the album with the song “Not So Average,” a song that talks about realizing how Jesus is the judge of beauty, not Hollywood, and He has already declared us beautiful. V.Rose delineates some of her quirks—“So what if my nail polish always chips?”—“It doesn't matter what you say, we're gonna do it God's way.” The sound and style is reminiscent of Mary J. Blige, but with more essence of bubble-gum.
After V.Rose states in her first song that she's not in this to be a star, she follows it up by declaring she's a “Christian Girl,” noting, “Gotta show the world where I get my confidence.” It's a confident song indeed, identifying herself as “a Christian girl, light of the world,” and saying she tells “all of my friends I'm born again; done with the sin, let me show you how to win.” She invites the DJ to spin tracks by her label-buddy Flame and Third Day, two admittedly very different tracks to rip at the club. Handclaps and electric guitars drive this song, which simultaneously evoke flavors of Ke$ha, Avril Lavigne and Mya.
The strongest, standout track of this album is “Battery,” a driving, club-friendly single that declares, “I feel His energy charging me like a battery every time my hands go up-up.” Fans of Britney Spears (and even a little hint of Miley Cyrus) would find a welcome bridge to unabashedly Christian music here. V.Rose is able to showcase her vocals powerfully, and it's the rhythmic nature of the song that allows her to add a little extra punch. The power-themed song states that V.Rose gets her energy and life from Jesus: “I'll tell them what you have me to say. Jesus, your name is power, you're the outlet I plug into. I just want to be used, electricity for Your city.” Flame turns out an impressive cameo rap in the third verse.
Completely changing gears, “Hater” is an Alicia Keys/Pink-like tune that begins with mid-tempo driving piano. It's a sort-of breakup song, with V.Rose telling an unnamed antagonist that her kicking him to the curb was due to his jealousy of her relationship with Jesus. “You hate Him and His love for me, but He's perfect and He's all I need … see what happens when you're a hater.” She later tells him that although he's “hot,” she says, “God made you everything you are, but you took it way too far.”
“Run That Way,” is a autotune-heavy, club style warning to flee evil. V.Rose testifies about the grip lies once had on her: “You had me locked away. I thought I'd never escape. I told you I was changed; you threw that in my face... but then one night I found out about His grace. He said He'd make a way, but I'd have to run away.” A companion to “Battery,” this is another one of the standout tracks on the album.
Piano and hip-hop beats propel “Dear Adam,” a slow-jam that is a letter from Jesus to Adam (or rather, the entire human race). The inspiring, Michael Jackson-esque R&B song says, “I just wanted you to know you can fly with wings like eagles; I can do the impossible.”
The heartstrings V.Rose pulled in that song are immediately and aggressively strummed at the start of the next track, “In Dependence.” This high-energy pop song talks about the facade of independence, telling stories of how seemingly self-sufficient, successful people are really falling apart inside. “So while everyone's trying to be just like her,” she says of a rock star referenced in the first verse, “I'll be who God wants me to be.” It's a cute, bubble-gum song, although the verses don't show off V.Rose's range and versatility like many of the other songs.
Dramatic, foreboding, orchestral synths provide the backdrop for the aggressive rap V.Rose delivers in “Girl, What U Lookin At!” The song is V.Rose's observations of a “hecka mean” diva who is hostile towards people trying to see who she really is. “Jesus wants to free you, but you have to say so,” she says. “So get your joy back and lose the diva act.” V.Rose delivers both the vocals and the rap confidently and with talent. This track makes me wish she attempted more rapping on the album.
“Let's Go Home” is the first outright Gospel slow-jam of the album, complete with piano bangs and jazzy bass. V.Rose has some Michael Jackson-esque moments as she talks about longing for heaven. Although lyrically amazing, this song is probably the weakest of the entire album. That said, it's pretty good if you can draw Michael Jackson comparisons on your weakest track.
“Love Pursuit” features John Katina of the group—you guessed it—the Katinas. It's a duet in which Katina portrays Jesus, and V.Rose portrays a woman who believes she's too unlovable for His grace. It's Gospel/R&B dialogue that addresses the questions and protestations people have when they encounter Jesus. “Even though you are unworthy, I have a plan to love you forever,” Katina sings. “But what if my heart should stray?” V.Rose asks. “Then I'll pursue you with love and grace,” Katina answers. It's a great song that pulls you in as it progresses.
A fantastic vocal performance drives the repentant song, “Forgive Me.” V.Rose really shows off her singing chops here, yet the song's tremendous R&B potential is robbed by the disjointed Gospel-meets-orchestra instrumentals, when a light beat and synth pad are required. I'm looking forward to a remix on this song, although V.Rose certainly should be commended for her performance here. The background just doesn't match her level here.
Closing the album is the emotional, dramatic recounting of Jesus' sacrificial death, “Cry Holy.” It's a powerful Gospel song that turns out another great vocal performance by V.Rose, vividly painting the picture of the crucifixion, as well as what it'll be like when she meets her Savior: “But when I do see Jesus, I won't ask Him why we die. I won't ask Him to explain the planets, I'll be spending all my time crying, 'Holy, Holy, Holy...'” It's an easy listening tune that wraps up the project by putting the focus on the greatest gift of all time.
A common trend in debut albums from multi-talented artists is to experiment with musical styles, to see where an artist is best received and most at-home. V.Rose's project does just this, pole vaulting from rock to pop to R&B to rap to straight-up, old-school Gospel.
It's impressive to see V.Rose take on each of these styles, and she really handles them all with excellence. The album does what it's supposed to, in that it discovers which styles she executes best. To that end, V.Rose is at her most potent when she's singing over dance club-ready jams like “Battery”, and “Run That Way.” She also showed glimpses of her strong rap and R&B chops with “Girl, What U Lookin At!” and “Dear Adam.”
These songs undoubtedly will be the singles released from V.Rose, and hopefully that means we'll see a sophomore album that explores these sounds more intently. In the meantime, though, this newcomer has given us an unashamed expression of the Gospel that is fresh, relevant, fun and competent. It's clear V.Rose is part of the advancement of Christian R&B in these times.
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