Review Rating: Catch It On The Radio [4.0/5]
Singer-songwriter, Melanie Penn just recently released her Christmas album, Immanuel, to deservingly rave reviews. The record, as a whole, tells a story that we are so familiar with – Christ’s coming to us in a stable in Bethlehem. However, the songs, individually, share a piece of the story from different perspectives. Hearing these tracks sung as if they were coming from the mouths of Mary, Joseph, or the innkeeper gives new beauty to this familiar story. Melanie wrote these songs to be “about the first ones to hear the good news. They saw signs, had dreams, heard from angels, watched the stars, and they sang.” These are the characters that inspired Melanie as she wrote new songs for this collection.
“Love’s Coming Down” opens the album and begins the story with the perspective of Isaiah, pulling its lyrics directly from scripture. The lyrics in the chorus, “his name will be the Prince of Peace,” foretell the coming of Christ to a broken, hurting world. The song stays pretty linear both melodically and dynamically, making it feel like it is constantly moving toward something else. And it is, as it leads into the powerful love story of Christ coming down to dwell with his people.
“Immanuel” gives insight into a perspective often pushed aside or forgotten – that of the shepherds. The lyrics express how small, amazed, and overwhelmed the shepherds must have felt “when the sky opened up above [them] and [the angel] said, ‘go – this shall be a sign.’” The song is a beautiful reminder that God is with us all – even the ones who feel left out or cast aside.
The final song on the album, “There Is Room For You Here,” is told from the innkeeper’s personal perspective, while still relating to a larger perspective – the hearts of all people. The song asks whether we will “invite love to come here,” into our hearts. Its lyrics compare our hearts to the inns in Bethlehem with their “many rooms and hallways.” Ultimately, the chorus brings the answer that yes, “There is room for [love] here.” It is a beautiful way to end the story and the album.
Melanie tells a familiar story in a new, bold, and honest way with Immanuel. It gives listeners the Christmas story from a perspective they probably haven’t considered before. Each song makes a story that can often feel distant and inconceivable feel real and human. Immanuel is an experience you won’t want to miss this holiday season.