Morning, I trust you are being productive this July! I have
not been! I don’t know. Life’s crazy, kids. Now back to our topic, which was. . ? Oh yeah, I was going to share with you an album review!
I’m sorry this post is so long (1,300+ words), but it’s divided into sections, and I hope that makes it more skimmable while still allowing you to catch the message!
Side note: each link is to a Spotify page. Sorry, I don’t really do YouTube.
David Dunn is the most underrated artist I listen to. He crosses Christian pop, contemporary, and electro-ish (don’t quote me). He’s in my top ten, and for good reason, I think.
Dunn has four albums: For the Life of Me (2012), Crystal Clear (2015), Yellow Balloons (2017), and Perspectives (2020), along with a few EPs and singles. Yellow Balloons is my favorite, and was masterfully written, organized, and created. Let me explain why.
It’s a short 10-track, 37 min 57 sec album, but it packs a powerful punch. Here’s the tracklist, along with the duration time in parenthesis:
1. Kingdom (3:06)
2. Open Arms (3:48)
3. Grace Will Lead Me Home (4:11)
4. I Don’t Have to Worry (3:17)
5. I Wanna Go Back (3:50)
6. Ruins (3:05)
7. History (3:11)
8. Masterpiece (3:37)
9. Vacation (5:59)
10. Yellow Balloons (3:49)
Looking at the cover, I thought this would be a fun, lighthearted, thoughtful, electro album.
But oh was I wrong! With most albums, even Dunn’s others, there are a few themes and overarching messages, usually tying into the album’s cover and title. However, sometimes the connections are loose, or there’s no connection at all. Yellow Balloons differs dramatically.
No song in the album is random. They all align—very strongly. The cover itself, with the yellow lines and picture of Dunn, doesn’t relate too much. But the album title, which is the title of the last track as well, is incredibly fitting.
I’ll just spoil the themes now—according to David Dunn in one interview, most of the songs are about Heaven and little kids/childhood; a third and fourth theme I noticed is the security we have in God (which I’ll call “security”) and restoration. But we’re not done yet on the depth.
I’ll explain further, but right now, I’m going to go song by song, name the themes present, and offer a short explanation! Also, say whether the song is slow/bittersweet or upbeat/profound, and provide some lines.
Theme(s): Heaven. Sound: upbeat/thoughtful. This song reaffirms some important theologies of Heaven. So many people have this image of Heaven in their minds, and a lot of the time it’s faulty. Heaven as the afterlife is better than we can ever imagine.
The song says: “Not Just a set of pearly gates and angels with wings, no it’s more / Heaven is here, Heaven is now / Heaven is a thing that is coming down / Lives in the hearts of those who believe / The Kingdom of God that’s living in me.
2. Open Arms
Theme(s): security, restoration. Sound: slow/bittersweet. It talks about how God is strong enough to handle our messy life and broken hearts. How He’s always waiting for us to turn to Him.
The song says: When we find ourselves inside the darkness / And confusion is hiding where the light is / He is always there, with open arms.
3. Grace Will Lead Me Home
Theme(s): Heaven, restoration. Sound: slow/bittersweet. This song talks about a place of rest; the Christian’s true home—Heaven. Only through God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness can we have access to Heaven. Some parts are based on John Newton’s Amazing Grace, I believe.
The song says: Through every trial I have come / Only Your grace will lead me home.
4. I Don’t Have to Worry
Theme(s): Security, childhood. Sound: upbeat/thoughtful. This song gives examples of popular radical Bible stories, like David beating Goliath. These are things we hear as little kids, but when you think about it. . . our God is so powerful. So, with Him watching over us, we don’t have to worry.
The song says: I know; You split the sea / And You held it there; for the world to see / I-I know; that deadly flames / Were made powerless; when they Heard Your Name / So what am I so afraid of?
5. I Wanna Go Back
Theme(s): childhood. Sound: upbeat/thoughtful. The most popular track on the album, this song is about returning and being reminded of the simple, strong faith many have in their childhood—before adult and teenage struggles poisoned our faith.
The song says: And then I grew up / And then I got older / And my life got tough/ And we grew apart / Oooh, I wanna go back / To “Jesus loves me, this I know” / “For the Bible tells me / “For the Bible tells me so.”
Theme(s): restoration. Sound: upbeat/thoughtful. This song is an imagery of the ruins and rubble of your life, and the truth that God can use those broken pieces to build something new in and for you.
The song says: Tomorrow’s hard to see when, you’re not there / The broken, the busted, the world that you trusted / Is gone / What if the rubble that you stand in / Are the perfect pieces that the Builder needs?
Theme(s): Security, restoration. Sound: upbeat/thoughtful. This song ponders the “what ifs” in the scenario of a perfect world (Adam and Eve not sinning), then decides that God has history in His hands.
The song says: What God did with history / To me it’s just a mystery / And I don’t know, that’s ok / Oh cause faith is just a funny thing / I believe, He knows better than me.
Theme(s): restoration. Sound: upbeat/thoughtful. We are His masterpieces. God doesn’t make mistakes, and he has a plan for each of us.
The song says: You, make, a symphony / From broken melodies / You do it beautifully / You, take, the mess of me / Make it a masterpiece / You make a masterpiece
Theme(s): Security, restoration. Sound: slow/bittersweet. This song is a cry to God for rest. He, David Dunn, wants “a vacation” from the stresses of time and life, to be with Jesus.
The song says: I wanna go where the clocks all stand still / To get away from the heat and the uphill / Where all the work is through / And all I need is You / I wanna take a vacation, just to be with You.
10. Yellow Balloons
Theme(s): Heaven, childhood. It ponders security and restoration. Sound: slow/bittersweet. This one changes everything. . . the deep truths you notice in those upbeat songs that turn them from “boppy” to heart-breakingly bittersweet.
See, this whole album was almost a therapy, let’s say, for Dunn. A storm of thoughts and emotions as he processed the tragic death of his two-year-old niece, Moriah. Her death was a medical mystery, and it struck the family hard.
The song says: So we cry on her birthdays / And wish that we knew / Why You took her to Heaven / So soon / And we beg for Your presence / We beg for more of You / ‘Cause our beautiful girl / Left the world.
The album was released in 2017, and she died in 2015. The song Yellow Balloons is achingly raw and honest, as Dunn struggled to find hope and trust in God. Unlike most tracks in the album, this one I’m careful to not listen to whenever.
Why? It’s personal and deep. A lot of people listen to songs just because they sound good, and Dunn’s voice alone with a sad guitar is beautiful. . . but the lyrics mean just as much to me.
In Conclusion. . .
Releasing yellow balloons into the sky at a memorial is a practice that a lot of people do, including David Dunn’s family. They’re a symbol of hope, a bright ‘glow’ in a dark time.
Each theme alone seems regular at first for a Christian artist, but when you put them all together, the pieces start to fit together, and then you get to the last song. . . this album just wows me.
The album Yellow Balloons has catchy tunes and mesmerizing sounds, but it’s also plenty full of depth. That is why this is one of my favorite albums ever. I hope you’ll give it a listen, and also take a minute or two to pray for families that are hurting because of similar tragic losses.