This Australian-born singer moved from light church songs to crafting a steadily more progressive type of music for herself in the late nineties and early 2000s. Though she eventually mellowed and moved away from recording altogether for a while, she was at one time one of the most exciting artists in Christian music. From a start in standard pop sounds, she moved to experimenting with electronica, dance rhythms, and a variety of other things that other mainstream Christian artists were not at the time. Her religious belief remained a strong current in her lyrics with a focus on trying to raise the interest of the younger generation in faith and an uncompromising lifestyle. With her message and music together, Rebecca’s songs come across as quite exciting and infectious.
Reborn: “If you see a change in me don’t wonder; there’s Someone in my life and peace I can’t describe for I’ve been reborn. If you see a change in me don’t wonder; I’ve found a whole new life and hope that I can’ t hide for I’ve been reborn.”
Rebecca St. James (1994)
Rebecca’s first major labor album was a bit run of the mill for Christian music at the time, something in the vein of Amy Grant or others, but it at least was a good start to showcase her strong vocals and test out her ability for other things. The opening “Here I Am” was a fairly solid precursor to her later ‘call to arms’ ballads in tone if not style. Unfortunately, some of it comes of a bit fake whether it be a canned world music beat (though I do like the tune), shoe-horned in gospel choirs, or some awful pseudo-rap. They were definitely not sure how or what to do with the young artist at this point.
The second major album by RSJ marked a move by the artist towards the more current style that would come to characterize her music. The entire work is so much more authentic in sound and production. Rebecca’s vocals are much more impassioned and nuanced and she even steps up her Australian accent which adds a lot of unique flavor to the songs. Rather than simply studio synthesizer music like before, it relies more on heavy guitar, strings, and percussion. I have a hard time to pick a favorite “God” and “Carry Me” give a certain rugged character to the album overall but the quieter “Speak to Me” and rousing “Go and Sin No More” provide the most emotional intensity.
Rebecca’s Christmas album which revamped a number of Christmas classics. It was clear by this point that Rebecca had found her voice and was leading trends in Christian music. This was a great forum to try on current sounds and trends in preparation for her album to follow.
This album expanded the scope of Rebecca’s work even further by kicking the energy level higher with experimentations with electronic sound, reworking of classic songs, and lots of beat. She also shows a much more mature, confident sound as she sings. Looking back, I would say it is probably her strongest album overall and it’s no wonder that it won her a rock gospel music Grammy.
Though not every song falls in the category, this is RSJ’s first album that truly embraced electronica by giving a nod to techno/dance music. There are some full out dance songs on here as well as unique songs with very catchy hooks. Though it doesn’t have an even tone as an album overall, it has some great individual songs.
Worship God (2002)
Rebecca’s worship album gives several well-known praise songs (and some new ones) an updated spin with great sound. Being simple worships songs, the album is perhaps not quite as captivating as her others musically but it seemed to be a good fit for her interests.
The Very Best of Rebecca St. James (2003)
This best of album contains many of Rebecca’s well-known songs, some of which appeared on other collaboration albums. It also adds a couple of new songs to her repertoire. With its focus on her more pop oriented and radio-friendly songs, however, I feel like the album doesn’t quite translate the appeal or energy of her work overall.
Live Worship (2004)
This live worship album contains eight modern worship songs, most already previously recorded by Rebecca on studio albums as well. It gives a fairly good slice of what her concerts are like—an upbeat band, energetic young crowd, and lots of calls to worship and short prayers by Rebecca.
If I Had One Chance to Tell You Something (2005)
This was RSJ’s first “regular” album since she began releasing a number of worship and best-of works. This album tends toward much more of rock and guitar sound and thus seems a bit heavier tone than past albums. A signature RSJ style runs throughout: strong vocals and guitar punctuated by sweeping (sometimes frenetic) strings and also interesting on this album were collaborations with TobyMac and Barlowgirl. Unfortunately, the melodies and flavor of the album do not stand very strongly and it lacks an overall excitement.
I Will Praise You (2011)
After Rebecca St. James disappeared off the music scene for a while, she returned briefly with this album that I personally did not even find interesting enough to buy after sampling a few tracks. I found the sound and production kind of flimsy compared to her previous work and the songs rather bland. While I did eventually go back and purchase the full album, my first impression still largely stands. It is basically just a plain worship album (including several covers) in the vein of her one before but lacking that one’s energy and creativity. The only song where this light touch works is the ender “You Make All Thing Beautiful”
Dawn (2020) [Digital EP]
After she emerged from yet an even longer musical hiatus, I had to re-evaluate my estimation of Rebecca St. James an artist who had passed her prime with the release of this EP of several new songs. I think most surprising was its extremely up-to-date sound that fits quite well with her style of singing. While it is does not have the danceable drive of her younger days, it instead has a smooth lower-register intensity and creative use of reverb and modern rhythms. The many guest singers are put to great use in duets that match her singing well. Though full of praise lyrics, it is much more complex and has a grander and more interesting feel than a plain worship album. My only regret was that it was only released as a digital EP and didn’t seem to get much recognition.
Kingdom Come (2022)
This album was probably intended as a more official step of Rebecca back into the Christian music spotlight. It’s a reworking of her EP from two years previous with all those tracks included and several additional songs added, a few of which were released as popular singles in the intervening time (such as the title song with her brothers’ band For King & Country). The sound of the additional songs blends in with the ones that came before well-enough to make it a cohesive album but it is still largely an album of songs that many fans had heard before. Perhaps for this reason, it did not make much of a stir commercially.