Jo Dee Messina – “That’s God”

Sam Gazdziak | January 26th, 2010

jo-dee-messina-thats-godJo Dee Messina is having a hard time catching a break. Her “new” album, Unmistakable, has been sitting on a shelf somewhere in Curb Records’ headquarters for about two-and-a-half years while sporadic single releases failed to make an impact on radio. Now, when the album has an alleged release date and a single goes out to radio to drive interest, it ends up being a clone of Lee Ann Womack’s “There Is a God.” That song is struggling to make a dent on the charts as it is, and it’s questionable how dueling devotionals are going to be good for either one.

The way these God songs work is, you make a list of a bunch of good things, and you attribute it all to Him. You might want to throw in a verse about how the non-believers just don’t get it, too. George Strait made the formula work with “I Saw God Today,” because he was talking about one specific, miraculous event. This song isn’t about one thing, it’s about everything.

God is a mountaintop. God is a really good song. God is the wonderment of a small child. God is love. God may be an earthquake that levels an entire city too, but we’re only mentioning the good stuff here.

“It doesn’t have to be a miracle, it might just be the little things,” Messina sings, and that’s fine. However, there’s no context of why the singer is thinking about all these little things, making the song just a vaguely related bunch of stuff tied together by putting God’s name in the lyrics repeatedly. He deserves a credit as a co-writer, as much as His name gets thrown around.

It would be nice to have a profession of faith that’s compelling and not a pandering attempt to court the Christian country music demographic with a simplistic song that isn’t close to Messina’s best vocals. She’s never sounded particularly good when she stretches out monosyllabic words, and she does it repeatedly here with the line, “That’s God.” After having her sit idle since 2007, there needs to be a better reason to make country radio care about Jo Dee Messina again.

Thumbs Down

  1. Steve Harvey
    January 26, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Where did all the good religious songs go? I think I’ll listen to THE MAN COMES AROUND to wash this out of my ears.

  2. Jon
    January 26, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    They’re in bluegrass, bluegrass gospel, southern gospel…

  3. Noeller
    January 26, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Ugh. I heard this up north here over the weekend and I actually shuddered. Devotional songs don’t fly with me to begin with, and the fact that this is a terrible second rate version of an LAW terrible, second rate version of a decent Strait tune, doesn’t help.

  4. J.R. Journey
    January 26, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    It’s impossible not to compare other songs like this to Strait’s excellent ‘I Saw God Today’. I rarely latch onto religious-themed songs, but I could relate to that one. I never pinpointed why, but that it is more specific and therefore, personal, is probably a good reason.

    I’ve been disappointed for some time at the lack of new music from Jo Dee Messina, but judging from the single releases, I’m not sure I’m all that eager to hear what she’s singing anymore. I can’t judge the entire album by the single releases, but it sounds to me like the spunky New England girl who won our hearts in the late 90s has faded away, and in her place is a major label production only interested in hit-making.

  5. Thomas
    January 26, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    assigning the review of a song with spiritual content to you, sam, is like asking george w. bush to become president of the united states. obviously, it had been done but the outcome is a major trainwreck either way.

    9 out of 10 times i can’t stand this christian schmalz camouflaged as country music but every once in a while there’s quite a listenable one amongst it. this is one of them. it’s acoustically pleasant and by saying “that’s god” jo dee messina leaves it up to the idividual listener to form a idea in his mind/heart/soul about this phenomenon called god. unlike lee ann womack she doesn’t insist that there is a god. she mereley lists moments that sometimes touch you really deep and might make you think. that’s more than acceptable.

  6. Grizzly Adam
    January 26, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    This song is bland and pandering, or ‘blandering’ if you will. I’m tired of generic, quasi-inspiratinal songs about God, America and people with cancer or some other malady. Now, if I said that out loud, I’d get labeled as anti-Christian (I’m not), anti-American (I’m not) and a cold-hearted bastard (I probably am). And that’s why the Nashville machine keeps popping songs like this out…they’re bulletproof. Criticize the song and get called any or all of the above. Give me a Louvin Brothers murder ballad any day over this.

  7. Chris N.
    January 26, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    WHY DO YOU HEATHENS HATE GOD????!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

  8. Dan Milliken
    January 26, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Just for the sake of appreciating them when they happen: this is a kick-ass review.

