An Album Review: “Still” by Steven Curtis Chapman
- Was that doubtful whisper right? Does he still have stories to tell? Spoiler alert, he does, and he puts it all out there for the sake of the call.
Still, Perhaps the Best Yet!
“Can he do it again?” It was the ever-present whisper Steven Curtis Chapman heard as he wrestled with his new album, Still. With all the victories and tragedies he has experienced in his thirty-five years in the industry, Steven admits to feeling doubts as he starts this new chapter.
With deep roots in the orchard of Christian Contemporary Music – five GRAMMY awards, forty-nine No. 1 singles, fifty-nine GMA Dove Awards, and eleven million album sales – was that doubtful whisper right? Does he still have stories to tell? Spoiler alert, he does, and he puts it all out there for the sake of the call.
Still is a first hand conversation between God and Steven, and by default the listener. He talks of how there is more to this life than the failures or challenges of your past. There is hope, grace, joy, forgiveness, and little bits of heaven in the real world.
Steven testified to God’s faithfulness in the title track, Still. “The word ‘still’ really emerged out of all the pain and chaos and confusion of the last years,” Steven shares. “I had to silence the voices, sit down with my guitar, and write whatever was stirring in me, let it come out however it came out.”
The opening verse of Still is a poignant telling of God leading him to the high reaches, to look out and say, “Wherever this journey takes you, just trust me, I’m already there.” To see Chapman step out in response to this, and take this artistic journey, brings real encouragement and hope to those wondering if they can do the same.
Still starts with competing syncopated arpeggiation that creates musical tension. The chorus is big and bold, reminiscent of Dive from Speechless (1999) and the title track of The Great Adventure (1992). The bridge has Steven declaring God’s faithfulness, which is reflected in the rest of the album.
The following track, Don’t Lose Heart, pairs well with the title track. This anthem shouts out how we can have courage and boldness because of God’s faithfulness. The lyric, “These afflictions that are only temporary, are gonna turn to glory beyond compare,” holds real weight given the hardships Steven has faced. Declarations of hope from those who have suffered great loss are a balm to those in the midst of hardship.
Kindness is Steven’s plea to heal the world using this simple fruit of the spirit. He makes an effective apologetic for such a simple solution, referencing scripture in several stanzas. It is clear Steven has put a lot of thought into the lyric construction of Kindness. He pairs it with a conservative musical backdrop so the lyrical content comes through. “It’s Jesus’ kindness that drew us in,” Steven says. “Kindness is a deep conviction for me.” Songs like this could fuel a movement to overcome the chaos of this world, using something as simple as kindness.
Steven also steps out with the song Living Color. There is little that can be said to do this powerful song justice. Simply put, it’s a must listen to. I will say this: Christian artists should follow Steven’s lead with songs like this.
Steven says Still is produced with his “dream team”, Brent Milligan, Ben Shive, Brian Fowler, Micah Kuiper and his sons Caleb and Will. This team has put together a solid recording, starting with the short TikTok friendly introit, Welcome Back to Wonder, that clocks in at 1:45.
The mix is solid, with a variety of instrumentation from song to song, fitting for the construction and intent of each piece. There is depth to the sound using pads and keys alongside acoustic piano and guitar. Several breaks bring tension and release, and each song takes you on a journey, however…
A shortcoming of this album is song length. Steven’s production team seems reluctant to violate the three minute rule of pop song production with several songs ending before they are really over. Granted, this follows the trend of many pop-songs that are mercifully short. Because of that trend streaming algorithms favor songs hovering at the three minute mark. But when you have soul bearing songs, anthems of encouragement and faith, and testimonies to Gods grace, the creativity should not come second to the algorithm. Don’t let the world set the standard for art declaring God’s Glory. Anthems like Don’t Loose Heart and I’m Alive, and power ballads like Kindness, and Love Now, need to run free like a herd of wild horses on the open plains.
Steven’s willingness to share his pain and struggles, the lessons he’s learned, and experiencing Gods grace, infuse this project. He has a story to tell and he tells it well. As he has so many times, Steven Curtis Chapman takes us on a great adventure, and this could be his best one yet.
This soul searching and courageous project is a welcome and needed testimony.
Let the songs play out to their true completion.
More by Christopher Watson
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Christopher Watson is an author of six books, both fiction and non-fiction. He is also a musician and composer with a B.A. in Music from Azusa Pacific University. For several years Christopher led worship at The Springs Church while attending Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas Texas. He's been involved with worship in a number of churches in California and the Pacific Northwest both as a musician and in production and technology. Now he lives and writes in Washington State with his amazing wife, wonderful daughters, and highly intelligent dog, Ellie Mae.