Artist Spotlight: John Mark McMillan’s “Borderland”

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Written by Logan Welliver.  Media by Stephen Hillrich.


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John Mark McMillan. The man of my dreams. A man that has brought me to my knees. Through his raw vocals and his compelling lyrical style, John Mark McMillan is truly a gem in the music industry.

McMillan began his career with several independent albums, The Hope Anthology and most notably, The Song Inside the Sounds of Breaking Down, which featured the song “How He Loves,” which became extremely popular within Christian Pop Culture. “How He Loves” has been covered by many different artists, the most well known being the David Crowder Band. The maturity of his lyrics has not always matched the immature sound that he often produced which has made for some interesting combinations, but it was obvious that between the two albums, McMillan started to become a great musician and songwriter. Some of these tracks were eventually re-recorded for his newer albums with better arrangements.

After releasing The Song Inside the Sounds of Break Down, McMillan took a record deal with Integrity Music where he was able to crank out two fantastic albums, The Medicine and Economy. The Medicine was the album that defined McMillan’s sound. it showcased his lyrical and musical ability and his drive to make a beautiful sound out of a beautiful message.

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But the real reason I write this is because less than two weeks from now, John Mark McMillan will be releasing a brand new album entitled Borderland. I have managed to listen to this album completely through four times and needless to say, McMillan has outdone himself. Generally I get antsy and nervous when artists release a new album because of the possibility that it might not live up to the former release. I am happy to report that this is not the case. McMillan has outdone himself in every regard.

My favorite line off the new album is by far from his song “Future / Past” (below).  It reads, “And You, You are my first, You are my last, You are my future and my past,” and while not the most creative lyrics on the album, they are easily some of the most emotional and powerful words sung on the album. In terms of pure shock and enjoyment throughout the album I think the greatest example is in the title track, “Borderland.”

Help me, Holy Jesus,
won’t you show me how to live,
I got my monsters at my table,
I got Bibles bent like shivs,
Help me, Holy Lord,
I see the light of Heavens porch,
But so many of us are born again outside your chain-link fence.
Living in the Borderland

The album does not solely rely on fantastical lyrical content to carry itself, but also in the way it differs itself musically. While it has similar qualities to some of his previous releases, McMillan is not afraid to branch out a little more from his pure alternative roots. There are hints of electronic instruments other than guitars, most notably the synthesized drums in some of the tracks. Lots of heavy beats are present in his style and they are not absent from this album. It’s as if his heart was beating through the entire recording process and somehow got mixed into the track.

This album is heart, conviction, love, and triumph incarnate. I cannot recommend this piece of art enough to anybody who considers themselves an avid music listener. John Mark McMillan has crafted something truly magnificent and, in my humble opinion, is one of the greatest songwriters of our generation.

video via Official John Mark McMillan YouTube Channel


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