  9. Nicolas
    January 26, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    This song wipes the floor with that sub-par George Strait song.

    I love this song; I think its a lot better than LAW’s song, and I hope it does really well because I’m ready for Unmistakable to be released. Love Jo Dee!

  10. Rick
    January 26, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    Jo Dee needs a sassy follow up song to Joe Diffie’s “My Give A Damn’s Busted” to become relevant again! I’d recommend Jeff Steele’s “How Long Am I Supposed To Wait” as the perfect follow up. If Donnie Vondra can record a good version, imagine the kind of feisty spin Jo Dee could add to it! Here’s a moderate quality feed of Donnie’s version to see if my suggestion holds water:

    Link: http://musicremedy.com/audio/index.cfm?fuseaction=showaudioplayer&audioId=23259&quality=5

    A higher quality version of that song is available for download purchase at the ILike website as well as the Lofton Creek label website. Its well worth 99 cents!

  11. waynoe
    January 26, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Wonder what ole’ Sam would have said if the song also mentioned trucks, gun racks, and red, white, and blue?

    Can you imagine his rage then? I mean, that is so stereotypical as we all know that there are no country music listeners that have those things. Right?

    And Grizzly, you obviously have not heard all the Louvin songs have you?

  12. ALJID
    January 26, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    They don’t hate God. They just don’t like the way God’s name is included in songs without justice since He is the Greatest. But perhaps I am just a fan of Jo because I like this song. It’s been ages since we heard anything from her and any new song from her is good enough for me. I’m sorry but my taste isn’t as sublime as most of the readers here.

  13. Stacy
    January 26, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    I absolutely LOVE this song! It is just a bad coincidence that LAW’s was released around the same time. I am not a very religeous person but this song brings happy tears to my eyes everytime I hear it. It is touching and makes you realize what is important in life: family, friends, appreciating the little things……I hope it does well because I want this album to come out. Curb has been holding it back waaaayyy too long bacause they are only concerned with getting a #1 and making money. Unfortunatly, THAT is the music business and J.R. Journey, should NOT reflect on Jo Dee as a person or artist. She only wants to make and release music like most artists. But the labels want to make money, lots of it and don’t much care about artist’s wishes.
    You can listen to the actual recorded version on http://www.jodeemessina.com. You can also buy it at iTunes and Amazon.com

  14. stormy
    January 26, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWPjFj9dyoY

    Or, you know, would his father want credit for all the songs people claim are about him.

    Here’s a second good gospel album
    http://www.amazon.com/Oh-Happy-Day-Various/dp/B001PUTNJS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1264559281&sr=8-1

    And for all those who think we who hate this song hate God, Patty Griffin made a really wonderful Gospel album that I think we can all agree to like.

  15. Sam G.
    January 26, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    “assigning the review of a song with spiritual content to you, sam, is like asking george w. bush to become president of the united states.”

    Well, I am the staff hell-bound heathen. Honestly, I’d go to church more except I burst into flames whenever I cross the threshold.

    “Wonder what ole’ Sam would have said if the song also mentioned trucks, gun racks, and red, white, and blue?”

    Throw in trains, momma and gettin’ drunk, and I’d call it the perfect country & western song.

  16. Marc
    January 26, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    @Chris N: It’s hard to hate what doesn’t exist… :)

  17. Noeller
    January 26, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    @Marc: Wooo!! That’s ballsy son, but I love it! :) Well played, sir!

  18. sam (sam)
    January 26, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    At this point, only an act of God could save Messina’s career. Also, I agree with Grizzly Adam’s post above.

  19. Nicolas
    January 26, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    The thing that seperates this from LAW’s song is that at least Messina herself wrote this, she didn’t pluck it from another artist’s catalogue at random; it was inspired while she was spending time with her song in Canada

    And I think its one of her finest ballad performances (from an artist more familiar to the kiss off up-tempo type songs), and the production is more subdued and as over-the-top as it could’ve easily been

  20. Nicolas
    January 26, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    *and not as over-the-top as it could’ve easily been

  21. Noeller
    January 26, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    As far as Messina ballads, my money is with “I Wish” – LOVE that song.

