MISHAWAKA—Ben Rector’s release on March 11, “The Joy of Music,” is his seventh album, not including his two live albums and his Christmas album, which is at an EP length. This is the first album to feature artists other than himself, including well-known rapper Snoop Dogg and saxophone legends Dave Koz and Kenny G. He always skirts on the edges of spiritual content in his songs and albums. In this album, he does this in “Supernatural” (feat. Dave Koz), and he forms a letter to someone I interpret as God in “Thank You.” He is a good example of an artist who is Christian, not a Christian artist.
First, this album has a theme besides spirituality and the supernatural: finding joy in music again, hence the apt title of the album. This finding joy is shown in the three-part music video he produced for his first three singles on this album. The joy shifts focus after the first three songs to joy in other things in his life, like his daughter in “Daughter,” God in “Thank You,” Sundays in “Sunday” (feat. Snoop Dogg) and his life in general in “Joy.”
For my music speak, I am going to shift to the lyrics again, but I will have a bit of genuine music speak here and there.
“Dream On”—This song starts soft and pensive in its orchestration with the piano and the voice, but later the orchestra adds texture as he enters the chorus. A kid’s chorus comes in later as he sings, “dream on.” The song ends in a different place than where it began.
“Supernatural” (feat. Dave Koz)—This song looks at a kind of faith that happens when realizing the general revelation of God through the world and focuses on a God who is alive.
“Living My Best Life”—It starts with a gospel choir and chords that feel resolute. The lyrics talk about how the best life that he lives now is not what he expected it to look like, but also how he is happy to live it.
“Steady Love”—I appreciate the bridge part of this song, where he talks about steady love versus wild and free love. Steady love will always support you, whereas wild and free love will not.
“Heroes”—This song is my personal favorite. It talks about missing the people who you look up to and who taught you how to live. It made me miss my own personal heroes in my life.
“Sunday” (feat. Snoop Dogg)—This was one of the most surprising features on the album, but I am happy it happened. Snoop provides a good feature, and it is a fast-moving song that feels like a Sunday.
“Thank You”—I believe and will continue to believe that this song is a letter to God, saying thank you for everything God has provided for Rector. Though he might not know what to say in prayer, he knows to say thank you.
“Daughter”—This song focuses on who he now prioritizes. He used to prioritize his career, but now he focuses on his daughter.
“Hanging Out” (Kenny G.)—This has an interesting message; it talks about living vicariously through stories and songs you know and slowing down to just hang out and rest.
“We Will Never Be This Young Again”—This shows the dichotomy between two dreams Rector had, one at 21 and one at 75. The message says to live the best you can now rather than waiting.
“It Would Be You”—This feels like a love song to his significant other, it has an 80s vibe to the instrumentation.
“Cliches” (feat. Taylor Goldsmith)—This song explores the cliches of the world and how to say them in a more authentic way.
“Joy”—When you have joy in your life, you can say goodbye to strife. I feel like this song encapsulates the message of the whole album.
Overall, I appreciated this album. While I did not particularly like every song, there are a few songs I will continue to play over the next few months like “Heroes,” “Joy,” and “Dream On.” Rector continues to produce good and encouraging tunes to sing when one is feeling down. In a joyful mood, he thanks everyone who helped him make this album and encourages those who have listened to this album to “be joyful.”