Monday, September 4th, 2017

Erica Campbell – Well Done

We begin the week in the church…


Nortey Dowuona: The bouncy drums and twinkly synths buoy Erica’s powerful voice… and well, Erica’s voice was really all that this song needed. (The deep, soothing chords and vibrating choir hums near the end didn’t hurt either.)

Mark Sinker: Slabby, nasal, almost matter-of-fact blocks of chorus vocals; near-flirtatious swoops and touches of electronica way back in the arrangement; and Campbell’s curlicues and gestures as the richly controlled joy centre-stage — right up to where she mumble-tumbles what seems the full height of her register, from high to low. You might hear the words she’s singing at that moment in other genres — “when I finally stop breathing” — but you’ll surely never hear them with this delivery, light-heartedly yearning for heaven as for wine and for sunshine, as if you can just skip off this world of harsh troubles into serene mindful bliss. And she does it twice, because it’s a formal declaration not a dizzy effervescence. 

Alfred Soto: The interaction between lead and background vocals is expert — what you’d expect from a gospel singer. My attention wavered until I let Erica Campbell explain how to listen to her own music. As the exchanges intensify, the title is relief and congratulations.

Thomas Inskeep: Erica Campbell has a great voice, but there’s not enough song here to do it justice. There’s minimalist and then there’s missing melodies, and unfortunately this falls in the latter category. 

Stephen Eisermann: This song makes me, an already skeptical, non-practicing Catholic, more skeptical by highlighting how bizarre it is that nobody ever gets direct communication or signs from God. It doesn’t help that Erica’s voice throughout is weak and off-putting, making for an especially awkward listening experience. I guess I’d prefer my religious music to feel more awe-inspiring and less awkward. 

Micha Cavaseno: There is testifying, and then there is providing a slightly melodic list of people you might want to remind that you care about them, but not before making sure you let God know he’s the one who made these blessings come to you. Nothing inherently wrong with it, just nothing much to take away from it beyond witnessing Erica share her happiness with you.

Josh Langhoff: As used by Matthew West, Andrae Crouch, and most majestically by Dietrick Haddon ripping off “Purple Rain,” this overdone CCM trope depicts Jesus welcoming the singer and audience into the Kingdom, a divine pat on the head for a life spent in faithful service to the master. As a subset of all those songs that imagine eternity — “I Can Only Imagine,” “Streets of God,” and what have you — it’s also a dangerously works-oriented half reading of Matthew 25’s Parable of the Talents. Like, no one ever sings about the wicked, lazy servant who doesn’t invest his master’s money! That dude gets thrown into outer darkness to enjoy the whole weeping/tooth-gnashing experience, at the master’s command, even though ol’ wicked lazy never had any discernible investing ability to begin with. As one astute commenter has pointed out, this master is basically Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross, barking, “Third prize is, you’re fired!” And we’re supposed to liken this master to Jesus? We’re supposed to pine for his pat on the head? Not saying we need more Keith Green-style smackdowns in our music; rather, that this “well done” business might not adequately interpret the parable; that the master might not be Jesus at all, but rather (suggests Greg Carey) Jesus’s cunning parody of people’s messianic expectations. Who knows? None of which needs to detract from the expertly modulated power of Erica Campbell’s singing, especially those searing dissonances in the “welllllll done” chorus. “Well Done” isn’t up to the best of Mary Mary, but it adequately conveys the universal longing for some kind of ultimate recognition and rest. But I suspect Jesus is up to something far weirder than that, and we still have but a glimpse of what it might be.

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