Music Review: The Unmaking

Music Review: The Unmaking

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I have to start with a disclaimer on how biased this review will be. Nichole Nordeman’s music has impressed me ever since I could understand the things she was talking about in her songs.  The truth written in her songs has seemed to be playing on repeat in the background of whatever spiritual season I’m in, because her music is so applicable to my life. The passion she has as she plays piano and sings inspires me as a pianist and musician, and the magic she uses to spin her lyrics in the way she does is so stunning to me.

I know none of it is “magic”, but that it’s all a gift from God. I am so thankful for this kind of music in my life. So, without further delay, the music review of Nichole Nordeman’s newest release: The Unmaking EP. Since I am such a sold-out Nichole Nordeman fan, I had no hesitation in buying this EP without listening to any of the songs. However, I’ll give you some of her credentials before telling you to buy this thing right away. 😉

Nichole Nordeman is a critically acclaimed (*ahem* especially by this critic) contemporary Christian artist who has been in the industry since 1998, when she released her first album, Wide Eyed. Shortly following was This Mystery in 2000, Woven & Spun in 2002 (my personal favorite), then finally, Brave in 2005. She has been part of collaborations like Music Inspired By The Story (which inspired her book, Love Story) and “Beautiful For Me” since then, but up till now, there haven’t been any new studio records from her in ten long years. She’s been well missed.

The EP’s sound from the first listen is summed up easily with the word pop. It’s a little on the glossy, glamorous side, with vocals that are very “finished” sounding and a put-together combination of instruments. I was worried at first that this EP would be too short for me. I’m used to full-length albums from Nichole Nordeman, and so an EP was kind of a surprise, but it’s also a promise of more songs to come. And, even though I had my doubts at first, when I dug into the lyrics of The Unmaking, I was pleasantly reassured by the fact that the music isn’t as shallow as most pop Christian songs are.

I love the opening title track. The artist is standing “where the walls gave way”, in the rubble of what she had tried to do to look the part of a good person, to have it all together: “Every stone I laid for You / As if You had asked me to / A monument to Holy things / Empty talk and circling / Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?” Isn’t this what we’re completely full of? Empty talk and fake worship?

“What happens now? When all I’ve made is torn down? What happens next? When all of You is all that’s left?” These are the questions we face when we’re stripped bare and vulnerable before God, with nothing to hide behind. “This is the unmaking.” We have to lose ourselves to find out who He is.

She “gathers the same stones” she used to build the just-for-show altar to God to build Him a new altar, because “what stood before was never Yours”. 

This is something I know in my head, but don’t usually believe in my heart. Unmakings hurt. To build false altars, to worship Him only with my mouth, is so much easier than being the true, sincere worshipper who does it from the heart. Raw worship means letting go of everything so all of Him is all that’s left. Lord, show me how to find this “beauty in the breaking”. 

“Not To Us” is another really good, thought-provoking song. Much like “The Unmaking”, the song starts out with a message of “Every image of ourselves that we create / Every dream / Built on sand / Every castle slips away when tides come in.” The opening verse in Psalm 115, which inspired this song, says:

“Not to us, Yahweh, not to us, but to Your name be glory because of Your faithful love, because of Your truth.”

Because of everything He has done, and because of His grace, does He deserve glory. So “let us not imagine / That we might have a hand in where the wind blows / Where grace goes.” 

This song features Plumb, who surprisingly works really well in the song. I wondered about it, because Plumb’s voice is remarkably similar to Nichole’s, so I figured it would be like hearing all the same person. But the uniqueness of both vocalists comes through, and the harmony is beautiful.

The bridge, though good, was really deep, and I had to break down the lyrics a little.“No walls / No greed / No color / No creed / No right / No left / All You / No less.” Let me show you what I came up with.

  • No walls: no “no’s” to God. Nothing is held back, and He gets the glory for everything.
  • No greed: the glory is not mine, so it’s not my place to hunger after, chase after, and be obsessed with gaining the glory. End of story.
  • No color: no separation, no pride, no segregation of any people. The glory is deserved by none of us; we all owe it to God, so to put ourselves higher than anyone for any reason is wrong.
  • No creed: I don’t have the right to place myself on a pedestal because I’m a Christian. I glorify the one true God, and though I don’t believe any other religion leads to freedom, that’s not a reason to make me better than anyone else, because Christ loves everyone and He loved me when I was His enemy. There can be no separation.
  • No right and no left: there’s no way around this. I will go straight on the narrow path, and that means no loopholes to gain that little piece of glory.
  • All You, no less: He deserves absolute, not anything less than total and perfect, glory. All the renown, all the exalting. Nothing less.

This song is so convicting on so many levels. This is a lesson I’ll be trying to learn my whole life, because you really don’t want to know how bad I am at it right now! It’s a prayer we’re all praying, sometimes with hands open in the “yes”, sometimes with hands clenched in the “no”.  Not to us, Yahweh, not to us, but to Your name be the glory. 

“Name” is very pop-ish. It’s a retelling of the salvation story for an individual, almost like Nichole is talking to her younger and current self: “You are still a promise / Heartbeat of God / You may have forgotten / But He has not / You are not your ashes / You are a flame / Do not ask the shadows / The Light of the world knows / Knows your name”. This is an upbeat song, a good reminder on a rough day, but it’s a not my favorite song on the record. The second verse of this song is really important, talking about doubting salvation. This issue is something we all have, questioning whether we’re really saved, but like this song says, we’re still His, and He has not forgotten us.

“Love You More” may be my favorite song on the record. Much like the beautifully written songs in Music Inspired By The Story, Nichole tells the stories of failures and second chances throughout the Bible:

You said, “go and sin no more,” / Though my eyes could not meet Yours / I started running the third time the rooster crowed

You threw a party just for me / Though I squandered everything / I was blinded in the middle of the road

Climbed up in a tree to see You / Swallowed by the sea to flee You / Sold You for a little silver and a kiss

Killed a man to love his woman / Burned a bridge back to Your garden / Hung beside You while you took Your final breath

I love this. The Bible is jam-packed with stories like this – failures who need another chance to “love Him more”. I may as well be every one of these.

“You’ve been loving me since time began / You’re behind my every second chance” is the next line, going into a chorus of “I love You / I’m trying to / Love You more”. This is really beautiful. I love the way the song unfolds, and the prayer it holds. “I’m ready / Please help me / Love You more”. This is what I want to become my daily prayer, to love Him more wholeheartedly every day.

“Something Out Of Me” comes in close second, I think. 😉 Like “Name”, it’s definitely pop, but the lyrics are so great. “Just You and me on a hillside / And 4,999” brings me back to the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000. The reference is back in the chorus: “You take all kinds of nothing / And turn it right into something / I see impossible but / You see a basket full of / A little bit of ‘this sounds crazy’ / A little bit of ‘just maybe’ / You take every doubt and / You make something out of me.” The tune is catchy and overall, I love the song for the message the lyrics hold.

And the last but most tear-jerking tune, “Slow Down”*sighs* It sends chills down my arms every time I hear it. The song is written to her kids, who are growing up way too fast: “Slow down / Won’t you stay here a minute more? / I know you want to walk through the door / But it’s all too fast / Let’s make it last a little while?” Listen to the whole thing . . . it’s priceless.

So there is my completely biased review, endless rantings that really need cut down about Nichole Nordeman. Please check out the EP . . . it’s a winner in my eyes and I think you’d like at least one song, too. 😉