Capitol Christian Music Group
Release Date: October 8th 2021
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- A Beautiful Life
- There I Go Again
Hillsong Young & Free, well actually Hillsong in all of its 3 facets (Worship, UNITED, Young & Free), need no introduction. If you haven’t heard of them, then you better stop reading this right now, and then check out their discography pronto! You can check out their discographies here, here and here– and you can read about all of our posts on Hillsong Worship, UNITED, and Young and Free in the links here, here and here, and when you’ve finished, you can then read my brother Jon’s Momentous Mondays post about all things Hillsong here! Then, and only then, maybe can gain a bit more perspective and knowledge of the worship movement that’s been around for decades!
Whether you believe in Jesus Christ or not, chances are that you would have definitely heard about this previously small Australian church group now turned global megachurch worship movement, spanning 3 incarnations (Worship, UNITED and Young & Free) and counting, plenty of inspiring singles, no 1 top hits on both Christian and mainstream charts and a plethora of studio and live albums. If you don’t know the name of the group, I am sure some songs will be familiar. With the UNITED branch of the worship ministry originating in 1998, we have been blessed to hear so far 11 live albums (inclusive of the recent People) and 5 studio albums (All Of The Above, Aftermath, ZION, Empires and Wonder). With Hillsong being one of the most popular, respected, prolific and inventive worship movements of all time; their music has touched the lives of many locally and globally. Since its inception, this young worship team have carried on the church’s mission and vision to lift the name of Jesus above all others.
As for Hillsong Young & Free, their latest album All Of My Best Friends released last year, and it’s extremely evident that these passionate young group of worship leaders are not afraid to expand and reinvent the worship genre by infusing dance, pop, electronica and worship together, and are also unafraid and unashamed to speak the word of Jesus in the world. So now… with Alexander Pappas (one of the lead vocalists for Hillsong Young & Free) branching out and creating a solo release- a solo career as well as continuing to stay in the band; how does this latest ‘debut’ release sit in relation to the rest of Hillsong Young & Free’s discography? As much as I don’t like comparing solo endeavours to band material, I guess it’s human nature to compare; and thus, how does IDAHO the EP live up to the successes of the rest of Hillsong Young & Free’s discography- in particular to III which I believe is the band’s most impacting album? Well firstly, the lead single “K.O.” is so, so inspiring and moving- and to me none of the 5 tracks are ‘filler’. It’s not known whether this project is a one-off or not; but I reckon that Alexander’s songs here- on their own merit- warrant many listens. Can you listen to the project without knowledge of Hillsong Young & Free? Yes, of course. Which brings me to the question- is Alexander’s solo material that different to Y&F? and if it is the same or similar, then what is the purpose of going solo?
I was engaged to be married [to my now wife], but there were some problems with my visa that I actually spent the whole year away from home. Away from here, away from her, away from my life and my friends. I felt like I’d been knocked out just so many times. I began to question if I was even meant to do this [EP]. But that song [KO] revived my excitement, and after 2020 it only affirmed to me that this was the first song that needed to come out.
[one of the church leaders] asked, ‘What is one dream that you have that you’re not doing right now?’. Up to that point, I was so content with where I was [with Young & Free], and I just felt a gentle nudge from the Spirit sort of call me to do this project. I said, ‘OK, but I won’t do anything Christian… because I don’t want to get in the way of what I’m doing as Young & Free’. [then the Holy Spirit questioned my belief that] light could get in the way of light… There was one point where I think, for no other reason than my self-doubt and a little bit of fear, I was sort of taking myself out [of the game]. But ultimately, what it’s come down to, is covering [the project] in a lot of prayer and trusting God. If we wait around for the heavens to open for the answer to the next step we’ll be waiting a little while. In as much as there is a prayerful waiting and trusting God in it, there also is a moment to leap.
