With great talent, comes great responsibility. Few people are blessed with the incredible understanding of how music works and what makes a song, and then the ability to play all of the instruments that make a song good. Jermaine Bollinger is a rare talent and someone that has all of these abilities. Gifted with prolific writing skills, the ability to play and sing, produce, record, Jermaine recently released a brand new record: The Great Unknown. Not by any means a first record, this is one of several releases Jermaine has put out there, many of which can be found on CDBaby. The Great Unknown is rock based worship with leanings towards CCM. This comes along with some changes in his personal life towards making a career as an artist, instead of just a worship leader.
First listen of this record, it’s easy to be impressed by the sheer talent that oozes from each track and there’s a lot of it. The guitars, the production, the drums, the songs are catchy, it sounds good. The second listen, I started to get worn down by the onslaught of talent. It felt as if every single track was undercut by the need to show how talented the people performing the songs are. Yes, those people are good, but I want to reflect on how great God is, not necessarily the musicians performing the songs. The lyrics are well written, they exemplify how good God is, and I really want to enjoy them because they are good, but after a few tracks with every! single! word! and! phrase! being punctuated by cymbals, and every single second being occupied by a sound, there’s no rest, no release for the ears, except to turn it off, which is the last thing you want a listener to do. It felt like every track started at a 9.5 on a dynamic scale of 10. Listening to previous albums, there is more breath, more space, more thought, less rushed.
Many of the melodies in The Great Unknown are predominantly linear, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but leans towards unmemorable when songs are filled with biblical cliches. Cliches aren’t a bad thing, many popular and classic songs are filled with them, and it’s good to sing words from the bible, but a song filled with cliches must have an undeniable memorable melody. As a songwriter, it’s their job to enlighten the listener and think about something they’ve sung or read a thousand times or heard in church every other Sunday, in a way that enriches their walk with God in a new way, whether it’s melodically or lyrically. In songs like ‘My Heart Will Go On,’ or the worship song ‘Revelation Song’ cliches or scripture abound, but the melody is what dominates and brings newness to something said a million times.
There are some really good songs that are overshadowed by over enthusiastic production. “No Looking Back,” “Holy,” “I Owe It All,” “I Belong to You,” and “The Great Unknown.” These songs are good, but I think Jermaine Bollinger can push himself towards great. I think he has the potential to slow down the writing process and really think about what makes a song great, take a breath (or several), find rest and meditate on Psalm 46:10, instead of pushing pen to paper before all the ink runs out. Great talent, great responsibility.
Jermaine Bollinger and his wife have a residence in Carbondale, Illinois.
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