Fair Trade Services
Release Date: August 18th 2023
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- This is Our God
- I Believe
- Sunday is Coming
- Praise the Lord
- The Jesus Way
- Psalm 23 (feat. Tiffany Hudson)
- Isn’t He Good?
- Your Name is Holy
- Holy Moment (feat. Naomi Raine)
- Back to Life
Phil Wickham has always been one of my favourite worship artists, over the past decade or so. Since 2003 when he unveiled his debut album Give You the World, Phil has given to us powerful singles after powerful singles- ‘Grace’, ‘Divine Romance’, ‘After Your Heart’, ‘Safe’, ‘I’ll Always Love You’, ‘At Your Name’, ‘This is Amazing Grace’, ‘Glory’, ‘Living Hope’, ‘My All In All’, ‘Your Love Awakens Me’, ‘Battle Belongs’, ‘It’s Always Been You’, ‘Hymn of Heaven’ and ‘Till I Found You’, to name a few. In a general sense, Phil has always had a knack at giving to us, great albums, period. From albums like his most recent full length studio album, 2021’s Hymn of Heaven (alongside 2022’s Hymn of Heaven (Acoustic), an acoustic re-recording of Phil’s powerful 2021 album), to the album that got me into the fandom of Phil (Response), as well as his chart-topping The Ascension and 2018’s Living Hope, Phil’s powerful and distinct voice cuts through all the cookie-cutter CCM that seems to seep through; and brings it home to be a reminder that great music artists still exist within the realms of CCM.
Phil’s always been an artist that we have covered heavily on our site, and most recently, we reviewed his Christmas single ‘Behold’, as well as his pre-release 2023 singles ‘This is Our God’ in January, ‘Sunday Is Coming’ in April, and ‘The Jesus Way’ in May. Now in August 2023, we see these singles (alongside the title track, of which we as a site didn’t review; plus a plethora of others) amount to Phil’s next studio album, standing at 14 tracks, and titled I Believe. A must, if you’ve enjoyed previous worship albums from Phil, like Living Hope, Children of God, Hymn of Heaven and The Ascension; I Believe continues down the vein of creating songs for the church, as we continue to see and witness a CCM artist continue to grow into his own and become one of today’s most sought-after worship leaders to date. Personally, one of my favourite worship artists ever (alongside Paul Baloche, Tim Hughes, Meredith Andrews, Christy Nockels and Chris Tomlin), Phil’s music is just enough radio-friendly CCM to be played on K-Love Radio, and just enough alternative trajectory to make his music unique, interesting, and unlike the radio/cookie cutter music we’ve continued to hear from the CCM bubble of late.
‘This is Our God’ released in January, and even now in August, is still one of my favourite songs of 2023 thus far. The song itself is a reminder of who Christ is and who we are in light of that; that our God that we serve and declare worthy of our praise, is not distant nor far away. He is right here with us, and working in our lives more often than we may think. A rousing and declaratory anthem that is becoming the anthem of praise and worship around the world, for people this year, Phil continued to follow along from ‘This is Our God’ with the release of ‘Sunday is Coming’ in early April 2023, in time for the Easter season. The song is a clear reminder of the real reason of why we celebrate Jesus at all- the reason why we call Good Friday ‘Good Friday’ is because Sunday is coming. Though it was a sad day in history because of Christ’s death on the cross, what makes the day hopeful is the fact that we now know of what happens on the Sunday three days later. Christ is alive. He’s resurrected, and because of that, we celebrate not only the Sunday, but also the Friday. Phil delivers a great moment of worship, passion, enthusiasm, and powerful declaration, as this song can hopefully pop up in various Sunday morning worship set-lists, not only around Easter time, but at various points throughout the year- yes, it’s a song that is primarily relating around Easter, but the song itself can still be used as a worship song throughout the year as well. The song recounts Jesus’s life, death and resurrection, in song form, and reminds me thematically of other tracks like Carman’s ‘Sunday’s On the Way’, Chris Tomlin’s ‘At the Cross’ and Hillsong Worship’s ‘King of Kings’.