‘K.O.’ is a call to action and a key to contentedness. Despite our present circumstances, we’re all equipped to move forward, but allowing yourself the understanding resolution doesn’t always happen overnight. The difference is setting your sights on the destination and knowing it begins with taking the first step. Today that might be telling yourself you’re gonna be ok. [as for the EP], there are songs of worship and songs of heartbreak; these are the songs in the middle, of the now and not yet.
Musically and sonically, IDAHO from Alexander, isn’t all that different from anything from Hillsong Young & Free. However, the solo effort… I don’t know, sounds deeper, more mature, more honest and personal? EP opener A Beautiful Life is a poppy EDM radio friendly mid-tempo ballad, whereby Alexander eloquently and earnestly relays to us that though he doesn’t quite know what heaven is going to be like, he’s going to keep on trusting God and asking Him to show him the way. And as Alexander admits that ‘…I found the meaning in this life, and I can’t imagine more than this, when nothing’s better…’, he still presses on and lets God know that ‘…I’m stuck between these lines, oh, I know Your timing’s not like mine, would You show me what You see ahead? ‘Cause nothing’s better…’; reminding us that Jesus has given jus a beautiful life here on Earth, and it’s up to us to enjoy life to the fullest, and to see the wonder and beauty of Jesus Christ through creation. “K.O.”, the EP’s first single, full of boxing references (especially in the music video), reveals Alexander’s inner turmoil of restlessness, anxiety, mental health issues, and feelings of isolation and identity issues during the year of 2020 and the pandemic. It’s a revealing, harrowing, haunting, powerful and honest melody; and as Alexander fervently sings out ‘…I don’t wanna stay here one more minute, I don’t wanna stay if You’re not in it, I don’t wanna wait here one more night, I don’t wanna sit here all my life, stumbled when it came down to the wire, I don’t cave to the pressure, think I’m gonna be, I think I’m gonna be okay…’, we are presented with someone who now is fully aware of his identity in Christ, and knows that with Him, things will truly be ok.
“Memories”, a resounding, revealing, hopeful and poignant 4 minute ballad, is a authoritative statement that Alexander is always going to stay faithful to Jesus, even if right now he doesn’t understand what God is doing- that he is asking God to stay with him and help him see the good in the moment; while the title track is a soothing, reflective ballad, whereby Alexander sings about his testimony story and how he became a Christian. IDAHO then ends with the stirring and honest “There I Go Again”. The confessional, calming and vulnerable acoustic ballad earnestly speaks about always wanting to do life our own way, even with Jesus in our lives; and as Alexander vibrantly relays a theme that is similar to Casting Crowns’ “My Own Worst Enemy”, we are met with someone struggling with their sin and their issues, but also longing to be a vessel for Jesus to move.
With IDAHO firmly placing Alexander Pappas the solo artist at the forefront of the already stratospheric heights of the US Christian market; Hillsong Young & Free’s latest album is a joy to listen to, as we are blessed with the immense heart for Jesus of all the vocalists and personnel involved. Even though I do enjoy the Hillsong United albums better than any other counterpart (inclusive of Young & Free), a few more listens to this collection of songs might reverse my stance. Nevertheless, the megachurch, regardless on your thoughts about the Houston’s, are still a force to be reckoned with, both in CCM and worship. They make the on average 3-4-albums-a-year (in all formats!) aspect work, and if they stick with what they know, then it will definitely work for them in the future! And as for Alexander’s songs on this EP, I reckon it’s a breath of fresh air. With songwriters like Hannah Hobbs, Benjamin Hastings and Aodhan King (all from Hillsong) all part of this EP; these tracks are as good as Hillsong Young & Free have ever been, and I’ll be eagerly awaiting whatever comes next from Alexander, be it another solo project or something with Y&F. Well done to this humble and young Aussie artist whose ministry is guaranteed to touch many lives!
3 songs to listen to: KO, Memories, There I Go Again
RIYL: Hillsong Worship, Hillsong UNITED, Jesus Culture, Bethel Music, Kari Jobe, Meredith Andrews, Chris Tomlin