Release Date: March 5th 2021
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- How Can You Refuse Him Now (pilgrimage)
- Man Of Sorrows (passion)
- Isaiah 53:1-6 (profession)
- Agnus Dei / King Of Kings (feat. Jenn Johnson & Chidima Ubah)
- King Of Kings (praise)
‘…I don’t know what your stance is, on this conglomerate of a megachurch called Hillsong. Everyone would have their own opinion. Including me. People may feel like Hillsong have harmed the community and society in general more so than they have wanted, more so than the good that they profess they want to do, and so, Hillsong is a word that brings up a lot of guilt, shame, hurt, anger and disappointment in some people. Others may swear by it, declare that Hillsong in all its music and sermons, are the best they’ve heard and seen in years, and may only listen to Hillsong Music (Worship, UNITED and Y&F) and will only listen to Brian and Bobbie Houston preach, alongside their ministry team. Again others would also think of Hillsong as a decent worship band, but in the grand scheme of things, they may think of their sermons as being too structured and ‘religious’, too leaning on prosperity doctrine that they may still listen to music from Hillsong, but just listen to someone else for their sermon ‘fill’- besides there are many pastors and international speakers out there, from Louie Giglio, Andy Stanley, Francis Chan and Levi Lusko, to Ravi Zacharias, Brad Jones, Erwin McManus, Beth Moore, Christine Caine and Nick Vujicic, to name a few. And so herein, lies the point: that Hillsong in all its facets and nuances, in all its attempts to do right, and how at many times there’s been instances and occurrences where people may think they’re intentionally doing wrong; in all of that, Hillsong have continued to plough through, at least musically, to create a catalogue of musical albums across three different distinct outlets to create a worship ministry that has been delivering powerful songs and heartfelt melodies all the way from the start with songs like ‘Shout to the Lord’ and ‘The Power of Your Love’, to the most recent with ‘King of Kings’, ‘Good Grace’ and ‘Another in the Fire’. We may all have opinions as to their validity in society today, and whether they are truly as important, influential and impactful as what people also say as well. And regardless where we all stand on the ‘love for Hillsong’ spectrum, one thing cannot be denied- their songs nevertheless, have an emotion and heartfelt poignancy about them that, for me personally, rivals only that of Chris Tomlin and Casting Crowns, as they (Hillsong Worship, Hillsong UNITED and Hillsong Young & Free (Y&F)) give to us songs that can touch and move our spirits, especially in this time and place in the world today. Say all we want about Brian and his Hillsong ministry, but much of the discographies of these three incarnations of Hillsong, are touching people’s lives around the world. Just maybe, it’s only going to be a matter of time before the songs touch yours as well…’
This above quote is from my blog about Hillsong (all the facets of it) that I wrote way back in April 2020- the link is here. And so as we are now in 2021, April 2021 to be precise; I am able to look back at my blog post that I wrote around a year ago, and really understand that yes, as polarising as Hillsong is amongst the community, their music still has weight, gravity, heart and value. This is certainly expressed all the more with the unveiling of Hillsong’s new album At Easter EP, a 5 track EP unveiled to us in March 2021, but in all essence, is an Easter-themed set of songs, as Hillsong once again present to us songs we have known in the past, in a new revisited light. With the EP being produced and unveiled during a time of the 2020 COVID-19 period, where live music, even some studio music, is delayed; this EP, as much as I consider much of Hillsong’s music to be not as impactful as others on a personal level (artists like Chris Tomlin, Crowder, Matt Redman, Matt Maher etc. are much more engaging for me personally), this EP was a great touch, not too overly produced, and featuring 5 songs (well, four if you technically think about it, there are two versions of ‘King of Kings’ on this 5 track EP), that we know from the past as we refeclt upon years gone by, and be reminded of whence we were in our own faith journeys when these songs were unveiled by Hillsong during the last few years. While we as people around the world are itching to go congregate again at live music events in the future, Hillsong have unveiled to us an EP to tie us over until the next full-length album of new material. And much like Take Heart (Again); these songs delve into the band’s own personal history, as the EP delivers songs that would be some of the best served Hillsong songs during an occasion like Easter.
And as we stare and scan through the track-listing for the EP, we see several fan-favourites and standouts, songs like ‘Man of Sorrows’ (from Hillsong’s Glorious Ruins), ‘How Can You Refuse Him Now’ (from Hillsong’s 2006 album Songs For Communion), even the recent chart-topper ‘King of Kings’ (both a medley version with ‘Agnus Dei’, and a remixed version) on this EP as well. At the end of the day, for any Hillsong music enthusiast (which I am not really, though I deeply appreciate their music, across all formats and reiterations), what the album lacks is the length of it (5 tracks seem to go by so quickly when hearing the EP, especially if the track ‘Isaiah 53:1-6’ is spoken word). Nevertheless, I still reckon that this Australian group makes up for it, with zeal, passion, enthusiasm and heart. This is a must if you are a fan of Hillsong, period, but if you want to start the Hillsong journey and take the plunge into hundreds upon hundreds of songs? Maybe not the best place to start. In fact, this album release may make a lot more sense after anyone who reads this review, also reads my blog on Hillsong as well. Then and only then, can you maybe appreciate a lot of the songs recorded and done here, in their alternate formats. For Hillsong’s influence and presence around the world cannot be denied, and this new EP, just in time for reflection this Easter 2021, is what creates a great reminder, that songs of yesteryear (‘Man of Sorrows’) can still be as impactful as modern-day hymns (‘King of Kings’). It is in this EP where I’ve found a new-found appreciation for Hillsong, and maybe, just maybe, people can revisit some of their fan-favourite Easter tracks and be reminded that in a time of 2021 with the pandemic not really slowing down anytime soon; timeless, familiar songs that people know and associate with Easter, can often get us through even the most difficult of circumstances. And so, what are we all waiting for? Time to check out songs like ‘King of Kings’ again, this time featuring guest artists Jenn Johnson (of Bethel Music) and Chidima Ubah (of Passion)! Maybe a full-length album in the future? Till then, let us blast At Easter EP and Take Heart (Again), and maybe, just maybe, we’ll remember the fact that the songs of yesteryear can still be impactful today, and that sometimes a song can carry a weight to it, now years later, as it has been doing all these years.
‘…I’m sure the Lord will use Hillsong– UNITD, Worship and Y&F, for His glory in the end, and hopefully, songs like ‘What a Beautiful Name’, ‘So Will I’, ‘Mighty to Save’, ‘Oceans’ and ‘Cornerstone’, can pierce our hearts and make us see the world as God sees it. God loves all of creation, and if we are the hands and feet of Jesus, as we should be as Christians; then we should love without reservation as much as we can- and if a Hillsong song can have the power, through Christ, to change our hearts and our perceptions of the other person who is different from us, then these songs have served their purpose, regardless of the original intentions or motivations behind the song in the first place. Hillsong are here to stay and they’ll continue to make albums, often on an annual basis (for Hillsong Worship), and once every two years (for both UNITED and Y&F), and if they manage to change a few hearts in the process, then it’s a job well done for this worship group from Down Under…’
2 songs to listen to: King of Kings, Man of Sorrows
RIYL: Elevation Worship, Planetshakers, Passion, Mosaic MSC, The Belonging Co.