Greatest Life Ever
Motown Gospel (release date: October 9, 2015)
By Bob Marovich
While listening to Janice Gaines sing “The Break-Up Song,” on her debut album, Greatest Life Ever, it struck me that she could have been a fourth member of Destiny’s Child. She can ride a rhythm as effortlessly as Bey and them.
At the same time, Gaines has a worship leader’s heart of joyful exuberance, meaning she could deliver a DC stinger, if warranted, but she would follow it up not with a snarky glance but with a smile and a wink.
All this is to say that Janice Gaines’ elastic, exuberant singing is what carries the eight-selection project. Producer LaShawn “Big Shizz” Daniels gives the album sufficient swagger, endowing the songs with bouncy bass, quirky rhythms, and burbly electronica, as suits the appetite of today’s listening audience. But it’s the voice, not the soundtrack, that truly engages the ears.
The long list of contributing writers suggests a woodshedding approach to song composition, though none of the selections comes close to Gaines’ pre-major label single, the moving “One Day.” That song comes from a fragile place: the heartbreak following the tragic death of a pastor-friend’s child, and a yearning to know about a glorious hereafter. With the exception of the final cut, “Make A Way,” Greatest Life Ever’s thematic content focuses on joy and thanksgiving for God’s love. “Make a Way,” on the other hand, is a pleading, prayerful request for help because “I’m stuck in place,” and as such will resonate with gospel music enthusiasts who, like the protagonist of “One Day,” are going through a trial.
What the songs do share with “One Day” is their deeply personal manner. On “Love (Intro),” Gaines sings that once she learned that God is love, and that Jesus died for wretches like us, she was smitten. On the gospel slow jam “Wait On You,” the current single and a selection seething with inspired vocal improvising, Gaines gushes on the love of a savior who would care enough to come back to retrieve us. The title track sums up what life after salvation can be: a life enriched with knowledge of God’s everlasting love.
What is the Greatest Life Ever, in sum? One filled with love. Can’t argue with that, though I hope that the follow up album contains crushingly beautiful gospel ballads like “One Day,” the type that Janice Gaines was born to sing.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “Make a Way,” “Wait On You.”
Check out our interview with Janice Gaines: http://journalofgospelmusic.com/gospel/janice-gaines-living-the-greatest-life-ever/