Uplifting and Promising Debut | Posted June 25, 2012 Staff Reviewer
It has taken her longer than she might have planned, but with the upcoming release of her debut album Reach the Sky, Marlene Brehm is realizing her dream. A Texas native, Brehm moved to LA to pursue opportunities in pop music, TV, and film. After a life-changing trip to India where she learned about human trafficking, she came home and found a new church family, where she began serving as a worship leader. While leading worship, Brehm was discovered by a Universal Music/Dream Records executive, and her desire to sing about her faith was one step closer to fruition. For Reach the Sky, Marlene worked with Dove Award-winning producer Rusty Varenkamp as well as Aaron Rice. The result is an encouraging, uplifting, and energizing set of songs that is sure to connect with youthful audiences.
Brehm begins Reach the Sky with “Who You Are,” a song about pursuing a meaningful relationship with God. Her voice has a gentle tone which sounds appropriately vulnerable and trusting. It’s a nice start to the album and a hint that there will be depth and a guiding purpose to the project.
Indeed, with title track “Reach the Sky” Brehm encourages her listener that with faith and prayer, struggle and adversity can be overcome. Bright and optimistic, the song recalls Point of Grace, and Brehm’s voice sounds a bit like Denise Jones. On the hopeful chorus, she sings, “But the storm can never keep you down / If you hold on, you can overcome it now / On your knees is where it turns around / Cause the shell must break before a bird can fly / You can reach the sky.”
“Second Chances” is a thoughtful piece that speaks about the redeeming power of new beginnings. Inspired by her work with International Princess Project in India, the song reaches a bit further to include a call to action asking listeners to speak out and take a stand against human trafficking. On her website, Brehm pledges to donate a portion of the proceeds to International Princess Project.
From its opening bars, “Only You” is infectious and catchy. It’s bouncy, feel-good, and refreshing with energetic drums and synth. You’ll not be able to resist singing along as Brehm declares, “Everywhere I go You are with me / Nobody like You / You prove it’s You, and only You / I can feel the way that You love me / I’ve fallen for You / It’s true / It’s You, and only You.” This is a standout track, and with a voice that sounds as innocent as it does exuberant, Brehm seems poised to be a voice for her generation.
Life doesn’t become magically easier when we believe. Bumps in the road are inevitable, and Brehm acknowledges this reality with “Faithful to You,” pledging devotion and promising fidelity to God no matter how her faith might be tested.
“Love Like You” sounds like a worship song that’s been injected with an infusion of pop sensibility. Don’t let the shiny wrappings fool you, though. There’s a nice message inside. In the first verse, Brehm reflects on things she can’t do - miracles performed by Jesus. However, she concludes that she can love like Jesus. And the second verse mentions different things she can do by translating that love into actions.
“Forever Yours” is another immediately accessible tune. You’ll find yourself smiling and singing along with Brehm this love song to God. It’s a musical counting of blessings with a chorus brimming with thanksgiving: “Thanks for the good friends / Thanks for the good times / You fill all my heart’s desires / I’m so happy I’m alive / Thanks for the music / Thanks for the love You give to me / I’m so grateful that I’ll be / Forever Yours.”
Brehm shifts gears once again for “Be There For Me.” Two different storylines deliver the song’s message: a soldier leaving his baby and loved ones, and a mother and child facing possible foreclosure and loss of their home. Each character in the song has an “I can’t do this on my own” moment that finds them reaching a point of surrender and reaching out to God for the first time, asking for help and protection.
“Right Here Right Now” is a straight-ahead romantic love song. Brehm is joyful to have found love and confidently sings to her companion about their ability to weather the tough times together.
“Beautiful Life” centers around waiting for love and trusting that God knows exactly what and who we need. The song has a confessional quality as Brehm sings: “I thought I wanted someone to hold onto / Just to fill this empty space / Now I know that perfect love is out there / Cause I found it in Your grace / And I know You’ll find the one You plan forever to be mine / And it’s gonna be a beautiful life.” The album effectively comes full circle. Where the opening track found Brehm voicing her desire for deeper relationship, the concluding piece reveals a resolved and trusting follower grateful for God’s provision and certain of blue skies ahead.
Thematically, Reach the Sky centers around relationship with God, surrender, faith, and trust. While mostly bright and happy, there are thoughtful songs that run a little deeper to help provide a good balance. The album instantly establishes and maintains throughout a hopeful and positive outlook. And it’s precisely this easy, breezy feel that makes Marlene Brehm so appealing. Some of the biggest praise I can give this project is that I hear shades of Point of Grace and Amy Grant in the production and in Brehm’s effervescent appeal. This is a strong, promising debut, and I look forward to watching Marlene Brehm grow!
“Reach The Sky,” “Only You,” “Faithful to You,” “Love Like You,” “Forever Yours” and “Beautiful Life.”