Nichole Nordeman: A ‘Brave’ New Girl
By Jennifer E. Jones
Where in the world is Nichole Nordeman?
The singer/songwriter who’s drawn comparisons to Sarah McLachlan and Sara Groves amazed the Christian music industry with her heart-breakingly honest 1998 album Wide Eyed. Then she helped us let go and embrace God's greatness in her follow-up albums, This Mystery and Woven & Spun. Her Live at the Door recorded in Dallas, Texas, was just enough to tide us over.
Then she disappeared…
“I took some time off from the world of music making and touring, because God decided to take my very well ordered and comfortable life and blow it to smithereens by surprising [myself and my husband] with a baby,” she wrote in her liner notes.
Although being a mommy for the first time stretched her farther than she ever imagined she could go, the result is a new Nichole and a deeper appreciation for God’s underlying strength. In Brave, her fourth studio album, she resurfaces from her sabbatical with a confidence that only comes from leaning on the Lord.
Fans of Nichole’s fancy ivory tickling will not be disappointed. Musically Nichole is where she’s always been – dancing around perfection. The title track bursts into the album with a quaint piano melody that turns into a peppy contemporary mix. She keeps it blissfully simple in “What If” and “We Build” letting the keys take center stage in a motion that is reminiscent of “Why” from This Mystery.
Before you think that this album is too similar to its predecessors, Nichole shows her bravery. She sings Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody” with a synthesized beat and bass line that gives her a touch of funk. Although famed producer Charlie Peacock did not lend his talents to this Nordeman project as he has in the past, this cover has hints of his influence with its digital, new wave sound.
Nichole’s power always lies in her songwriting. She writes lyrics that are masterfully constructed yet concise. She wraps up the complexity of the human experience in a few words that leave you saying, “Yeah, that’s exactly how I feel.” This album is full of lines that make you stop and think, such as “We are born to be unsatisfied”. Her role as a delicate wordsmith brings out Nichole’s message of unabashed acceptance of God’s grace.
The most moving song on the album is “Hold On” in which Nichole details the different turns that life can take and how God “finds” us in them all. From “the bottom of the bottle” to “when the locks have changed again”, she sings softly of reassurance. “Baby don’t look down, it’s a long way / The sun will come around to a new day / So hold on… Love must believe you are worth it”.
The album is summed up on the title track. “So long status quo / I think I just let go / You make me want to be brave / The way it always was / Is no longer good enough”. Whether it was written for the new son who brightened her life or the God who carried her through, the lyrics can resonate in your soul if you let them.
If you prefer piano- and lyric-driven music, you’re not going to find many artists who are as consistently pleasing as Nichole Nordeman. The strength in her talents is soft and almost subtle enough to miss. However, for a gentle reminder that God is faithful no matter how life changes, it doesn’t get much better than this.
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