Word Label Group
Release Date: July 15th 2022 / October 7th 2022
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- For God Is With Us (feat. Hillary Scott)
- Love Me Like I Am (feat. Jordin Sparks)
Joel and Luke Smallbone are brothers, are also Australian, and form the Christian pop duo for KING & COUNTRY. And there’s not much more I can say about the duo, without me going on and on for ages, because I truly believe they are quite compelling, powerful, honest, emotive and vulnerable- so if you all want to read more about Joel and Luke’s history, you can check out Wikipedia, or my brother’s blog about them that he wrote nearly 3 years ago. With many of their hit songs such as “Busted Heart”, “The Proof Of Your Love”, “Middle Of Your Heart”, “RELATE”, “For God Is With Us”, “Shoulders”, “Fix My Eyes”, “It’s Not Over Yet”, “O God Forgive Us”, “Burn The Ships”, “Together”, “Joy”, “Love Me Like I Am”, “Amen” and “Priceless” all winning over the hearts of many listeners- believers and non-believers alike; the duo embarked on a Christmas album in 2020, as well as releasing their hit new album- their fourth studio album of all-original material- What Are We Waiting For?, in March this year. We’ve reviewed a number of for KING & COUNTRY albums and singles for this site (view them here!); and while you can peruse them all to your heart’s content, both Joel and Luke have since unveiled and released a couple of new tracks- well, actually a couple of old tracks re-recorded. In July, for KING & COUNTRY collaborated with Hillary Scott of Lady A to re-release “For God Is With Us”, and this past week, the duo dropped their new version of “Love Me Like I Am”, this time with Jordin Sparks on guest vocals. And though these melodies are songs we’ve heard before; the passion and intensity in these versions alone demand me to voice my opinions and thoughts. You may think that these renditions aren’t anything special (I mean, they’re just a couple of re-recorded songs with ‘mainstream artists’); but in the grand scheme of things… this is huge.
Early on in my life, I was under the assumption that music that was worth listening to, was only Christian music. But throughout my teen years, it was evident that the notion of mainstream music being incredibly bad, evil, and awful; started to become undone. By and large, it was the blog series about influential artists, that really stretched me in terms of what was deemed to be ‘mainstream’ and ‘Christian’; while throughout the past few years; there have been many collaborations in music between Christians and…well, everyone else. for KING & COUNTRY’s “Together” was collaborated with Kirk Franklin & Tori Kelly, Tori herself also lent vocals to the smash-hit Cory Asbury penned “Reckless Love”, country singer-songwriter JoDee Messina also recorded her own version of the powerful (yet controversial) worship hit “Reckless Love”; while Lecrae collaborated with artists like John Legend (Drown) and Ty Dolla $ign (Blessings), whilst his song “Comin’ in Hot”, a collaboration between himself and fellow CHH artist Andy Mineo, has gained the most traction and popularity (out of all of Lecrae’s songs) amongst the mainstream music media space…ever.
In 2020, Chris Tomlin collaborated with a whole bunch of country artists (Lady A, Brett Young, Chris Lane, RaeLynn, Cassadee Pope, Thomas Rhett, Florida Georgia Line) for the country/CCM crossover album Chris Tomlin & Friends (we reviewed the album here!); while not too long ago, Tauren Wells and H.E.R. unveiled one of the unlikeliest of collaborations…ever. “Hold Us Together” has been a powerful song since it’s unveiling as just a H.E.R. song as the end credits to the Disney + movie Safety, but the song took on new life when it was re-released around six months later with the injection of Tauren’s vocals, making the song, that already had a gospel feeling, become more worshipful…who am I kidding. The song was already worshipful. TobyMac and Sheryl Crow came together just this year to re-record Toby’s most recent single hit, “Promised Land”, and who knows, that could release on country/folk/Americana radio in the future…maybe. Christian and mainstream continued to collide over the years, with for KING AND COUNTRY & Echosmith collaborating on the duo’s chart-topping radio hit “God Only Knows”, while Joel & Luke also collaborated with one of Country music’s OG artists, Dolly Parton, for said same song.