  22. J.R. Journey
    January 26, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    @Stacy: My decision to lose interest in Jo Dee Messina’s new album isn’t because the singles are failing at radio, and certainly not that Curb Records isn’t making money from her. I’m saying this is about the 4th single release in a row from her that just plain sucks. How can you look forward to an album when every single you’ve heard from it is a sonic mess or ‘blandering’ such as this. And I know she’s capable of better than what she’s been giving.

    And yes, the material she chooses to sing should definitely reflect on Jo Dee Messina, and any singer for that matter, as a person and an artist.

    Without holding the artist under scrutiny for the material and being concerned only with ‘does my favorite artist have a popular hit’ is no different from the mindset of the likes of Mike Curb to me. We call them superfans and label heads around here, depending on which side of the desk they sit on.

  23. Jon G.
    January 26, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    If nothing else, it’s good to hear Messina’s voice again.
    I personally thought that “I’m Done” was decent enough.

    I thought that Womack’s “There is a God” was awful – dispassionate to the point of being boring. Trent Willmon at least put some conviction and life in his delivery.

  24. Bill
    January 27, 2010 at 8:19 am

    I think you are very wrong about Jo Dee Messina’s “That’s God”! A lot of people including me needed to hear this song right now. It is truly beautiful.

  25. Erik
    January 27, 2010 at 8:35 am

    It’s better than the Lee Ann Womack song, but still disappointing to me. Her vocal is pretty good, but she was never one to ace ballads like she did up-tempos.

  26. Jon G.
    January 27, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Idk

    I thought “Burn” and “Bring On the Rain” were very good, for instance.

  27. Dave W.
    January 27, 2010 at 9:38 am

    I’m not crazy about LAW’s recent song. But this isn’t as bad as I was expecting after reading the review. Certainly not nearly as good as ‘I Saw God Today’ but the melody is pretty, vocals are good – a bit sappy but I enjoyed the listen. Not her best though and hopefully the next single will be better.

  28. AtlantaFan
    January 27, 2010 at 10:00 am

    I don’t think the song is bad. But I agree with some of the other “lyric police” that some of situations don’t conjure up a “That’s God” feeling for me including the line about ‘those they say they don’t believe.’ I agree with Jon G. that Willmon’s version of “There is a God” is better than LAW’s.

    Country radio can afford to have a devotional in rotation, but not two. Bad luck and bad timing for a very much missed Jo Dee.

  29. Paul
    January 27, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    I think it’s a great inspirational ballad. I like the story behind it, which you can see at her website. The best concert I’ve ever been to was a Jo Dee Messina show.

  30. Joe
    January 27, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    I sure hope “Shine” is on the album.

  31. Nicolas
    January 28, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    ^ Its not; “Biker Chick” and “Shine” were thrown out, but Messina kept “I’m Done”

  32. Steve A
    January 29, 2010 at 9:18 am

    I like Jo Dee’s “That’s God” but I agree, the timing could not have been worse with LAW’s release. They will have to compete for airplay, but LAW has the upper hand because hers was released first. If you listen to to them both it’s eerie how similar they are. Makes you kind of wonder…I’m a huge fan of Jo Dee Messina, but some of her releases just have not been as good as they used to be. I hate to say it, but “Biker Chick” has to be one of the worst songs I have ever heard. Just awful! I’m not sure what they were thinking on that one. “Shine” and “I’m Done” were okay, but not great. I think the time between the albums has really hurt her. She has a lot of fans out there who would buy regardless of a hit on radio but the more time they wait the more fans become interested in other artists. Radio will play the songs people want to hear. Sugarland, Taylor Swift, Chesney, Urban….these are the hit makers these days. Once you’ve bee gone for a long time its harder to get back on the charts. I think that’s why this “softer” side of Jo Dee could work because it’s different than her attitude songs. Curb just needs to release the album and move on.

  33. Michelle
    January 29, 2010 at 10:52 am

    Alright I had to put my two cents in here. I wouldn’t call myself a hard core Jo Dee Messina fan although I do think she is very talented. I’m not going to claim “That’s God” is the greatest song or even radio worthy. I don’t think it’s a radio hit . I just don’t. However, I don’t think its the sonic mess it’s being called. I think it’s a simpler song. It very simply states that while maybe you thought you were alone you clearly aren’t. Because God is everywhere. Again, not the greatest song we’ve heard from Jo Dee. But it’s not trash either. Come on after Achy Breaky Heart became a hit I don’t think we can trash Jo Dee based on this one. I hope that she gets things together and releases this album. Because the material I have heard is top notch! And praise to Jo Dee for singing whats in her heart not necessarily whats on the charts.

