Capitol Christian Music Group
Release Date: April 29th 2022
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
Track Listing [+ lead singer]:
- Days Like These (Trust U) [Joel Houston]
- All This Future [Matt Crocker]
- Deeper Water [Aodhan King]
- Show Me Your Heart [TAYA]
- On Repeat [Jad Gillies]
- Delightful (The Sower Never Wastes A Tear) [Joshua Kpozehouen]
- God Song [TAYA, Benjamin Hastings, Hannah Hobbs & Joel Houston]
- Have Mercy On Me Now [Chris Davenport]
- Blown Away [Matt Crocker]
- What Love Is (Because You Died) [TAYA]
- Know You Will [Benjamin Hastings]
- Sure Thing [TAYA, Benjamin Hastings & Joel Houston]
- Not Afraid [Matt Crocker]
- MMXXII (Interlude)
- Chariot [Joel Houston]
Hillsong UNITED, 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 then 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.
In one of my earlier UNITED reviews – this one about “So Will I” and their EP featuring many different versions of that particular track; I mentioned that there was probably no other far reaching song than “Oceans”. I also went on to say that the song was so popular that an EP was recorded in 2013 (and reviewed by Jon as well!)- yet if you revisited UNITED now, you’d have to say that “So Will I” has reached that status of being a ‘cult classic song’ alongside “Oceans”- the track essentially being about how creation worships God in many different ways and in vastly different circumstances, and so we should worship God as well. In May last year, I also reviewed UNITED’s EP Another In The Fire, and we were glimpsed into the next ‘big hit’ from the Aussie movement. “Another In the Fire” wasn’t a single, nor an engaging track when I first listened to People in 2019. In fact, and I quote from my People review verbatim- I mentioned that “Another In The Fire” combines fire imagery with strong biblical truth to create a powerful and hopeful worshipful melody, where we can declare that God is always with us, like how He was in the fire with Shadrach, Meeshach and Abendego, and just like He was in the waters when He helped Moses part the Red Sea. The use of past, present and future tense in all three choruses (there was another in the fire, there is another in the fire, there’ll be another in the fire) reminding us that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever; is a nice touch too. Yet I never knew the impact the song has had on us all until I had watched the music video of the track- re-recorded with Taya Gaukrodger’s vocals- and then I just sat there, overwhelmed with emotion and devotion to God. As the result of this re-recorded track was me realising the genius of the original track, and a sublime and transcendent track that altered my perception of trust in God as much as it probably has with ever other person on this planet. See all throughout 2020 and 2021, we were stuck at home due to COVID-19, that nasty virus that still won’t go away. But as the song mentions, there is another beside us and before us and behind us- and that someone is Jesus. We do not know the future not the outcome of this disease. But we know the God who does know everything. We know the God who is outside time. Hence, we can trust Him fully and hence we can firmly place out faith in the unknown. “Another In The Fire” may not have been relevant before, but it sure is relevant now!
Now that we know that hit songs like “Oceans”, “So Will I” and “Another In The Fire” form the backbone of Hillsong UNITED, their ministry and their vision and mission of what they as a church body and worship movement want to convey to the local body and the wider global church body; I’d say that the time has come for new music, for fresh melodies for us to proclaim, declare over and immerse ourselves in. Particularly since Brian Houston has resigned from Hillsong Church; shouldn’t the time be now for us to see what Hillsong UNITED has to offer us, has to give us so that we can hold onto these songs and see God’s faithfulness, love, power and devotion to us all? A couple of months ago, UNITED unveiled their latest album Are We There Yet?; and as the album presents a sense of urgency of wanting to press into the presence of God, as well as a sense of putting our faith and our trust in God; we are met with an album that isn’t perfect, yet still ministers and provides hope and healing.
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 Are We There Yet? 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. However, this album objectively presents to us promise after promise that God has impressed to us upon our hearts; and if we can set aside for a moment any preconceived ideas we may have about this group, then I firmly believe that Are We There Yet? will be a powerful and moving worship album that we all might be able to listen to again and again and again. And therefore… sometimes you need to separate the artist from the art. Not right now, but hopefully in time. Because if we keep on ‘cancelling’ or boycotting everyone based on their past transgressions… well, I guess we’d be cancelling everybody! Are We There Yet? And Hillsong UNITED do not deserve a free pass though, in light of everything that has happened. We can choose to listen (or not listen) to any album on its own merits and the reasons of whether we listen or not can be equally compelling and valid. But here’s hoping that someday we are able to listen to such a profound, powerful, and poignant album. God is moving, and all we need to do is to open our eyes and ears.