Dolly also lent her vocals to another CCM artist’s track, Zach Williams’s “There Was Jesus”, to substantial critical and commercial acclaim; while country music’s representation within CCM didn’t end there, with up and coming country artist Carly Pearce delivered a duet with Matthew West on the track “Truth Be Told”, a song that I reckon, sounds better as a duet. Up and coming country artist Lauren Alaina and up and coming CCM/pop artist Riley Clemmons created what I unequivocally and firmly believe is one of my favourite duets in recent memory, “Over and Over”, around a couple of years ago (a song that could’ve succeeded in country radio, but was never given a chance), while Riley this year sung with Brett Young on her song “Godsend”. Brett last year created a Christmas album with his friends (which include Chris Tomlin and Phil Wickham); and let’s all not forget that all those years ago, needtobreathe collaborated with pop icon (at the time) Gavin DeGraw (who’s still making music now, but not as popular as before) on the 2014 CCM-pop crossover hit, “Brother”! Just this year, MercyMe and country star Walker Hayes teamed up for the pop/country tune “Craig”, while Walker also collaborated with Zach Williams for the song “Jesus’ Fault”. Thomas Rhett collaborated with a bunch of people (including Chris Tomlin), for his smash hit song “Be A Light”; while producer Tommee Proffitt enlisted mainstream and Christian artists alike for his Christmas album The Birth Of A King. I say all this to say, that over the years, the lines between Christian and gospel music, and everything else, seems to be blurring together. And that is ok. Christian music and mainstream music colliding… well, that’s nothing new. And with for KING & COUNTRY collaborating with a number of popular and up-and-coming artists (previously Dolly Parton and Echosmith, and now Hillary Scott of Lady A and Jordin Sparks); they are THE band paving the way for doing things out of left field. Speaking of Hillary Scott… do you all remember her releasing a worshipful hymns type of album in 2016 celebrating her faith? It’s not the same as Christian and mainstream artists coming together… but it kinda is? And while we may not know when a Christian artist would appear on a ‘mainstream’ album (I reckon that day is coming soon!), Joel and Luke remind us that mainstream music isn’t this big, scary, stumbling block that we have all been led to believe. Some mainstream music can actually be used by God to draw us to Himself- dare I say it!
As for these two aforementioned for KING & COUNTRY songs themselves; we’ve spoken about them in our review of What Are We Waiting For?. There’s no need for me to elaborate on two of the duo’s more recent hits. The former track is a powerful worshipful melody outlining that Jesus is with us and we can praise Him wholeheartedly and undoubtedly; while the latter track is a stirring song of gratitude and thanks, that we as broken and messy people with all of our transgressions and sins that we have committed throughout the years, can come to God as we are, and He still loves us. Both Hillary Scott and Jordin Sparks lift each track to even loftier heights than we could ever imagine; and hopefully fans of these artists can listen to uplifting songs and search more about Jesus if they haven’t been exposed to powerful, uplifting music that speaks about the goodness of God. For KING & COUNTRY have never shied away from their faith, and they’ve also always tried to appeal to the mainstream market, and write music for people from all walks of life. Consequently, I reckon they’re not as popular as they should be… but I’d say that all changes now with these two songs. It isn’t known what is next for the brothers. But these songs are reminders that God is moving in places where we couldn’t even possibly fathom. Sure, it is sometimes inconceivable and maybe offensive to hear Christian artists and mainstream artists together. But… that doesn’t mean that God isn’t doing something special. Well done, for KING & COUNTRY; Joel and Luke, you should both be proud of yourselves, and I cannot wait for the next all-new original studio album #5!
RIYL: Coldplay, U2, Delirious?, OneRepublic, TobyMac, Tenth Avenue North