  34. Chris N.
    January 29, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    ALL YOU FILTHY SINNERS WILL BE SMOTE BY A VENGEFUL GOD FOR HATING THIS SONG!!!!1!!!11111!!!!!

  35. nm
    January 29, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Smote? Is that the kind of language you folks are using at your new magazine? I dunno what the world is coming to.

  36. Steve M.
    January 29, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    The only way to enjoy sin is to make sure its filthy. If you are going to feel guilty, might as well make it over something big.

  37. Chris N.
    January 29, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Kidding! I’m an atheist, of course.

  38. Donna
    February 12, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    I think you guys have it all wrong !!! That’s God is an awesome song by an awesome preformer, JoDee has proven herself time and time again and at this point in her carrer she shouldn’t have to anymore!!! The CD, “Unmistakable” is an incredible work of art, I have heard all of the songs on it and they are all terrific. Biker Chick should have been a number one song, it just wasn’t promoted, same with “I’m Done” If Carrie Underwood or Taylor Swift would have put them out, they would have gone to the top of the charts, but because Curb records is having their difficulties now, so are all of their artisits.Mike Curb himself said this is her best CD yet. JoDee has paid her dues, let’s give her the respect she deserves !!!! Your all going to eat your words when this CD finally comes out and it goes to number one !!!!!!

  39. Deb
    February 12, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    The only thing that kept ‘Biker Chick’and ‘I’m Done’ from impacting radio was the lack of label support from Curb Records. Everytime Jo Dee gets a single ready for release for airplay Curb finds some reason to pull the song. At concerts both songs got great response. Female bikers loved Biker Chick. Known for her ‘kiss-off’ songs, Jo Dee had/has a hit with ‘I’m Done’ if only it had been allowed to travel up the charts of radio. The powers that be at Curb Records have almost single-handly put Messina’s career on hold for the past 5 years. The honorable thing for Curb would be to release Ms. Messina from her contract and let her find a label that will give her the support she deserves. She is an artist that has an incredible singing voice that is unique and unmistakeable. As for the single ‘That’s God’ – It was a song written by a mother sharing the awesomeness of God’s wonder with her son. Curb Records knew when they decided to release the single to radio that ‘There is A God’ was to be released and didn’t choose to put another song in it’s place. There have been over 20 songs recorded for this album, it is time for it to be released.

  40. sam (sam)
    February 12, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    Somehow, whenever an artists career is going well, its because the artist is great. But when the career fizzles, its because the record label (here Curb) is screwing up.

    In my humble view, “Biker Chick” and “I’m Done” were not very good. I doubt they would have been big hits had Curb pushed those records hard. And even if Curb could have gotten those songs into the top 10 at radio, I am skeptical that those songs would have encouraged many people to buy a Jo Dee Messina album.

    But more to the point, if Curb didn’t support “Biker Chick” and “I’m Done,” that only shows that Curb is pretty smart. Surely Curb can find better uses of its promotional budget than to spend on those dogs.

  41. Brady Vercher
    February 13, 2010 at 1:53 am

    Sam, aren’t you kinda ignoring the fact that Curb is the one that released those songs to radio in the first place?

  42. sam (sam)
    February 13, 2010 at 2:05 am

    That’s a good point. Curb is releasing those singles to begin with. Why would they do that if they don’t believe in them?

    I’d be interested to know what their rationale for releasing these seemingly weak singles was? Did Curb at one point think these songs had potential and then give up on them? Is Curb somehow making money off these singles? Is there contractual reason why Curb might be releasing these singles even if it isn’t that interested in supporting them.

    I’m also confused as to why Curb is releasing “That’s God.” With the very similar Womack song on the charts (and doing badly), its seems unlikely that “That’s God” will gain any traction.

    What does Curb gain from all of this?

    I don’t mean this in a “Curb is crazy” kinda way. Maybe they are – but I assume they have some reason behind what they do. I’m just a fan, and I just find this interesting.

