Posted January 13, 2014
By SarahFine_NRT, Staff Reviewer
Labeling 22-year-old Jamie Grace as an overnight success might seem a bit far fetched, but when you go from an average Atlanta teenager trying to get a break in the music industry to being discovered and signed by TobyMac, dominating the airwaves of Christian radio, and being crowned GMA's New Artist of the Year in less than 12 months, how else would you describe it?
Short yet loaded, Jamie's career exploded after the release of her 2011 debut One Song At A Time, which produced the mega-hit "Hold Me." Since then, it has been a whirlwind of dreams coming true for the guitar wielding, cowboy boot wearing songstress (who has a not-so-secret fetish for Reba McEntire).
All eyes were on Jamie once more as the long-awaited news of her sophomore follow-up, Ready To Fly, went public. To say the standard is high would be underplaying the obvious. This is the real question on all of our minds: does it live up to the "Hold Me" hype?
Right from the get-go, Ready To Fly offers shades of her debut. A short guitar twinged prelude titled "So Amazing" transitions into the bubbly pop single "Beautiful Day," with guest vocals by producer and mentor TobyMac. It's eerily reminiscent of how One Song At A Time opens up, but it is a formula that seems to suit her well.
This doesn't means Jamie can't hold her own, however. As a matter of fact, she more than proves herself as a solo singer/songwriter on more than one occasion. "Fighter" rises to the top as an upbeat power anthem based on her battle with Tourette syndrome, which she was diagnosed with as a teen. The song, birthed from her own struggle, also goes out to all the men and women fighting their own battles. The lyrics encourage them to face their conflicts as conquerors through Christ, listing their courage as a reason to keep believing.
"To Love You Back" is a profound moment of Divine adoration, combining the beautiful chemistry of Jamie's maturing vocals alongside an illuminating piano arrangement.
Perhaps the biggest highlight on the album comes from the powerful track "The Waiting." Co-written with Natalie Grant, the song speaks openly about the inner turmoil and doubt that is often paired with waiting on God's timing. This song proclaims that though His time-frame may not always make sense to us, we can be assured that He is faithful, and through our tested patience, He will never let us go: "All of the questions, secret confessions, Lord, You make sense of it all / And I know You'll show up, so I'm letting go of these thoughts that are taking control / This is the waiting."
Known for her outspoken and often quirky views on dating and purity, two tracks on the topic get a much welcomed feature, and it just so happens that both are duets. "Just A Friend," featuring Manwell of Group 1 Crew, is written from the perspective of a lovesick schoolgirl wondering if her crush will ever notice her existence, with Manwell's perfectly timed rap stepping in as an older brother of sorts, encouraging the lyrical protagonist to hold out for the guy who will treat her like a princess.
The second and my favorite of the two, "White Boots," comes from a slightly more grown-up point of view. Featuring Jamie's older sister and musician in her own right, Morgan Harper Nichols, the unashamed pop/country song complete with twangy guitars talks about the beauty of waiting and being able to walk into marriage completely guilt free. Normally a topic that can get cheesy really fast in a song, Jamie and Morgan (who just so happen to have a country side project called HarperStill) make it something to walk away from with a smile and an "amen."
Closing out the 13 track project is a song fans of the singer most likely already know. The album's namesake "Ready To Fly (Avery's Song)" was the original prelude used on her first album, but this time it appears as a full length track. The song is dedicated to an 11-year-old fan of Jamie's named Avery who died in a tragic car accident in 2012. The original version, written about Jamie coming of age, was played at Avery's funeral, and takes on a whole new meaning as the lyrics now represent the frailty of our lives on earth and how we need to seize the one chance we're given at life to soar for a greater cause.
Ready To Fly is a self-portrait of sorts, impeccably highlighting just how much Jamie Grace has grown in the two and a half years since her debut, both as an artist (her vocals have grown notably stronger) and as a songwriter. While her lyrics still sound youthful and maybe even a tad girlish at times, it's hard not to notice many of the more matured themes being touched on here, namely in songs like "The Waiting" and "Fighter."
Don't go thinking this means doom and gloom is the forecast. Far from it! Clearly on another level lyrically, Jamie's upbeat and diverse sonic sensibilities provide enough fun to appeal to all ages, especially her teenaged audience. In a market saturated with promiscuity and controversy, Jamie's brazen themes of hope, love, and purity serve as a breath of fresh air, becoming something both youth and their parents can enjoy.
It looks as if another successful chapter in the story of Jamie Grace's overnight career is about to take flight. Let's hope this is only the beginning.
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