“The easiest thing to do is complain about how things could be. But I’ve found that the more grateful I am, the better life gets for me,” says Cohen Rodgers about his newest Gospel collaboration with Phoenix Versityle, Grateful. All the way from New Bern, North Carolina, Cohen Rodgers presents the audience with an immensely ambitious combination of soulful vocals, an unexpected production reversal, and the powerful alto voice of Phoenix Versityle. A sublime record from a brilliant singer, songwriter, producer.
The intial glimpse into Grateful is a sound of sentimental tranquility comprised by the leading electric guitar and the accompanying soft tambourine. Only 10 seconds in and Cohen Rodgers makes his appearance by clearing his throat. We’ve never heard this sound used as an ad-lib yet. What a unique use of a realistic detail!
“When I was a young man/ I tried to do it on my own/ Raised up as a PK I was/ Taught to know right from wrong/ But I ignored everything I knew/ Lord I disappointed You/ But You still love me and I’m grateful,” sings the artist. The narrative scene is anchored in the past with consequences lingering to this very moment as Cohen Rodgers goes from detailing his young adult years to present-day gratitude for God’s love.
At 35 seconds in, the drums bring a modern refinement to the instrumental and amp up the atmosphere. In all this, Cohen Rodgers vocally kicks it up a notch and effortlessly keeps up with the sonic succession of events: “I have a praying mother yeah/ […]/ She said “devil you can’t have this one/ Get your hands off of my son”/ She never stopped fighting and I’m – grateful.” It is rather clear that Cohen Rodgers is a master of depicting human intensities such as regret, gratitude, reflection, and his mother’s love.
The hook introduces itself as a rather uncommon feature, just as that throat-clearing moment, by letting the back vocals sing the main message and the lead voice backing those voices. In short, Cohen Rodgers reversed the traditional production style of a given hook thus acoustically distinguishing himself from pretty much everyone else out there. “Lord the words I Love You/ Just don’t say enough/ I think of how You love me/ I’ll never measure up/ The price You paid on Calvary / When You shed Your blood it/ Made me worthy/ And I’m – Grateful,” proceeds the beautiful rendition. If you’ve noted, the chorus bears some vintage undertones to it with the music in the forefront and the vocals in the back, and some light intentional distortion applied on a backing voice if you’ve got a good ear.
After the second verse that shows Cohen Rodgers essentially stepping into his own parent role (“I’m a little older now/ With a family of my own”) and an endearing recount of all the times God has helped him (“You’ve kept me from dangers unseen/ At times when I should have been dead / […] / You’ve covered me time after time/ At points when I lost my mind”), we get to hear a warm, familiar voice, that of Phoenix Versityle: “I’m grateful for the many times that You spared my life/ Lord I could have lost my mind in the pain and strife/ You looked beyond my faults and saw my needs/ You took me from a sinful world and You gave me light.” The overriding sense of godly intervention is prevalent in both artists’ lyrics. Phoenix Versityle tenaciously uses her voice to empower the words with an ease to be jealous of. The pairing made of Cohen Rodgers and Phoenix Versityle for Grateful couldn’t be more perfect.
Grateful is a Gospel song of important innovation as Cohen Rodgers employs techniques and arrangements few others dabble in. His choice of an alto voice for a collaboration is also something that goes against the trends for many male performers opt for Sopranos instead. Not Cohen though. He is not afraid to stand next to another as likely powerful singer.
Song Credits: Cohen Rodgers – Singer, Songwriter, Producer, Sound Engineer; Serita Campbell (Phoenix Versityle) – Singer, Songwriter.
Make sure you support these two remarkable talents by adding Grateful to your playlists on Apple Music HERE, on YouTube Music HERE, on Deezer HERE, on Amazon HERE, on Tidal HERE, and on Spotify below:
Written by Mariana Berdianu
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