by Sam Robinson
Francesca Battistelli is without doubt one of the biggest female artists on the Christian music scene. Not only that, but she is certified as the best-selling new Christian artist in the last ten years. Even her face has appeared on three million Diet Pepsi cans (read my interview with Francesca for more on this).
This week sees the release of her highly-anticipated third album – and her first in three years – simply titled If We’re Honest.
Often CCM pop can take a cookie-cutter approach to both music and lyrics, but if Francesca Battistelli is indeed classified as ‘CCM pop’, then she’s broken the mould. And this excites me as a listener.
There’s real thought and consideration into the songs on this record, particularly the lyrics. Musically, there’s plenty of pop (sugary sweet at times) but Francesca deviates at times into country, soul, and even ballad territory.
As you might guess from the title, this album is a call for honesty. Francesca joyfully opens up about her faith, her life, her struggles, and invites us into her story, all the while encouraging us to share our lives with others too. It’s clear across If We’re Honest that despite her successes, Francesca wants to be challenged by God and his Word, and have her life shaped by Him.
This is clear from the first track Write Your Story, a radio-ready hit that’s all about surrendering our whole lives to God, for his glory. It sets the pace for the album. On He Knows My Name Francesca shares her desire to find her identity in Christ, rather than in fame or worldly treasures: ‘He calls me chosen / Free, forgiven / Child of the King.’ If we’ve been bought, and God knows our name, then what on this earth could be better?
Run to Jesus has a distinct country twang but again, encourages listeners to find their identity and hope in Jesus – particularly in times of trouble. Title track If We’re Honest strips things back a bit – featuring just Francesca and a piano for the most part. For me, it’s the highlight of the album. It brings a challenge to bring our brokenness and our fears to the cross, where we find not only forgiveness but our true identity.
‘Don’t pretend to be something that you’re not / Living life afraid of getting caught /
There is freedom found when we lay our secrets down at the cross.’
Giants Fall brings back the pop feels, and We Are the Kingdom closes the standard edition of the record, a send-off encouraging us to live boldly for Christ in everything we do. The deluxe edition of If We’re Honest features an extra four tracks (resulting in a very generous fifteen songs). Perhaps my favourite of the bonus songs is Keeping Score – a song with swagger (and what appears to be banjo!) that rejoices that God doesn’t keep score of our ‘good’ and ‘bad’ deeds. We’re covered by grace! I’m surprised this track didn’t make the standard release.
If We’re Honest is most certainly a pop release but doesn’t rest on cliche. It cleverly delves into who we are as his beings saved at the cross, and called to live for him in everything. I’m giving it three-and-a-half stars.