“Know You Will”, “Sure Thing” and “On Repeat” are the three singles the band has unveiled to us to support this most recent album; and these melodies are songs that I myself have found to be poignant, moving, and inspiring: with each track thought-provoking, and bringing me closer to God. “Know You Will”, a stirring guitar led ballad, powerfully and compelling declares and proclaims God’s goodness and faithfulness, with Benjamin Hastings leading on vocals. As Benjamin fervently relays that God will always make a way even when we don’t seem to see it, he also sings out that we can trust Him because of all of the good things He has done, that ‘…You pulled my heart from Egypt, You carved a road through sea, from all our chains to endless praise, the story ends in You, and when we cross that Jordan, look back at where we’ve been, from all our chains to endless praise, the story ends in You…’. The group also acknowledge that “Know You Will” is an anthem of hope for uncertain times. Amidst all the madness of a world where it seems like every foundation is being shaken to the core, we’re reminded that the promises of God have always been forged through the tensions of trial and fire; and the resolve to trust Him wholeheartedly, no matter what may give way around and about us. Nothing has ever once surprised Him. God alone is our compass through the chaos and disillusion, and the mettle of our faith in Him exists for days like these. “Sure Thing”, a slower paced nearly 6 minute experimental melody, speaks about being sure in Jesus and confident in the promises that He has made, as ‘…I don’t wanna build this life on Babylons of bricks and pride, sitting on a fault line bound to quake, I’d rather be a bedrock fool who trusts in nothing less than You, when every other sure thing surely fails…’. It’s a song that’s less structured than “Know You Will”, but a melody nonetheless that is no less inspiring, comforting and healing. “On Repeat”, the band’s final promotional single for this album, is led by Jad Gillies; and speaks about praising God constantly and singing about his goodness and faithfulness on a constant basis- on repeat. With the band vibrantly relaying to Jesus that ‘…I’m gonna lay my world down here at Your feet, look to the Heavens for all I need, I’m gonna sing my heart out, praise on repeat, to the God who’s never given up on me…’, we are presented with a no-holds-barred song about unashamedly proclaiming your faith- day upon day upon day, without fail and even if you feel God isn’t there.
‘Are We There Yet?’ embodies the feeling of ‘all this future’; It is heavily entrenched in realizing, re-ideating, and repositioning heaven with songs birthed from a place of knowing that this part of the story is not the main part, and we have the gift of joy that is heaven no matter what our human experience is now. It’s hopeful, it feels like the sun going down on a really long day, and excitement about what tomorrow could bring even though the sun hasn’t come up yet. The journey of the album is set between the sun setting and rising. What you’re leaving behind and what you’re about to step into.
The rest of the album delivers to us a compelling, inspiring, and thought-provoking musical and lyrical experience; that to me reminds us about the closeness and the immense love of Jesus. Album opener “Days Like These (Trust U)” is led by Joel Houston, and vividly brings an account of what heaven will be like. As Joel and Taya Gaukrodger effortlessly and vibrantly relay to us their praise and worship to Jesus, crying out that ‘…through the fire and the storm, let the glory of Your love remind the darkness just who You are, till all the streets erupt in praise, in the countless tales of how You turned this wasteland to paradise…’; essentially the only downside to this melody is the 4 minute bridge which seems unnecessary, and in effect cheapens the whole effect of this vulnerable melody. Nonetheless, God’s name is proclaimed, and in essence, Hillsong UNITED still do have passion and an intense love for Jesus as is evident in this melody- even if it does drag on for nearly 8 minutes. “All This Future”, led by Matt Crocker, is an 80’s inspired dance/pop melody, whereby we are met with an earnest and authentic declaration. As Matt sings out that ‘…the Light of the world is here, shining now in all this future, stir up the life in these bones, don’t let the fire go cold now…’, we are encouraged that Jesus promises us a bright future and a future filled with life and with His fire; while Aodhan King leads “Deeper Water”, a piano led mid-tempo ballad and prayer, asking God to lead us into a deeper connection and a deeper relationship with Him.
