In the wake of Jon Foreman’s upcoming solo project The Wonderlands, we are given a taste of what we can expect from the Switchfoot front man in the single, “You Don’t Know How Beautiful You Are (Surrender).” The project is similar to his four season EP’s released in 2008, and he will release four EP’s with a total of 24 songs, or one for every hour of the day.
After hearing Foreman perform this acoustically at Heavy and Light, Orando, I was delighted to find it on the To Write Love On Her Arms Soundtrack. Live, this tune was raw and beautiful, and I’m excited to say that the recorded version is just as good.
The tune begins rich in instrumentation. There are layers of whistling, keyboard, vocals, kick drum and base chords, and urgency builds through the uptempo beat. Foreman’s vocals are full of grit and depth, and he dives into the message of the track immediately. Opening with the lyrics, “We learn to wear these masks so young, like a prison that keeps joy from getting through,” it is clear that like his previous work, this song comes straight from the heart.
The chorus lifts, and the drum beat intensifies with the aid of fuller background vocals. I continue to use the word ‘rich’ when describing this track, but on hearing the chorus there seems to be no better word. The instrumentation is molded to lift your spirit, and you can nearly see an Eden like garden blossoming around you with each note.
Delving deeper into the message of our infinite worth, Foreman envelopes Biblical theology within the lyrics. He refers to Adam and Eve and the fall of humanity saying, “We hide ourselves and put the fig leaves on, but a mask could never cover up this shame.” With elements of brass and strings, he delicately walks us through the rest of the song, driving home the brokenness of the human condition and the redemption available for us.
In what can be a difficult and convoluted topic, Foreman simplifies it by making it personal to the listener. The simple repetition of, “You don’t know how beautiful you are,” makes it a song for every man, and it will resonate with you because it is raw and hopeful.
People familiar with Jon’s earlier work will be pleased to know this song is intrinsically ‘him.’ It is poetic, brave and honest; and true to form, the musicianship matches the lyrical content to a tee. The San Diego native not only sets the bar high in Christian music circles, but he sets a world class standard for singer-songwriters everywhere. If “You Don’t Know How Beautiful You Are (Surrender)” is anything to go by, The Wonderlands is going to be good. Really good.