WOW Hits- the series released each year amongst the CCM circle since 1996 that is becoming more and more of a hot-topic and one that clearly divides avid Christian music fans (myself included) as debates about song choices and artist inclusions/exclusions reign from year to year. Regardless of my objective opinions on WOW Hits, these albums always hold dear to my heart, with the very first WOW album I listened to, WOW Hits 2004, being a catalyst in me branching out in my listening of CCM music, when I heard the compilation in 2003. Receiving this album in the mail as a competition from Word Bookstores, I would say this album is my favourite in a sentimental sense. From artists like Newsboys, ZoeGirl, Third Day, Jaci Velasquez, and Nichole Nordeman, to Avalon, Mark Schultz, FFH, MercyMe and Jeremy Camp; the 2003 edition to the ‘best songs in Christian music’ was able to show me a world of Christian music I hardly knew at that point in time. In 2006 I bought WOW Hits 2006 and WOW Hits 2005 from Koorong, and since then my love for WOW Hits hasn’t wavered.
Fastforward 10 years and I am still enjoying WOW Hits albums, and though I often wonder whether WOW Hits song selections is more about marketability than the best songs any year can offer, I nevertheless still purchase each WOW Hits album release, despite my grumblings and grievances I’ve had with numerous song selection lists lately. And looking through WOW Hits and their artists, it is a fascination to me of how much the CCM landscape has changed- gone are the days of Point of Grace, Caedmon’s Call, Chris Rice, Stacie Orrico, Relient K, Out of Eden, Sixpence None the Richer, Joy Williams and Jump5; with current popular artists like Francesca Battistelli, Tenth Avenue North, Sanctus Real, Group 1 Crew, Christ August, Mandisa, Matt Maher and for KING AND COUNTRY being a great snapshot of what listeners enjoy right now.
I can even remember back to receiving WOW Hits 2004 in the mail. Back then, our family were only listening to a handful of artists- Carman, Delirious?, Tim Hughes, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Steve Grace all made regular trips to the CD player as both myself and Josh enjoyed what we knew of what Christian music seemingly sounded like. So to listen to an album where at the time, I hardly knew any of the artists, was quite a big deal. WOW Hits 2004 led me on a journey of discovering CCM, worship and pop music as I explored each of the artists represented on WOW Hits 2004. Since that moment back in 2004, I became an avid fan of CCM, and still am today. Even though artists have come and gone throughout that time, and others have changed their styles, WOW Hits has probably given me a solid foundation in what is current, while also showing me what was popular throughout the years, ever since its introduction in the mid-1990s.
While in an overall sense, WOW Hits CD’s are a great tool if you want to take a snapshot of any given year and find out which songs were highly publicised; another way to find out what each year brought was WOW Hits: The Videos, which finished production in 2011. With hundreds of videos being released each year, finding the best 20-30 without causing fans of one artist to complain as to why their favourite artist wasn’t represented, is tough. Not every artist who had a hit song, and who was present on a WOW Hits CD, was on a WOW Hits DVD of that same year, and therein lies where I think the series stuttered and ultimately failed. Because some fans were scratching their heads as they weren’t sure the criteria for an artist who made it on the DVD but not on the CD, it was evident that the DVD’s were not as well received as the CD’s. The series halted production, also due to the rapid rise of youtube and videos available online. WOW Hits has since started up youtube playlists, and now the only joy we have of watching the best Christian music videos every year is if we create an online playlist ourselves of the videos we want and are overall happy with.
As with video stores, which are now turned into DVD kiosks, WOW Hits DVD’s, which was another great way of being exposed to artists who may not have had a number 1 CCM hit, are now going the way of being viewed online. Yet how can the fans of artists, who live in Africa, have access to these clips? Not that there’s a simple answer for that (I think the video DVDs should have been continued, but that’s another for another post at another time in another series), however I would like to point out that WOW Hits is something that I have cherished (the DVD’s) and something I will continue to love until they finish (the CD’s).
There is no perfect list, and once we understand that, I think we can fully appreciate and love the WOW Hits CD’s and DVD’s of many, many years gone by, for what they are- a batch of songs created by label executives, who as humans, have their favourite songs and favourite artists as well. Looking at it in that light, WOW Hits may not be the best 30-odd artists of the year but these compilations will still continue to be one of the most anticipated albums of the year. As some of these CD’s have gone out of print, I suggest that you go down to the store and buy as many as you can. After all, I’m a fan of the majority of the artists I listen to right now because of WOW Hits 2004!
Check out some of the videos from the WOW Hits 2004 DVD below. It’s one of my favourite WOW Hits DVD’s ever!