  43. Jimmy Rowe
    February 26, 2010 at 10:03 am

    This “review” (and I hesitate to use that word, because it was more of a critique) is just another example of why people like this writer are sitting behind a computer terminal somewhere listening to music on their i-pods and scrawling out some diatribe that either glorifies that particular subject as the “…greatest song yet” or “…worst effort ever!”

    This is why these people aren’t actually “in” the music or radio business. They are frustrated outsiders and hangers-on whose only way to get the attention of the public is write something that stirs the readers up.

    As far as Messina’s “That’s God” number goes, it is a beautiful melody that speaks to the hearts of the listener. I guarantee that 200 years ago there people who thought Mozart’s music was the worst noise ever created by human beings. Now we look back at him as a timeless classic composer.

    Who can say that the JoDee Messina’s of the current music world won’t be looked back at as “classic artists” down the road?

    *For what it’s worth, just having a spiritual reference in the title or lyrics of a song does NOT automatically classify it as a “religious” song.

  44. Melinda
    March 3, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    I Love this song…In fact love all her songs..She has to be one of the most hard working down to earth, do anything for anyone kind of person there is.. I think people just need to give her a break and lay off her.. She is a wonderful writer and person all around..

    And for comparing this to lee ann’s song…No…
    I find lee ann’s song sounds more whiney in the vocals,,,,
    Jo dee’s Song is much nicer and easier to listen too, and it came from her heart. which shows in the song..

    Again, does anyone on here ever get a positive review???

    From what I have read..NO and there seems to be alot of bashing going on.

  45. Thomas
    March 3, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    …you sound as if you fit in perfectly, melinda.

  46. merlefan49
    March 3, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    @Jimmy Rowe
    I think it is a safe bet JoDee will not be remembered as a classic artist. For the most part she is total forgotten by the masses now.

  47. NASHVILLEREALITYCHECK
    March 31, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    This song is sung with honesty and emotion and it has a great message a lot of people need to hear right now. That means a lot more than how “well crafted” it is. Hey I have a great idea!!! Lets all base our reviews on “The Craft Of Lyric Writing” by Sheilia Davis.Those “near rhymes” sure are tricky aren’t they?

    The only “bad” here was releasing it right after Lee Ann’s song.And you wonder why record company’s are losing millions. Maybe they should stop letting Belmont interns make decisions at the labels!

    The problem with some critics(and frustrated songwriters) is they listen too much with their heads and too little with their hearts…anal-yzing it instead of feeling it,and we all know where your head is when your doing that! Peace

  48. Steve
    April 16, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    Jo Dee is finally releasing new music April 27th! Check out CMT to listen to the songs- http://www.cmt.com/artists/az/messina_jo_dee/2508711/album.jhtml

  49. Amy P
    April 26, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    I absolutely LOVE the song “That’s God”….it’s a shame to have to compare it to others….it’s great by itself, it’s great when listened to next to others……I love it!!!! I was bummed to learn it wasn’t on your new CD “Unmistakable”!

  50. Josh
    September 20, 2010 at 12:22 am

    I love Jo Dee Messina and this song!

Tagged In This Article

Current Discussion

  • bob: Thanks Barry. Just reserved the Adam Gussow book. Sounds interesting.
  • Barry Mazor: It may be over-stated, in arriving at practically a single explanation of everything, but Adam Gussow's book on lynching and …
  • Leeann: Wow! Heavy topic and horrifying indeed! "Beer for My Horses" was all fun and games until that reference, I'll have …
  • Barry Mazor: Everything else aside, the way that reporter fills us in, with must-have, pointless generational snark included, about who this "Little …
  • luckyoldsun: "The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia" seems to be about a lynching--even if there's something about a judge …
  • Arlene: Sorry. I meant to give the link for "Supper Time." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZ58Kfe41kI
  • Arlene: Another song sung by Ethel Waters: Irving Berlin's "Supper Time"
  • bob: Powerful songs. I read the book "A Lynching in the Heartland" by James H. Madison about a dozen years ago. …
  • Ron: Sky Above, Mud Below by Tom Russell is another.
  • Jack Williams: Another Othis Taylor song from White African is "My Soul's in Louisiana."

Recently Reviewed Albums

  • paulthorntooblessed
  • duhksbeyondtheblue
  • kelleymickwee
  • sandrarhodes
  • candi staton
  • sturgillsimpsonmetamodern
  • raypricebeautyis
  • rodneycrowelltarpapersky