5 Deep Cuts from Lauren Daigle

Lauren Daigle is the biggest singer in contemporary Christian music and this year she released her self-titled major label debut on Atlantic Records. Like a modern-day Amy Grant, she’s outgrown the restraints of the Christian music industry and crossed over into the pop mainstream. Her success, like Ms. Grant before her, has drawn the predictable backlash from people counting the number of times “Jesus” is mentioned in her songs instead of listening to her music. 

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The album was produced by Mike Elizondo (Eminem, Fiona Apple, Carrie Underwood). It’s two volumes of music featuring collaborations with Jon Batiste, Natalie Hemby, and Gary Clark Jr. The album debuted at No. 21 on the Billboard 200. 

Although the album debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Christian Albums chart, most of the record doesn’t seem to have connected with her fans like the early releases. She was criticized for appearing on the Ellen DeGeneres show and the decision to make a record outside this (very large) sub-culture has the old fans confused. When people don’t understand something, they lash out or they otherize or they simply withdraw into tribes. 

Shining a light on her overlooked album tracks, here are five deep cuts from Lauren Daigle—plus a Christmas song deserving more attention. 

1. “Saint Ferdinand” (feat. Jon Batiste and Natalie Hemby)

Jon Batiste and Natalie Hemby join Lauren Daigle on “Saint Ferdinand,” track two from her 2023 self-titled release. Batiste plays a melodica, with hints of Stevie Wonder, as Hemby harmonizes with Daigle who at times sounds a little like Adele. 

They said I wouldn’t last long
But here I am
They said the spirits are strong
But I got ’em to bend
Oh, life gave me lessons that I still question
They said I wouldn’t last long
But here I am

2. “Salvation Mountain” (feat. Gary Clark Jr.)

Vol. 2 of Lauren Daigle’s new album opens with a Southern gospel and blues song echoing Mavis Staples. Daigle’s vocal phrases are punctuated by Gary Clark Jr.’s vivid, call-and-response guitar playing. “Salvation Mountain” sounds like a release. It’s a distant relative of “I’ll Take You There” by The Staple Singers. Daigle’s voice, again reminiscent of Adele, sounds free. A choir of voices joins Daigle in solidarity alongside Gary Clark Jr.’s reaffirming Texas blues. 

I’m on my way to salvation mountain
I’m here to be changed
I’m here to be free
I’m on my way to salvation mountain
Won’t you come and meet me there once again

3. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

Taking a detour from Daigle’s latest album, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from Behold: A Christmas Collection (2016) sounds very much like her home state of Louisiana. Daigle was born in Lake Charles, and though it’s a few hours from New Orleans, the old ghost of Louis Armstrong is invoked midway through the song when the band kicks into double time. 

Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more
Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
Hang a shining star upon
The highest bough

4. “Back to Me”

“Back to Me” is an acoustic soul piece Ms. Lauryn Hill might have sung. There’s a vagueness to the lyric where Daigle could be singing from a lover’s perspective, or Jesus, or home. And vague might be the point. A way to straddle the fence between fans who want something spiritual in their pop music and fans who just want pop music. 

You got that look in your eyes
Don’t you know I sympathize?
You feel unsure
We’ve been here before
There’s no need to explain
All the thoughts running round in your brain

5. “Don’t Believe Them”

An affecting piano opens “Don’t Believe Them” and you get the sense Daigle is pushing back on people insisting she “behave.” It speaks to the divide among different groups of people with a short supply of empathy. “Don’t Believe Them” is the strongest song on the album. There’s a desperation in Daigle’s voice and she sounds fed up. The hypocrisy is exhausting for Daigle as she asks, How you gonna live out the words you’re preachin’ if you don’t believe them? “Don’t Believe Them” is a powerful song with a brutally honest lyric from an artist seeking freedom.

This flood isn’t made up of water
But somehow we all drown anyway
We make ugly look so pretty
And the innocent so guilty

Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

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