Release Date: July 14th 2023
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Take You At Your Word (feat. Aodhan King)
- O Praise The Name (Anastasis)
- Highlands (Songs Of Ascent)
- Don’t you Give Up On Me
- So Will I (100 Billion X)
- As You Find Me
- The Father’s House
Here’s an assertion that I reckon is pretty spot on, in my own opinion. Hillsong Church is probably one of the most well-known, popular, inspirational, loved, hated, controversial, and much needed churches/bands/institutions ever. All of these adjectives at the same time, you ask? Well…yes. In short, Hillsong and all of its incarnations have encouraged many, and have angered much more. Yet even as a divisive international entity, the biggest church in Australia still offers so much hope to the world, that it’s hard not to be floored in a good way, and amazed at the group’s musical endeavours. Particularly Hillsong Worship of late, we have “What A Beautiful Name”, “Who You Say I Am”, “King Of Kings”, and more recently “Hope Of The Ages”, each breaking records on radio and changing lives. My brother Jon even wrote about Hillsong on one of his latest Momentous Mondays blog posts a few years ago.
Yet just as three years ago (and also well into 2021, 2022 and this year!), Hillsong has been in the news for all the wrong reasons though. In July 2019 I think (I can’t be sure of the exact date!), former worship leader Marty Sampson renounced his faith in Jesus. In response to this unexpected news, John Cooper the frontman of rock band Skillet, wrote a lengthy response to Marty’s admission, which in effect spoke about the importance of placing our faith in Jesus and reading the Word of God rather than looking to worship leaders as the source of all of our truth. As John firmly reminded us all to place our roots in the Bible so that they can’t be shaken…Hillsong stayed silent on this ever-prevalent matter (aside from a generic statement they posted on their website, which I saw back in August 2020, but I can’t find now!). Now I’m not sure if many worship leaders from Hillsong were walking with Marty in his time of need. I’m not even sure if other worship leaders are still walking alongside him and ministering to him. I’m hoping and praying that they are! But I reckon a public statement from the church about all of this wouldn’t do any harm, and it would definitely clear up any speculation about the church’s stance of what Marty has said- once and for all. And though right now you hear nothing from Marty (I think he’s cut himself off from anything to do with church and with Christians), another ‘scandal’ reared its head in late 2021, as Brian Houston is now on trial for concealing evidence back in the 70’s of his father abusing children. Carl Lentz also faced backlash and scrutiny after his affair; while in 2023, there’s a documentary on Disney +, that speaks about the many scandals Hillsong has faced, and painting the church in a negative light. And so, whatever your own views on what is happening right now with Hillsong and their church, in the forefront of the media (and it may be negative, and in that case, I probably wouldn’t blame you!)- there’s no denying that there’s still some impressive music that these guys have released.
It is under these same skies that Christ’s church–His body on earth–exists today. And–though separated by oceans and closed borders–the mission of Hillsong Worship continues under these same skies. One in heart and spirit, unified in mission and cause–to glorify the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to build His Church, and to serve His Church with the new song. We pray and believe that all of our labor sown in faith will mean a harvest for God’s glory, and we pray something that really blesses you and helps you to encounter Jesus in a fresh way in this season.
When I reviewed the Spanish album Hay Mas from these guys, I firmly reiterated that ‘…It isn’t known whether Hillsong Worship will retire (I really don’t think so, and my guess is that they’ll keep going, and eventually phase out older members and introduce newer worship leaders, resulting in eventually a brand-new movement). And it also isn’t known what will happen in the near future- their reputation and brand may hinge upon what they say in response to Marty’s revealing post. However, I think personally that their best is yet to come!…’; nonetheless, I reviewed the live album These Same Skies in November 2021. You can read all about that album here, but the long and short of it was that I found these songs revitalising and refreshing, despite the scandals and the controversy. Considering everything that was going on with Marty, and with the Carl Lentz affair, and with Brian over the past few years, I was hesitant to dive deep into many Hillsong-adjacent projects. I didn’t review TAYA’s debut album- Jon did. I also didn’t review Brooke Ligertwood’s debut worship album- Jon did as well. Hannah Hobbs’ live album Sundown will be reviewed this year (I don’t know by who!), and the same goes for Chris Davenport’s TIME. But overall, Hillsong was a church and an organisation that I largely stayed away from for a while. Sure, I reviewed These Same Skies as well as Team Night. But on the whole; I consciously decided to let the drama unfold and create some distance between me and the controversy, just to gain some perspective. And now that I have some breathing room… how is my foray back into Hillsong?
Is Benjamin William Hastings an artist that you would instantly recognise? I reviewed his debut two singles, but never followed up on reviewing his actual debut project. Now that an expanded edition has released, that album will be reviewed in due time. But I thought that in dipping my toe back into the Hillsong sphere, what better way than to ‘review’ songs we’ve heard before and songs we love. Songs You Maybe Didn’t Know I Wrote And Some You Maybe Did is a project that released around about a couple of weeks ago, and is a familiar journey as we are met with plenty of original renditions of fan favourites and songs that we never know were ever written by Benjamin. And as such as most of us would be familiar with most, if not all of these songs, let me just say that Benjamin is a song-writing genius. He may not have the flair or charisma or stage presence as other worship leaders like Chris Tomlin, Phil Wickham or Matt Redman. But Benjamin is earnest and passionate for Jesus, and that should be enough for us. Songs like “The Father’s House”, “So Will I” and “Gratitude” are exquisitely and skilfully performed, and we are presented with a vibrant and moving worship project directed to Jesus and His glory, majesty, honour and sovereignty.
When I say the word ‘Hillsong’… obviously I’m sure some of you may feel hurt from the church. For those of you, I reckon that maybe These Same Skies (or any solo project from any one of the worship leaders from the group) may not be for you at this time, because it might dredge up old wounds not healed properly. That’s totally ok and a valid feeling and thought to have, and obviously, you may take time to listen to Hillsong again or you may never will. If you guys aren’t into Hillsong Worship and are just a casual fan– then I’d say the studio album Awake is the best place to start. But if you are a fan and are unfazed by the ‘off-field drama’; then this release from Benjamin is right up your alley. Personally, every single track is incredible and recorded to perfection (especially the sentimental and nostalgic “O Praise The Name”), and essentially every single track on this project is proof of the band’s longevity and their incredible song-writing and worship-leading ability- extended to Benjamin himself. Even though I do enjoy the Hillsong United albums better than the Live counterparts (really, what is the difference besides a few worship leaders on one and others on the other?); the megachurch are still a force to be reckoned with, both in CCM and worship. They make the 3-4-albums-a-year aspect work (and more with solo albums released periodically!), and if they stick with what they know, then it will definitely work for them in the future! Personally, I reckon “Hope For The Ages”, and on this album, “So Will I” reminds us how timeless it is. You may have differing views of Hillsong and everyone associated with it. But if you’re up for it, listen to Songs You Maybe Didn’t Know I Wrote And Some You Maybe Did. You might find a track or two you resonate with as you worship Jesus with your heart, soul, mind and spirit. Well done Benjamin, I can’t wait to hear what’s next from you!
3 songs to listen to: Gratitude, So Will I, The Father’s House
RIYL: Hillsong Worship, Chris Tomlin. Phil Wickham, Jesus Culture, Bethel Music