Chris Daughtry has a message of hope for his fans on Cage to Rattle. This four-time Grammy nominee and his band have just released their first album since 2013, and it’s full of the former American Idol stars’s raw, belting vocals. Daughtry’s fifth studio album brims with, as he puts it, a “Southern gospel vibe” and “elements of funk.” It’s an honest, open, encouraging effort that’s ready to rattle.
Chris Daughtry has been married for 18 years, and his band’s music reflects that long-time commitment. In “Deep End,” he and his wife collaborated to write a song that expresses a message of love and encouragement in times of need. We hear, “I want you by my side/And I’m right here waiting for you.” Daughtry also sings, “And I’m in way over my head/And I’m not scared, I’m not scared, no/ … Not afraid, hell or high water/I wanna dive into you.”
Meanwhile, “Gravity” ponders what provides an existential anchor (“I need an anchor, my gravity”) when he feels disoriented or lost (“Escape the noise to find a voice/ … Stranded, with no land in sight”). His answer? Thinking about the comfort of home, even when he’s far away from it: “Life in a familiar place/What fills the void that we need/ … I can feel your love from a different place, that’s OK/Don’t have to be miles apart if you’re here in my heart.”
Likewise on “As You Are,” Daughtry sings about tearing down the barriers that “isolate” and “frustrate,” even as he repeatedly offers this promise of unconditional love: “I love you as you are.”
Daughtry has clearly learned lessons about weathering life’s storms by choosing commitment in his marriage (and in other challenges). And he encourages strugglers to persevere, to move forward through pain in songs such as “Backbone,” “Death of Me,” “Stuff of Legends” and “White Flag.” In “Backbone,” he says to the hurting, “When you’re feeling like you’re never gonna dig your way out/… Keep pushing up the river/Keep mining for the silver/ ‘Till you’ve struck gold.” He’s honest about how difficult life’s obstacles can feel in “Death of Me,” where we hear, “I find it hard to cope/Without a thread of hope.” But then he adds, “Blood is thicker than water/But love is even stronger/Hold out a little longer.”
“White Flag” and “Stuff of Legends” deal with the spiritual aspect of fighting through hard times. In the former song, Daughtry sings, “You know we all got a lot to lose/I won’t surrender, praise the Lord my soul to take/Thank God I live to die another day/…I won’t raise my white flag/ ‘Till I’m through.” And in the latter he says that even though he may face his own demons, he will do so by fighting “with love.”
We get a glimpse into Daughtry’s marriage that, while affirming the goodness of the marital sexual relationship, arguably offers a bit too much of that intimate information. “Just Found Heaven” frames that physical pleasure in spiritual terms, “Sins wash away/Dark turns to light/Your body is a temple so take me inside/I feel no pain, pleasures all mine/You give me a taste of eternal life.” Daughtry also perhaps minimizes the reality of hell when he sings, “Gone all my life/Worried about my soul/Brimstone and fire, stories I’ve been told/ … I don’t really care where I go when I die/’Cause I just found heaven.”
“Back in Time” and “Bad Habits” also include references to physical intimacy, and the latter uses cigarettes and drinking as metaphors for sexual indulgence.
We hear seven uses of the phrase “the whole d–n world” on “As You Are.”
When we face the normal, everyday challenges of life, we have a choice: We can let those struggles get us down, or we can choose to keep moving forward. On Cage to Rattle, Chris Daughtry repeatedly says he’s trying to choose the latter, fighting his way forward through life’s inevitably difficult times.
I find the messages of honesty and hope that Daughtry offers here refreshing. We live in a time when bad news almost seems to be welcomed, and tragedy seems to be the first thing on everyone’s mind. Daughtry’s songs speak to the anxieties and pressures we face in our everyday lives, but they encourage us to face those issues head on. He boldly declares that he won’t back down from the lies he hears in the world, nor the ones he hears in his own heart. He also unashamedly discusses the loving commitment that he shares with his wife.
Occasionally, his description of marital intimacy perhaps offers a few too many details. And his metaphorical comparison of sexuality to salvation on “Just Found Heaven” definitely needs to be dealt with carefully as well—as do some mild profanities on “As You Are.”
So, Cage isn’t without a few rattles. On balance, though, those bumps in the lyrical road don’t derail Daughtry’s consistently positive messages about the power of love and fighting for what matters most.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).