‘The Jesus Way’ released in May 2023, encourages us all to live ‘the Jesus way’ in all facets of our everyday life. Phil showcases this song as one where we as listeners and declarors of Christ being our Saviour, have an anthem where we, alongside Phil, draw a ‘line’ in the sand, and declare that we as Christians live like Christ in the facets of life that maybe in the past, we held back from Him, for one reason or another. ‘The Jesus Way’ can hopefully encourage us all to surrender all aspects of life to Him, not just the parts that we want God to see, as we change our lives and live out more ‘sold out’ for Him, in the midst of culture that is showing us to do the exact opposite. It’s a song that is unifying. It’s a song that is encouraging. But it’s also a song that ought to be convicting and confronting. We hopefully are called to realign and re-shift our lives, as we see the parts that He is calling us to surrender to Him. And hopefully, through Phil’s song, we can. ‘The Jesus Way’ itself, give us comfort and hope, as Phil uses this song to remind us of how true and right and perfect His ways are, above our own. ‘I Believe’ is the last pre-release track from the album I Believe that was unveiled prior to album release week (July 2023), and standing at a little over 5 minutes, is perhaps one of the most declaratory, rousing anthems of the whole album. Joyous and unapologetic, this is the 2020s updated version of what ‘Creed’ by Rich Mullins could’ve looked like, if written today. This is a bold song stating who we are and what we believe- ‘all praise to God the Father, all praise to Christ the Son, all praise to the Holy Spirit, our God has overcome’. These are some identity-building and life-defining lyrics, and Phil’s passion and enthusiasm, matched equally with fervour and passion through a music video just as emotive and powerful, is what continues to remind myself of why Phil’s presence in Christian music, especially worship music, is as much needed as it is appreciated and welcomed. The bridge of the title track says it all- ‘…no I’ll never be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, how could I ever walk away from the One who saved my life…’ Once we know Christ fully and wholeheartedly, how can anyone intentionally walk away?
‘…I am so thankful that when I sing to the God Jesus Christ, I am not singing to some distant being far off, but I am singing to a God who came close, who came to save us and to rescue us. When we sing about our God, we sing about a God who loves without condition, who gives grace to the sinner, who saves the one who calls out, who pulls people out of the pit and brings them into his heavenly kingdom. This is our God. A God who saves, a God who redeems, a God who makes beauty from ashes, and a God who renews. This is our manifesto. I cannot wait to sing this song with the church. This is our God…’ [Story Behind ‘This is Our God’]
‘…with this song we set out to tell the Easter story as best as we could in song. The story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is the greatest story ever told, and the best part about it is that it’s TRUE. This is Hope, this is salvation, this is love, this is the Gospel. And it’s not just a story of something that HAPPENED, it’s also a story of what is still HAPPENING! Every day people all over the world are calling on the name of Jesus and stepping into the resurrection victory that Jesus won!… I pray this song is used as a tool to point people’s eyes and hearts to Jesus. To move them to wonder and repentance and worship. As we near the beautiful Holy Week of Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday may the reality and significance of it all hit you in big and profound ways. May you be reminded that Jesus is KING and forever will be. Amen. Hallelujah…’ [Story Behind ‘Sunday is Coming’]
‘…I think this song has already had the biggest impact on my life personally of any song I’ve ever written. It has blessed me, and it has certainly challenged me. This song is a line in the sand song. A declaration of who I follow and what that means though I fail and fall short of the goal often and rely so desperately on His grace through it all. I can not wait to sing this with the church. To stand together for love, grace, forgiveness, humility, and righteousness in a world where it feels like those beautiful qualities are in increasingly short supply. This song comes out May 19th and I invite all on the path of following Jesus to join me in singing it as both a declaration of who we are and a prayer for who we want to be…’ [Story Behind ‘The Jesus Way’]
Throughout the rest of the album, Phil continues to deliver powerful biblical truths as we’re reminded that Phil’s enthusiastic and grounded songwriting is what makes him one of the most honest, heartfelt, compelling, and challenging worship leaders since…well, Chris Tomlin? ‘Creator’ stands at track #4; and following on from tracks #1-3 (‘This is Our God’, ‘I Believe’, ‘Sunday is Coming’), what better way to follow-on from quite possibly one of my favourite tracks 1-3 from Phil, ever, is deliver another rousing declaratory anthem, complete with a visually stunning music video where Phil sings against the backdrops of some of the most picturesque landscapes from around the world. Created in a way so that as we watch the music video, we can worship alongside Phil, but also marvel at God’s creation at the same time, ‘Creator’ reminds us of how God the creator (the creator of all things, shown through the images in said music video) also loves us, in spite of all of our flaws and things we know we’ve done wrong. For the God of creation is personable to each and every one of us, and for that alone, we ought to praise our creator for who He is. The chorus is especially catchy and singable- ‘…holy, You are holy, earth and Heaven sing forever, holy, You are holy, all creation praise Creator…’– expect this song to possibly be an official radio single in the future? ‘Praise the Lord’ carries on from ‘Creator’ and continues to showcase declaratory lyrics and how we as followers of Christ, ought to praise the Lord with everything that we have. Perhaps, ‘Praise the Lord’ is the 2020s ‘spiritual successor’ to Matt Redman’s ‘Let Everything that Has Breath’? Phil then slows down the tempo and adds in a few vocal effects and EDM undertones to deliver his next song ‘Wait’, which speaks about this notion of waiting, and how to wait on the Lord isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For to wait is to be still in the midst of everday life. To wait is to know and understand who He is in the light of who we are. To wait, is to have confidence that, in the waiting, He can, and will, do more in our lives, than we can ever ask or imagine. And to wait, is to give permission to Him to ‘…do whatever You wanna do, move however You wanna move, You’re the one I’m clingin’ to so I’ll be waitin’, I’m waitin’…’
