Tragedy Into Testimony
Posted January 18, 2017
By CaitlinLassiter_NRT, Staff Reviewer
Few debut albums have stayed on repeat for me as long as David Dunn's Crystal Clear did. The 2015 release caught me off guard with just how sure David's sound was right off the bat, not wandering and searching as debut projects often feel, but already mature and figured out. Radio hits "Today Is Beautiful" and "Have Everything" introduced listeners to his bright, high-energy pop sound and unique, captivating voice. In my review of that album, I noted that it was full of "dynamic melodies, remarkable vocals and memorable hooks," and two years later, it's still a record I can't get enough of.
His sophomore album Yellow Balloons drops February 17, and it more than meets the expectation for what a follow-up from such a promising artist should be. Showcasing many of the same elements that made his debut a home-run, it also displays a bit of an evolving sound, proving David is still growing as an artist.
Behind the catchy hooks and fun pop vibes is the deeply personal story that inspired the whole album, a story of loss and grief for David and his family. About a year and a half ago, David stopped by his sister's house before a rare hometown show to visit his nieces. His sister put them down for a nap soon after, but the youngest--only two years old--never woke up. A tragedy that no one could have seen coming, David channeled his sorrow into this album. This makes Yellow Balloons not only a heartfelt collection of songs that center on childlike faith and the beauty of Heaven, but also a collection of songs that fans can know without a doubt David poured his soul into.
Percussive "Kingdom" opens the album with heavy beats and focuses on the reality that the Kingdom of God is living in us, and we bring Heaven down to earth every time we treat each other as Christ would have us do. Lyrically honest and faith-filled "Open Arms" carries the same alluring sound and vocal that we came to know in Crystal Clear: "Could it be that You can see me in the dark / that the brokenness in me won't close Your open arms?"
Taking a short break from the high-energy, "Grace Will Lead Me Home," a mellow worship moment, is a bit unusual for his normal style but suits him extremely well. David has admitted that because the track was outside of the scope of what he normally creates, he almost pitched to someone else, yet it ends up being a definite highlight on this album.
Lively "I Don't Have To Worry" is another personal favorite as it carries over many elements from his debut that I loved: his seamless vocals that soar above every lyric with ease, a chorus that quickly gets stuck in your head and a catchy melody you can't help but be drawn to. Another chill track, piano-led "Vacation" calms the mood with a message of rest and finding solace in Christ alone. Synth-soaked "Masterpiece" brings us back to the sonic creativity and pop tones that David's music hold so well as the underlying message hits with deep impact: "You make a symphony from broken melodies / You do it beautifully / You take the mess of me and make it a masterpiece."
Adventuring into even more new sonic territory, "History" is a fun, attention-grabbing listen from start to finish, much like "Ruins," a nearly EDM-sounding reminder and encouragement that God uses our broken pieces to build something beautiful.
The lead single and title track that close out the album are perhaps the best example of how sonically diverse David's music is becoming. Current radio single "I Wanna Go Back" is a vibrant, nostalgic-filled moment as David lyrically longs for the simpler days when childlike faith was all he knew and believing Christ's love was much easier. The title track stands in contrast as an emotionally heavy account of the loss of his niece. The ballad, which David struggled to write with his sister over the course of eight difficult months, chronicles the tragedy and the unimaginable sorrow behind it with incredible honesty and heartbreaking depth. A moving and memorable tribute to his niece, you'll no doubt need tissues to get through this one as the grief is still palpable in every line he sings.
The Bottom Line: David's voice alone is a good enough reason to listen to Yellow Balloons, but the heavy beats, heartfelt writing and unforgettable hooks make it an album you just can't ignore. Knowing the backstory behind the whole theme and the vulnerability it required for David to write these new songs, I appreciate them all the more, and I expect his fans will too. He channeled his personal grief into every inch of this project. A true showcase of the remarkable creativity and mature artistry that has made David Dunn one of the best CCM has to offer right now, Yellow Balloons is a definite success for a sophomore album.
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