Here’s a theory: You Were Never Alone by Emery is a concept album, retelling Bible stories.
Actually, it’s not a theory, but confirmed fact.
I always knew there was something special about this album. I mean, besides the fact that Devin Shelton’s angelic voice is on it.
I had planned to write a review of this album sometime, so why not now?
You Were Never Alone is Emery’s latest release, and it’s a concept album: every song is a first person retelling of a Bible story.
You read that right: Emery, the band who’s doing things like Bad Christian, released an album that’s about people from the Bible.
This might be the perfect post to launch Behind the Music, a series of posts taking a deeper look at the lyrics and messages in music.
Shall we get started?
You pushed my head under the water
This song starts of the album of biblical analogies with the start of Jesus’s ministry: his baptism and subsequent temptation in the desert. It’s an interesting choice, considering the fact that the album ends with Jesus’ death on the Cross. Together, the first and last songs bookend the ministry of Jesus here on earth, while looking forward to his resurrection.
Like most of these songs, we’re going to get a more personal representation of what happened in each story.
Here, we follow Jesus as he is wandering through the desert, feeling the dust under his feet and the clouds overhead. The story continues with Jesus growing physically weaker with each day of the fast.
We even get to see him being tempted by Satan: You ask me to surrender/You’re sure it’s what I’ll take/I told you not to speak.
This song is otherwise pretty straightforward.
My favorite part of the song is the beginning, as Jesus is baptized and he experiences the heavens open and God speaking from heaven. The imagery of “drowning” is a great choice here, because baptism for believers symbolizes our dying to ourselves and rising with Christ to new life.
*Bonus: In the podcast, Toby says that the title is a reference to the trinity.
I see what’s waiting for me, and it’s beautiful
All right, now this is probably the most bizarre Emery song, ever. I mean, it’s very heavy, but then it drops down to a soft, almost jazz like song right toward the end. I did not enjoy this song very much. In the few months that we’ve had this album, I’ve probably only listened to it a handful of times.
But what is it about? Well, to put it simply, it’s the account of Stephen’s stoning.
We experience his argument with the religious leaders (“You have ground your teeth craving control”), his physical stoning (“You’re breaking my heart”), and the heavens opening up right before he dies (“I see what’s waiting for me, and it’s beautiful so beautiful”).
The opening verses and “chorus” (because, I mean, it’s Emery, so who says it has to have a chorus?) deal with the religious leaders that had dragged him into court. They’re saying all manners of lies about him, saying that he’s blasphemed God. He calls them out for what they are: “wide awake but dead inside”.
As the song progresses, they actually start stoning Stephen. That’s right. The “you’re breaking my heart” part is his literal heart being broken as they stone him to death.
Almost immediately afterward, the song sort of devolves into a very heavy part, with tons of screaming and everything’s building…but then it all drops out. The soft jazzy part comes in and Stephen sees heaven open and he sees Jesus.
The lyrics are particularly interesting, as he talks about being overwhelmed with the beauty that he sees. “Many times in my life I doubted your words,” he says, “But here I am and everything I’ve heard is true.” This is an interesting look at what could have been Stephen’s perspective.
This part of the song has since become my favorite, as you can almost imagine how it would feel to have everything that he lived and died for be confirmed.
I’m not a honest man I was born for the grave.
Now we travel back into the Old Testament, with a story about Samson. The chorus of this song had always confused me: “The loneliness of loving someone can steal your eyes”. Of course, it’s obvious now, as Samson literally lost his eyes because of his affair with Delilah. Honestly, I don’t know what I thought it meant before.
The song takes place during Samson’s captivity by the Philistines. He’s been blinded and forced to work while he’s in prison.
He thinks about his father, and the man that he was supposed to be. His parents were a constant force in his life, trying to convince him to stay away from the Philistine women, but he didn’t listen to them and they weren’t persistent enough. He kept falling in with women who were trying to trap him, but he was not only deceived by them. “My strength deceived me,” he says as he thinks back on his life. “I thought I’d own the world.”
This song paints Samson as a hopeless man, one who is constantly deceiving and being deceived, to the point where he just wants to die. As he is preparing for his final days on earth, he apologizes to his parents: “I’m sorry that your efforts were in vain/You were promised so much more.”
As the song draws to a close, there’s a line hidden somewhere in an almost undiscernible scream: “I want to feel the sun and sky on my face as I die!” Samson has been brought out by the Philistines to amuse them as they celebrate his demise. He calls out to God, asking him for strength one last time, and he gets an answer. God gives him the strength and he proceeds to knock down the temple they were in, killing more of them at that one moment than his entire life. It’s this crazy moment of God’s grace on Samson as he is able to use the gift of strength that God gave him for the purpose he gave it to him.
I wanted to see/The world through eyes/But they were never meant for me
This song has been one of my favorites from the moment I first heard it. I had a feeling that it might be about Adam and Eve because of certain key words, such as “naked” and “garden” (I mean, it’s a Christian band, so it wasn’t that much of a leap). However, it was only just a theory in my mind. The song could have been about anything, for all I knew. When I heard that “You Were Never Alone” was a concept album, I felt the glorious feeling of having all your speculations confirmed. You know what I’m talking about: it’s not like “I told you so,” or anything like that, but it’s still feels pretty cool.
The lyrics follow Adam and Eve as they are wandering through a world separated from God. He’s just made them clothing out of animal skins, and as they leave the garden, it’s almost as though they’re experiencing a whole new world.
Although the song is from the perspective of the couple, it mainly focuses on Adam, and the feeling of dread he felt when God banished them from the garden. He didn’t really understand certain concepts like death until it became a reality for him. He wrestles with his guilt, trying to make peace with the fact that he chose to follow his wife over God. Adam warns those who are to come after him to be wise and to never underestimate the power of deception. He was deceived, and his own wickedness led to his death.
This song isn’t an upbeat song. I mean, it’s not a slow song or anything like that, but the lyrics aren’t very positive. And that’s to remind us that we are Adam and Eve. We have sinned against God and we have done what is wrong in his sight. But unlike the first humans, we are not without hope in our lives. We have Jesus and we have his sacrifice and resurrection, which was much more than an event but a literal rewriting of history. While this song might take place at the beginning, it ultimately points us toward the end and to our own subsequent beginning.There are so many good songs on this album, but for the sake of brevity, I have to split up these articles. Read Part 2 here!
Have you listened to this album? What do you think of the Biblical connections in each song?
Let’s talk about it in the comments.
All these cool pictures are from YouVersion’s Bible App for Kids. I’ve used the App before and it’s really cool!
I listened to the podcast on SoundCloud, so just click this link to get there. It’s been around for a while now, so I’m not so sure how I missed it all this time. Oh, and in case you want to hear these songs, just do a quick search on YouTube or Spotify. They’ll be on there!