Jennifer Knapp, Letting Go

Amelia Raitt

By Amelia Raitt

on 06.15.11 in Reviews

Letting Go

Jennifer Knapp

It was 2002, and Jennifer Knapp had a problem.

She had just finished touring behind the release of The Way I Am, an album which, like its predecessor, had been a chart-topper and solidified Knapp's place as a fixture in Contemporary Christian Music. Recording for Gotee, a label owned by Christian music megastars DC Talk, and playing church sanctuaries as often as actual clubs, Knapp was fully ensconced. To anyone outside, her position was enviable: a solid career as a musician with a rabid and devoted fanbase.

The trouble, ironically, was The Way She Was: Knapp was a lesbian operating in a marketplace that — with just a small handful of markets on the coasts — was notoriously intolerant of homosexuality. She had spent the better part of her career obfuscating and suppressing, but it was becoming apparent that those kinds of dodges were wearying and emotionally dishonest. Knapp ultimately did the only thing she could: she was honest about who she was, and turned her struggle into bold, bracing pop music.

The fallout was predictable: many of her longtime fans took the wearying, indefensible hard line, angrily lashing out at Knapp and branding her a "sinner." Only a select few embraced her, leaving this one-time Christian pop superstar to rebuild her audience from the ground up.

Fortunately, she's got the record to do it: Letting Go is tough and tuneful, a showcase for Knapp's rugged voice and songwriting aplomb. Straddling a line somewhere between Melissa Etheridge and Kelly Clarkson's rockier impulses, Letting Go is a dark, proud, resilient statement of purpose, one that serves as a new starting point while retaining all of the things she did well in the past. "I'm so tired of standing on the edge of myself," Knapp roars in album-opener "Dive In." Letting Go finds her finally, fully embracing herself entirely, and couching her discoveries in grand, gritty pop.