Riley Clemmons is a 19-year-old Christian pop artist from Nashville who has been working with numerous songwriters and producers to craft what Capitol CMG (Christian Music Group) is hoping will be the next generation of music for Christian audiences.
Her self-titled debut album doesn’t start strong, with lyrical clichés and too-common contemporary music sounds. In “Hold On,” Clemmons looks back at her life without Jesus, inspiring the listener to continue to persevere. “Better for It” begins to explore pain, but presents it in a manner that glosses over the weight of suffering, embracing it almost too eagerly. The next song, “Saving Me,” touches on our common humanity, but quickly jumps towards a spiritual conclusion that may leave some wanting a more honest exploration.
Just as some listeners may be ready to walk away from this album, Clemmons and her artistic team present the first ballad, entitled “Broke.” It starts with a church organ and a slow beat that accentuates her powerful voice. In this song she is finally allowed to let loose and reveal her understanding of human pain. From then on, the album dives below the surface both musically and lyrically, exploring various challenging topics of identity and suffering without offering a trite spiritual solution.
Two standout tracks are “Broken Prayers” and “Dropping Everything.” The debut single “Broken Prayers” sees Clemmons describing her challenges around praying during difficult times. In interviews, she explains that she hopes her authenticity can be an inspiration to others.
The other track, “Dropping Everything,” again allows Clemmons to showcase her vocal talents in a soaring performance that is reminiscent of Adele. Each note drips with emotion as she describes feeling weighed down and looking for an escape. The song masterfully alludes to a savior but leaves the listener curious about the mystery of this person.
Riley Clemmons is young, and her introduction as a Christian pop artist is a good one. Many hands of producers, managers, and other songwriters have helped her shape this debut. While some artists get lost among their team, Clemmons has managed to reveal many parts of her authentic self to the listener. As she grows older, hopefully she will have the opportunity and confidence to continue revealing more of herself through her music. (Capitol CMG/Sparrow)