‘Psalm 23’ originally saw the light of day through an acoustic ‘stay at home’ music video way back in 2020 when Phil was uploading worship songs throughout that year, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. I heard the song in its acoustic form back then, and then nothing…till now. I knew the song was familiar when I heard Phil’s official studio recording on this new album- it was a powerful song way back in 2020 and is still a powerful song now. Now sung as a duet between Phil and Elevation Worship singer-vocalist Tiffany Hudson, Phil’s raw moment of imparting to us Psalm 23 in song, is something that is going to pierce the hearts of millions around the world in the months to come. Expect ‘Psalm 23’, alongside ‘Creator’ to be impactful, compelling, and challenging in months, and maybe years, to come. ‘Isn’t He Good’ follows along from ‘Psalm 23’, and still continues to showcase the EDM backdrop that Phil has adopted throughout the better part of his last three albums (Children of God, Living Hope, Hymn of Heaven)…not necessarily a bad thing or a good thing, but just a thing and an observation. ‘Isn’t He Worthy’ is a testimony song- Phil showcases all glory and worthy praise to God, in light of people viewing how his life has changed ever since he found the Lord. The chorus of the song especially is one to delight over and proclaim alongside Phil himself- ‘…isn’t He good? Isn’t He great? Isn’t He faithful? Look at my life, look what He’s done, isn’t He able? Isn’t He good? Isn’t He great? Isn’t He worthy? Oh, He’s worthy, He’s worthy, isn’t He?…’ ‘100%’ comes in at track #10 and is a track that is much more accustomed to personal worship than corporate worship. It’s a song that hopefully allows us to look deep within our hearts, to see if we as followers of Christ, are giving Him 100% of our lives or not. For to follow Christ and being an Christian, especially in this life, is something that is to be done with us jumping all in- indeed giving 100%, because anything less, is us not fully comprehending and understanding what He did for us, the things He went through, for us to be reconciled back to Him…in fully grasping that, shouldn’t giving Him 100% a privilege and a given? ‘Your Name is Holy’, co-written with Bethel’s Brian Johnson and Passion’s Sean Curran, is a song perfect for Sunday morning worship services as this is given the ‘approved stamp’ of ‘song fit and primed for Sunday church services around the world’…yes, I could’ve been a little sarcastic with this above comment- ‘Your Name is Holy’ is good, but it’s a song that is written for the corporate church in mind. Nothing bad about that, it’s just that sometimes when you write especially with the Sunday morning church service in mind, there’s plenty of repetition and ‘simplistic’ lyrics so that the congregation can join in. And ‘Your Name is Holy’ is like that, full stop.
The album is then rounded out by the trio of ‘Holy Moment’ (featuring Maverick City Music worship artist Naomi Raine), ‘Relationship’ and ‘Back to Life’- Phil and Naomi’s duet stands at a little over two minutes, and shows both Phil and Naomi declaring God’s holiness, and feels more like a spontaneous worshipful moment rather than an actual structured song with verses and choruses, while ‘Relationship’ is a song that can easily be delivered on country music radio- as Phil reminds us that God didn’t come for religion, but wants a relationship with us…and with no mention of God, or Jesus in any of the lyrics on this song, then surely this track can cross over into mainstream radio (especially country), and the song itself could fit right at home with the others played alongside ‘Relationship’…right? ‘Back to Life’ is the album ender, and originally featured on Bethel Music’s live 2021 album Homecoming (originally sung by newcomer worship leader Zahriya Zachary); this version by Phil is just as poignant and emotive. I heard Phil Wickham’s version first, and then went back and heard Zahriya’s…and both versions and equally as powerful. The song itself reminds us that Christ brought us back to life because of His death and resurrection, and through the use of metaphors (just like Lazurus), we are reminded of the lengths that Christ went for us humans. It’s a song for us to be thankful and grateful for God’s grace and mercy, and a great song to worship along to, in the weeks, months and years to come.
Phil is very much a gifted and powerful singer-songwriter to today’s generation, as Chris Tomlin was (and maybe still is?) to the generation of yesterday- Phil continues to assert himself to become a great worship artist alternative, for anyone who wants to listen to something else, other than Bethel, Elevation Worship or Hillsong. Phil’s music is for anyone who loves music in general, who loves worship that isn’t the ‘run-of-the-mill’ like Chris Tomlin (sorry, Chris), but rather, something unique, fresh, emotive, powerful, and heartfelt, all of which is shown very much throughout this new album I Believe (maybe with the exception of ‘Your Name is Holy’ and ‘Relationship’), and much of Phil’s songs of the past. Well done Phil for I Believe, an album that stands tall and is perhaps one of my favourite worship albums of 2023 thus far. This is a must for anyone who has enjoyed much of Phil’s music catalogue previously, or those who love and appreciate worship-style music with more of a creative edge. Can’t wait for people to be encouraged and impacted by this new album in the upcoming weeks and months ahead!
5 songs to listen to: The Jesus Way, Sunday is Coming, Back to Life, Psalm 23, Creator
RIYL: Chris Tomlin, Tim Hughes, Philippa Hanna, Rend Collective