Wildfire

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Reviewer

Adam R. Holz

Album Review

Thirty-four and married. It’s not the optimal demographic template to become a breakout music star—a game usually played by younger, much-less-attached ingenues.

But Rachel Platten never got the memo.

After toiling away anonymously as a singer-songwriter for 15 years—and doing it the “old fashioned” way by touring constantly in a van instead of pursuing fame on YouTube or American Idol—Platten became an “overnight” sensation last summer. That’s when her empowerment anthem “Fight Song” zoomed up the charts all ’round the world. Suddenly, the gifted pianist, guitar player and singer was everywhere. And now she’s released a major-label debut (her third album overall) to prove she belongs on the big stage.

Pro-Social Content

“Stand by You” and “Superman” both find Platten vowing support to her husband. On the former, she acknowledges that both have their share of brokenness (“And hurt, I know you’re hurting, but so am I”), but Platten nevertheless promises, “If your wings are broken/Borrow mine till yours can open too/’Cause I’m gonna stand by you.” The latter mirrors those sentiments as she tells her man it’s OK for him to be human … and lean on her strength (“If I could break away half of all your pain/I’d take the worst of it and carry you like you carry me”). She adds, “You don’t have to be Superman/You don’t have to hold the world in your hands/You’ve already shown me that you can.”

The “aww”-inducing track “Better Place” sweetly tells a beloved beau, “I see the whole world in your eyes/It’s like I’ve known you all my life/We just feel so right/So I pour my heart into your hands/It’s like you really understand/You love the way I am.” Owl City-esque “Astronauts” counsels making the most of every moment and finding safety in relationship with those we love.

As for Platten’s plucky “Fight Song,” it’s drenched with dogged determination. “This is my fight song,” she practically shouts, “Take back my life song/Prove I’m alright song/ … And I don’t really care if nobody else believes/’Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me.” “Angels in Chelsea” bears witness to random acts of kindness in the city (“Last night I saw a suit give a buck to a bum”), comparing those spontaneously compassionate people to angels (“And everywhere I look tonight, I see angels around me/ … I see angels in Chelsea”).

“Lone Ranger” could be heard as a shout-out to solitary rebels everywhere (“I wanna roam from city to city/Let the highway and the crowd fill the hunger that’s in me”). But Platten eventually admits that this oft-romanticized tendency is driven by an unhealthy fear of being hurt (“Get close to somebody, but I don’t stay there/Much less brave than I admit/Much more scared than they all think/But I’m protecting this organ in my chest/ … I don’t want to get broken, baby”).

“Beating Me Up” finds a woman battling her own heart after a hard breakup, while “You Don’t Know My Heart” is the title of a song that repeats that sentiment in different ways to a thick-skulled boyfriend.

Objectionable Content

“Speechless” is one of two rising-heat songs on Wildfire. “Why does this part always go so fast?” she asks breathlessly. “And I really want this to last so bad/ … Just give me that touch, I want it/Quit talking so much, I’m ready/Stop moving your lips and kiss me/Keep taking my breath away/’Cause you make me speechless.” She also suggestively references making some noise in the bedroom (“We’re getting loud tonight, we’re allowed tonight to be”).

“Hey Hey Hallelujah” dishes similarly steamy stuff (“I’m turning you up, I’m turning you on/Your head’s saying, ‘Danger, danger!’ but your heart must be drunk/ … You’re begging me for me/You never seen nobody do the things I do before”). As the song’s title indicates, her man’s response to this seduction is framed in spiritual language. Guest singer Andy Grammer adds, “Love me like you should, and you make me wanna scream hallelujah.”

Potentially well-intended spiritual allusions on “Stand by You” nonetheless open problematic doors. “Even if we can’t find heaven,” Platten sings, “I’ll walk through hell with you/ … Oh, truth, I guess truth is what you believe in/And faith, I think faith is having a reason.” There’s another dose of that kind of optimistic agnosticism on “Astronauts,” where Platten ponders what happens when we die (“‘Cause after all, we’re only one triumphant bang away/From resting in infinity or darkness or some brighter place”).

“Lone Ranger” repeats a line that could be heard as a reference to drug use (“Sometimes I get high, sometimes I get low”). “Congratulations” finds a woman angrily confronting an ex, saying bitterly, “Congratulations, you tore my heart out/Congratulations, it must feel good digested, to be so d–n aggressive/ … Help me find a sharper knife/I need to cut you out of my life.”

Summary Advisory

I really wanted every track on Rachel Platten’s follow-up album to be as powerfully inspirational and free of problems as its big hit single, “Fight Song.” And most of the time, Platten’s lyrics do blaze with wildly exuberant passion for her life, calling and marriage. But there are a few fires here that need to be put out, not fanned. Despite the fact that Platten’s happily, devotedly married, it’s still not great that she’s suggestively talking about making noise in bed. Likewise, her fuzzy references to faith, belief, heaven and hell could be taken positively by some … but could reinforce doubts in others who hear her suggesting that we can’t really know what to believe.

Adam R. Holz

After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.

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