“Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togedder today.”
Yes, yes, I know, I know. Those famous lines hail from the classic comedy Princess Bride. Nevertheless, they are what brings us “togedder” today, in a roundabout way, as we talk about the best music (both tracks and albums) of 2019.
Why, you ask? Well, it turns out quite a few musicians were singing the praises of “mawage” this year, beautifully reminding us that this “bwessed awangement,” this “dweam wifin a dweam” still inspires love, devotion and commitment—even in 2019.
Megan Trainer, “Marry Me”: Trainor tied the knot in December 2018. A couple months later, she released the single that she and Spy Kids alum Daryl Sabara walked down the aisle to, her very own song: “Marry Me.” In it, she tells her hubby-to-be, “I love you, wanna give you my whole life/And you love me, you say you want me as your wife.” And her excitement practically bubbles over when she adds, “I want the whole world to know you’re mine.” An accompanying video featured sweet footage of the couple’s actual wedding ceremony, delightfully reinforcing the real-world relationship that inspired this tender track.
Thomas Rhett, “Look What God Gave Her”: Though he likely wasn’t trying to win any “marriage song” competition, country star Thomas Rhett certainly gives Megan a run for her money with the praise he pays his wife in “Look What God Gave Her.” Rhett’s tribute to wife Lauren Akins couldn’t be much more gushing as he credits God for creating his wife so amazingly. “Look what God gave her,” he croons, “How perfect He made her.” Elsewhere he sings, “That girl [is] one in 7 billion,” and he waxes eloquent about her kisses: “Every kiss, I could die/It’s like the heavens opened wide.” Rhett’s country habits show up when he makes a passing reference to Corona beer (comparing the intoxicating influence of his wife to alcohol). But as our reviewer Kristin Smith wrote, “That’s really the only issue worth noting in the kind of song that many a girl wishes her man would write about her.” [Editor’s note: In the unofficial honorable mention category, Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber’s shout-out to their wives, “10,000 Hours,” covers very similar marital themes.]
Kanye West, Jesus Is King: Love, faithfulness and devotion are front and center on Kanye West’s latest album, too. But this gospel-inspired effort finds the oft-controversial West pouring out his emotional praise for … Jesus. West’s recent public proclamations about Christ have been one of the biggest stories in the entertainment world this year. And his album declaring Jesus’ reign could hardly be more focused on the King. In fact, it’s hard to decide which ones to highlight. We hear, “Worship Christ with the best of your portions/I know I won’t forget all He’s done/He’s the strength in this race that I run.” On “Jesus Is Lord,” Kanye echoes Scripture when sings, “Every knee shall bow/Every tongue confess/Jesus is Lord.” Only a small handful of very minor concerns detract at all from this tour de force declaration that Jesus Is King.
Beyoncé, “Spirit”: Beyoncé’s contribution to The Lion King soundtrack isn’t a Christian song, per se. But its words and imagery may well have resonance with Christian listeners as she sings about Simba’s kingdom, as well as encouraging listeners to courageously pursue their own destinies. She sings, “Spirit, watch the heavens open,” and, “Be one with the great I Am,” both of which lines certainly echo well-known passages of Scripture. Talking about the video (which features a few slightly revealing outfits on dancers and shirtless men), Beyoncé told Entertainment Tonight, “The concept of the video is to show God is the painter and natural beauty and nature needs no art direction.” “Spirit” likewise showcases the beauty and power of Beyoncé’s voice as she challenges listeners to persevere, to “burn your flame through the night.”
Skillet, Victorious: One of my personal highlights this year was the opportunity to interview Skillet frontman John Cooper before a show on his band’s Victorious tour. And on that album, the 10th over the span of Skillet’s 23-year career, Cooper and Co. once again fuse hard-rock chops with a Christ-centered message of hope. On “Terrify the Dark,” Cooper growls, “Your light will terrify the dark/I call upon the name/That tears the night apart.” Another line on that track proclaims, “My doubt will answer to Your scars/And fear will have no place/No hold on my heart.” In our review of the album in August, I concluded, “Some Christian parents might hear snippets of lyrics and wonder if it’s too dark. Others might be put off by the aggressive style. But for fans looking for a redemptive, spiritually grounded expression of faith in a modern rock package, you’ll be hard put to find a better alternative.”