“Show Me Your Heart”, a compelling, reverent, and encouraging slower-paced ballad, is led by Taya, and is one of the clear standouts on this latest album. As Taya passionately and fervently declares that Jesus is faithful and sovereign; we are met with a heartfelt prayer, and a longing for Jesus to show us His heart and show us His presence so that we may fully know Him and have a relationship with Him fully. It’s a song that I can actually see being as big as “Oceans”! But is that because of Taya the vocalist or the actual song? Could it be… a bit of both? “Delightful (The Sower Never Wastes A Tear” sung by newcomer Joshua Kpozehouen, speaks about the parable of the sower. The melody takes this parable one step further, and also reminds us that sometimes in life, our efforts and our hard work in anything, probably isn’t realised or seen or appreciated until many, many years later- maybe not in our lifetime. And so, as some people become pessimistic and cynical, wondering where their reward is for their hard efforts and their toil; this melody tries to make sense of the tension, and reconciles the fact that the favour and the blessing will come. It may not be in the timing that we think is best… however God’s timing is in hindsight perfect anyway.
“God Song” is UNITED at their finest, with the hymn-like piano ballad being led by Benjamin Hastings, Hannah Hobbs, Taya and Joel Houston. It’s a song that stretches to nearly 7 minutes… but unlike the opener, the long duration isn’t noticeable, as I am swept away in emotion and biblical truth, with the eternal truth of us being made for loving God and for serving God clearly and evidently at the forefront. “Have Mercy On Me Now”, led by Chris Davenport, is a heartfelt, inspiring and encouraging song that is essentially a prayer to God asking Him to have mercy on us all (although this melody is just ‘meh’ to me!); while “Blown Away” is lyrically and visually quite visceral and intense, with Matt Crocker describing the crucifixion and the resurrection- similar in style, power, and theme to Carman’s “This Blood”. “What Love Is (Because You Died)” is a powerful and moving song in its own right, but the position on its album and the length of the previous melodies means that I couldn’t really get into this song. Though it’s led vocally by Taya (probably my favourite UNITED vocalist!), the fact that it’s yet another 6-minute song that musically sounds similar to the rest of the album- doesn’t really work in its favour. Lyrically though, this track is solid, and speaks about being grateful that Jesus died on the cross for our sins.
By the time we get to track 13, we’ve come to the point in the album where we have excess tracks. “Not Afraid” is pleasant and nice to hear, as Matt Crocker ardently sings about being bold and courageous and fearless when it comes to following and loving Jesus. But it’s a theme we’ve heard countless times before and it doesn’t pack a punch to the front end of this album. The interlude of “MMXXII” is next and then segues into the album ender of “Chariot”. It’s a slow-burn worship anthem that essentially speaks about longing for heaven and longing to be in the eternal presence of our Father at the end of our lives and in our next life with Jesus. It’s a powerful song… but a song about heaven that I truly love is Carman’s “The Third Heaven”. Because of this song of Carman’s being instrumental in my childhood faith and the development of said faith, “Chariot” pales to that song… although it’s still moving, inspiring and solid objectively. As a closer though I don’t really connect with this melody though- but it’s fine if you all do; because we all have different preferences and different likes and dislikes.
Considering all of the scrutiny that Hillsong has been under, UNITED’s Are We There Yet? Is pretty good, all things considering. It’s an album that isn’t perfect, and many songs are on the long-ish side. But there are gems here and there are songs that will stand the test of time. This album won’t be my favourite UNITED album (that ‘award’ goes to ZION, Wonder and People); but there’s still reminders as to why this church is influential and will still be influential in the many years to come. Are We There Yet? may not be your jam. But let’s still be ministered by some of the most inspiring worship songs over the past year! Sure, we all may have our issues with Hillsong the church. But their music arm is so, so strong; and we all need to sit up and take notice! Well done to Taya, Jad, Joel, Matt and the rest of the worship leaders; this album (and a few songs especially!) will be due for many more spins and rotations in my iTunes playlist!
3 songs to listen to: Show Me Your Heart, God Song, Blown Away
RIYL: Hillsong Worship, Vertical Worship, Hillsong Young & Free, Planetshakers, Jesus Culture, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman