Capitol Christian Music Group
Release Date: February 18th 2022
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Shine Like Stars (feat. Brett Younker, Kristian Stanfill, Cody Carnes & Kari Jobe)
- What He’s Done (feat. Kristian Stanfill, Tasha Cobbs Leonard & Anna Golden)
- Beautiful Jesus (feat. Chidima)
- A Thousand Hallelujahs (feat. Brooke Ligertwood)
- Christ Be Magnified (feat. Cody Carnes)
- 1,000 Names (feat. Sean Curran)
- God Really Loves Us (feat. Crowder & Chidima)
- Jireh (feat. Maverick City Music)
- First Love (feat. Kari Jobe)
- Maranatha (feat. Sean Curran)
- New Thing (feat. Melodie Malone) [Studio]
- What He’s Done (feat. Kristian Stanfill, Tasha Cobbs Leonard & Anna Golden) [Studio]
- Beautiful Jesus (feat. Chidima) [Studio]
- Shine Like Stars (feat. Brett Younker) [Studio]
- My Eyes Have Seen (feat. Chidima) [Studio]
Another year, another Passion album. That’s probably one of the only things you can count on in life- death, taxes, as Passion albums every year. In the past though, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Charlie Hall and Christy Nockels were a part of this massive global worship movement (and now they’re not for some unknown reason!), and now the group is helmed by Kristian Stanfill, Brett Younker, Sean Curran (formerly of Bellarive) and Melodie Malone, with special guest appearances from Crowder. Yet their mission has always remained the same. While you can read about all things Passion in all of the articles here; let me give you all a quick refresher of what the group is all about- and mind you this is quoted verbatim from my Whole Heart review from 2018…simply because I’ve conveyed my thoughts most cohesively there, and there’s no reason to repeat myself. Well, here goes!
Passion Conferences are held every year, and mostly comprise of many Sixsteps Records artists and others, inclusive of artists like Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Christy Nockels, Kristian Stanfill, Crowder, Melodie Malone, Brett Younker and Jimi Cravity to name a few. Every year these men and women of God come together to worship God in January and February every year at key and prominent U.S. cities, with the conferences directed at university students, and every year they invite guests as well. Over the years, Carrie Underwood, Lecrae, Tedashii, Hillsong UNITED, Rend Collective and Tenth Avenue North have all performed at what is still one of today’s prestigious yearly Christian events. With the annual event launched in 1997 by Louie Giglio, now one of the key pastors of the conference each year, the band now performs in conferences in Atlanta Georgia around New Year for their recording of their annual albums released in March; and these guys tour around the world as well! With the movement keeping their heart for students and their related ministry rooted in Isaiah 26:8; I have always loved the annual Passion albums.
In 2018, Whole Heart released- and though I say this every year, I truly believed that Passion’s album from 2018 was as good as any they’ve ever recorded, with songs like “God You’re So Good”, “Ever Almighty”, “Almighty God”, “Hallelujah Our God Reigns”, “Ghost” and “All My Hope” all being some of my favourite Passion songs I’ve heard in a very long time (although nothing can really top the album Worthy Of Your Name). And while Follow You Anywhere released in January 2019 and overall wasn’t as compelling nor engaging as previous Passion albums; and Roar was unveiled in March 2020 (of which you can view my thoughts here!); 2021 saw only a double single released in January, and no album. Now it’s 2022, and Passion have returned to the annual album method- this time revealing to us Burn Bright. Jon previously reviewed the studio EP’s Burn Bright and Live From Rehearsals earlier this year, in kind of like a lamentation, sorrowful, emotional way, kind of like the end of an era of him listening to Passion. Sad to say, with this full-length album, my sentiment is the same as Jon’s. And it pains me to say this- Passion isn’t like it once was, and I doubt I will be listening that religiously to the group moving forward.
There’s this reality that I think I’ve come to understand through Burn Bright. And it is this. That Passion could conceivably go on and on and on and release countless albums to the point where each one afterwards sounds the same as the one before it. Yet in my own opinion; there has to be some unique features present in each release to keep all of us still interested. For me and Burn Bright, the undoubted answer after numerous listens is that there is musically nothing much here that is different from previous Passion albums, and I am certainly having Passion fatigue at the moment! Maybe I’m longing for the Passion of old, with Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman and Christy Nockels! And though I’m sure each of the worship leaders of Kristian, Brett, Sean, Melodie, Chidima, and special guests Cody, Kari, Brooke and Maverick City Music, are all passionate (no pun intended!) and are all on fire for Jesus; unfortunately, nothing much in this album keeps me excited and intrigued. I’ve mentioned in a previous review I think, that there could be a point where I am completely bored with Passion. That time, sad to say, is today. Because in Burn Bright, there certainly is enough here to keep me shaking my head at the clichés of some of the worshipful moments here, and apart from “1,000 Names” and “Beautiful Jesus”; nothing much really grabs me at all. I’m still quietly confident of the group’s future though; because I know they have done and can do better.
But how about the songs? I’ve spoken about the fact that this album hasn’t grabbed me in the way that I’ve wanted it to, but if we dig a bit deeper, are the individual songs, as well as the vibe and atmosphere of the entire album, lacking? Or is it more to do with the song order? Well for one, the first song out of the gate in “Shine Like Stars”, is musically cliché in every facet. Though the upbeat and energetic radio friendly melody does speak biblical truth, about Jesus being the only way; the lyrics here are sloppy and have me shaking my head at the lack of creativity. “What He’s Done”, the band’s lead single, in my opinion is even worse. Littered with lyrical missteps and cliches, this is Passion at their most uninteresting. It’s a melody without any specifications and in incredibly vague. All vocalists, especially Anna Golden and Tasha Cobbs Leonard, deliver their part to perfection, however with the track speaking about ‘what He’s done’ but not elaborating on that further, and not speaking about the death and resurrection of Jesus… well I feel that this song is a missed opportunity to declare the whole gospel. “Beautiful Jesus”, a rare album standout, is led by Chidima, and presents a beautiful, simplistic yet effective piano ballad and a timely reminder that Jesus is beyond all of our comprehension and ability to fathom, as we can now powerfully declare ‘…beautiful, beautiful, beautiful Jesus, how lovely, how sweet is the name, wonderful, merciful, miracle Jesus
How worthy, how precious, how awesome…’. Unfortunately, “A Thousand Hallelujahs”, led by Brooke Ligertwood, drags on. It’s a solid melody and one that reminds us how brilliant Brooke is as a singer and as a songwriter. But it has a Hillsong feel and frankly feels out of place on a Passion album. Also, how could I not compare this melody with the already superior “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman?
“Christ Be Magnified”, a song I’ve heard about a million times by Cody Carnes, is beginning to lose replay value, especially here at nearly 6 minutes. While the refreshing and revitalising “1,000 Names” by Sean Curran, brings be back to the Passion of old. Co-written with Phil Wickham, “1,000 Names” stands tall as one of the most inspiring and worshipful melodies of 2021; and was one of our favourite songs of last year. Jon spoke about “1,000 Names” in his reviews of Phil Wickham’s Hymn Of Heaven and Sean Curran’s 1,000 Names; and I agree wholeheartedly with everything Jon has said. And with lyrics like ‘…I know You by a thousand names, and You deserve every single one, You’ve given me a million ways to be amazed at what You’ve done and I am lost in wonder at all You do, I know You by a thousand names and I’ll sing them back to You…’, how could you not love this praise and worship melody? “God Really Loves Us”, originally from the Crowder album Milk And Honey, is also featured on Burn Bright- this time with Crowder and Chidima; with this version not straying too far from the original studio version. It’s one of the tracks that lifts this album from poor to not so poor; with “God Really Loves Us” having a piano backdrop, with the gospel profusely stated, as we are met with the truth of how ‘…we are not alone, God really loves us, God really loves, Hallelujah, oh praise my soul…’. “Jireh” is one of the flattest worship songs I’ve heard (sad to say!) and at nearly 8 minutes, is unnecessarily long, and sounding like Jesus Culture or Elevation Worship; while “First Love” sounds like an exact copy of the song from Kari Jobe’s The Blessing (and we all know how much I found that album very frustrating!). “Maranatha” with Sean Curran then ends the live portion of the album, and is a beautiful expression of utter devotion and out-and-out worship to our Father and King. Yet again the song is too long, and I’m finding myself losing interest halfway. Sorry for that Sean, because you are an incredible worship leader in your own right!
The remainder 5 tracks are studio versions of some live melodies and other songs we haven’t heard before. Jon’s reviewed this section of Burn Bright here; and there’s no need for be to rehash old ground. Simply put- Burn Bright by Passion isn’t exciting. Passion isn’t exciting anymore; and that’s the truth. Back in the day, when Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Christy Nockels and Charlie Hall were part of the movement, the releases were inspiring, powerful and moving. Each of the songs were singles and representatives from the solo studio albums of the lead vocalists. Now, with Passion becoming more like Hillsong, Planetshakers, Bethel Music, Jesus Culture and others, I firmly believe that now there’s little distinguishing each of these movements. Sure, Passion is still good. It’s still inspiring. But no more is it unique and Burn Bright makes me sad. White Flag, Take It All, Here For You, and Let The Future Begin were the golden years of Passion, as well as the mid-late 2000’s; and unfortunately moving forward I may have to revisit that era more so than Passion at the moment.
Passion’s heart is still the same- to bring glory to God in whatever setting they’re in, and to spread the gospel in whatever way they can. In that sense, as I am reminded that this is a movement that does what works for them, and will continue to give God the glory for however long God continues to put the calling on Louie and Shelly Giglio (after all, Passion is Louie’s brain-child and what God called and is still calling for him to do and be a part of!); I can sort of give this album some leeway- as their ministry is to fellow believers. Yet beyond this year, something needs to be done to shake up Passion. Studio recordings, re-recordings of old classics with different vocalists, an acoustic album… just something different. Because if we have the same old annual live CD; how will that attract new listeners? Something to think about as I leave you with the album to listen to. Is Burn Bright one of your favourite albums from 2022? Why or why not?
3 songs to listen to: Beautiful Jesus, 1,000 Names, God Really Loves Us
RIYL: Vertical Worship, The City Harmonic, Jesus Culture, Bryan & Katie Torwalt, Newsboys, We The Kingdom, London Gatch