Love Reality


My #3 Album

in 2011


in 2010

on in:cite Records

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This page was first posted July 1, 2012

My introduction to Charmaine was at a Rebecca St. James concert in 2001 at my alma mater, Anderson University, where she performed a song.  (I also was introduced to Rachael Lampa there, who was the opening act.)  I bought Charmaine's debut album, All About Jesus, and it became one of my top 5 albums of 2002.

Then I heard nothing from her for years.  Suddenly, one day I got an email -- how, I don't know -- that Charmaine had a new album out!  I was interested in checking it out, since it's been hard in recent years to find any Christian music.  I went to Amazon and found something very interesting in the customer reviews:  There was review after review by metal heads who said they hate pop music, but they like this album.  Wow!  That really piqued my curiosity.  I found her website, where I could hear song samples.  I was blown away.  Charmaine's album clearly had a CCM sound, but this new album was top-notch produced pop music.

So I bought the album!  And I was not disappointed at all!  The pop-hating metal heads were right -- this is one fantastic pop album!  It is very richly produced, but unlike what happens with way too many albums with lots of production, Charmaine does not get lost in the production.  I have heard too many albums that were over-produced.  This is more richly produced than even those albums, yet it is not over-produced.  Every sound adds to the music rather than being superfluous.

I have been delighted to find some musical surprises in the album.  The title track has a glockenspiel in the interlude…yes, a glockenspiel! When's the last time you've heard a glockenspiel in pop music? How uncool…er, it has been, but it sounds great here. Another surprise was in the song "Tokyo," in which one part of the melody uses triplets!  I grew up in the days of birth for contemporary Christian music, when anything rock or current pop was suspect in the church as being too worldly, but for me, rock music was natural and that old church music was so square.  One thing that appeared in some of that "square" music was triplets.  So uncool!  And I haven’t heard them in rock or pop music.  But triplets appear here in "Tokyo," and I just love how they fit!  Surprise #2!

The third surprise comes in the song "Not Fair," where a glissando is used, totally unexpected, and something else you don't hear much in pop music.  Finally, in the album's closing song, "Revolutionary Thought," a musical surprise comes in the skipping of two beats at a couple points in the song.  That unexpected dropping of two beats creates a striking effect.


So there's rich, lovely production here with musical elements that have largely been ignored in pop music for decades, but appear here in ways that work perfectly.

Now, the reason I seek out Christian music is that I want music that helps me connect with God in the busyness of my day.  How does Charmaine's album stack up in that regard?  Well, here it's a little disappointing.  The lyrics focus on Christian themes, but in a quite subtle manner.  Perhaps there was an effort for more subtle lyrics because the production was so top-rate that they were hoping for some mainstream crossover.  Or perhaps it was just an attempt to fight back against the problem of Christian lyrics too often lacking poetry. 

Maybe it's not even that the lyrics are so subtle, but more that they're not vertically focused (like Miss Angie's lyrics are) but more general in nature.  I don't know, but for whatever reason, I couldn't relate to the lyrics as much as other albums in my favorites of 2011.

The CD packaging is beautiful.  The CD insert itself just has a picture of Charmaine's face, but there is a plastic overlay that adds the title and the red heart over her eye.  It's a cool effect.  The artwork on the insert, the back, and the CD itself all continue the box theme of the heart on the cover…very nicely done.  But there is one thing that is very noticeably missing, and that's a lyric sheet.  In general, I think there shouldn't be any Christian album that's released without a lyric sheet -- that's the whole reason I buy Christian music -- for the lyrics!!  If the lyrics didn't matter, I'd have so much more good music to choose from.  There is so little Christian music available, period, and then if you wipe out all the uninteresting Christian music, the selection gets extremely limited.  I wouldn't suffer through this limited selection of music if it wasn't for wanting the lyrics.  Lyrics are extremely important in Christian music, and I find it unacceptable that the record label, in:ciite (distributed by Word) has not included lyrics in the CD insert.  This is pop music, so most of the lyrics are easy to pick up, but there are those places where I can't quite get exactly what she said, yet would like to.  Besides that, though, I like to read the lyrics of a song on the printed page; reading them gives an overview and total perception of them that is often not as easy to get from just listening to them.



Charmaine’s Website:

Song samples, photos, videos, blog, etc.

Charmaine’s Facebook page:

Charmaine’s MySpace page:

A review of her album at Jesus Freak Hideout:

<<- Click the Play button  to hear “At My Door,” my favorite song on the album

Earlier, I said that I can't relate to the lyrics as well as I can to some other albums.  I suppose one reason is that some of the songs tend to be evangelistic -- "Tell Me," "Love Reality," and "Run" seem to follow that vein, though also as I mentioned earlier, the message is subtle; you're not beat over the head with an evangelistic message (that would really bug me). 

My favorite song on the album is "At My Door."  It starts with lively strings (this album uses real strings, no string-sounding keyboards here!), has a moderate tempo yet quiet verse, then breaks into a powerful chorus.  The song speaks of the anticipation of the return of Christ (though again, subtly -- no names mentioned here).  "I can it see it now, pictured in my mind, coming through the dark and lighting up the sky, it's you…I know you're coming for me!"

This song is meaningful to me on a couple levels.  First of all, I related immediately to the song because I've traveled a lot, including having lived abroad a few times.  Not every adventure abroad has been pleasant, but each one was ordained by God, and even if it was a negative experience at the time, it was meaningful because God was with me and giving me exciting experiences, even if the excitement was negative at times; at least I was experiencing the world, rather than living my whole life in the same town.  In this song, Charmaine mentions places all over the world, and as she does, I recall the places I've been and the experiences I’ve had, so that's one way I connect to this song.

Another way I connect to the song “Tokyo” is the whole sense of adventure idea…the idea of getting over my fear of giving myself wholeheartedly to God, my being afraid of where he might take me, and let him take me on an adventure.  One book that I think of along this line is The Prayer of Jabez.  In the examples of modern day people in that book, when they prayed to God to lead them ("expand their territory"), they were amazed at the unexpected encounters and adventures they had.  Fear leaves us living the same old humdrum life with no meaning or adventure; jumping into God's adventure boat leads to things unimagined.  That's the other meaning I get from this song -- don't be afraid!  Jump in!  Let God take you on an adventure!

My second favorite song on the album is also vertically focused (no surprise in that, if you've followed my reviews), a song called "Tokyo."  In this song she talks about the how she can travel anywhere in the world, it doesn't matter where she goes, "because anywhere's perfect with you; it'll be perfect because it's all amazing with you!"  The context of this song is that of letting go of fears of the unknown, and jumping into the following of wherever God may lead you.  Some other lyrics from the song (below):

I've been living on this island, I saw you pass me by, calling out  to me

Hope within your eyes

Love is an adventure

I'll take my chance on you


You can build your kingdom in the center of this life