Release Date: September 4th 2020
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- See the Light (TobyMac)
- I’m Leaning on You (Crowder)
- Holy Water (We The Kingdom)
- Love God, Love People (Danny Gokey)
- Over and Over (Riley Clemmons)
- Keep Me In this Moment (Jeremy Camp)
- You’ve Always Been (Unspoken)
- Best Friends (Y&F)
- There’s Nothing That Our God Can’t Do (Passion)
- Enough (feat. Austin French) (Social Club Misfits)
- I CHOOSE TO WORSHIP (Rend Collective)
- Glorify (Jordan Feliz)
- I’m Listening (feat. Hollyn) (Chris McClarney)
- Symphony (feat. Dillon Chase) (Switch)
- Run to the Father (Cody Carnes)
‘…I think I have to make this sad but nevertheless real assumption. WOW Hits 2020 is not happening. There, I said it. Not that that assumption and statement out loud was any easier. In fact, with WOW Hits no longer in production (I can assume this because it is early September 2019 and no announcement of WOW Hits has been made!), it is indeed a sad day for Christian music. Sure, in the eyes of production, marketing, the advent of Spotify, youtube and everything else, WOW Hits slowly but surely became redundant. The DVD’s were phased out of production with WOW Hits 2012 being the last DVD to release. And after that, I assumed it was only time for WOW Hits CD to discontinue. But here we are in September, and with WOW Hits being not in circulation, becoming more and more a reality for me, I feel a little sad. Throughout my teenage years and into university, I grew up with WOW Hits. It was in fact one of the main ways that I branched out of my own CCM comfort zone into other styles of music under the Christian umbrella. Not only was the WOW Series a big part of my own life, I’m sure this series was also helping people not in the Western world- in places like China, Africa and some other parts of Asia, where youtube is banned and Christianity of all sorts is outlawed. So for WOW Hits to disappear, and with no official statement saying that it was not going to come back for another year, seems a little baffling, but all in all, saddening, not for me (I do have spotify and can play various other playlists of current Christian music tunes), but for the people who now don’t have access to the latest Christian music, for whatever reason. But never fear, right? Because right now, we’ve found another decent alternative in SOZO Playlists: Top Christian Hits! Surely this new album release should satisfy your itches for new music- a one stop shop for all charting CCM music throughout the year, right? …’
This above quote was written last year, during the first year in which WOW Hits was no more. There was a new compilation series on the block- SOZO Playlists– capturing standout hits over the year, but only thorugh Capitol CMG, and only 15 tracks. Pretty weird, right? Now you can read all about my review of it here, and see my own raw, unedited, honest thoughts on the new series, and hear and see my underwhelming response to the first volume in the SOZO Playlists series. Because when I do reflect on the album last year, that was supposedly ‘the best of the best’, it did have it’s flaws- ‘You Say’, ‘King of Kings’, ‘Good Grace’, ‘Reason’, ‘I’m Gonna Let It Go’, amongst many, many others, were all absent from last year’s SOZO Playlist, and so when this album came around, to say that I was intrigued was an understatement. Knowing the parameters (15 tracks, only from Capitol CMG- which is inclusive of Centricity Music), does this new compilation album hold up compared to last years album release? How does it compare to WOW Hits the series as a whole, dare I ask?
I will say this- to widdle a best-of-the-best from 39 tracks (on a WOW Hits Deluxe Edition) all the way down to 15 is hard though. Mind you, they’re only selecting from the pool of Capitol CMG artists, but still…it is very hard, maybe even impossible. Sure, this compilation is only from people who have signed to Capitol CMG and do not include artists from other labels like Provident, Fair Trade or WORD, but nevertheless, this 15-track listing should reflect the latest and current radio hits that Capitol CMG has to offer, right? On first glance, and if we just scan the track listing, we see the things that album executives have right- ‘I’m Leaning on You’ (Crowder), the seemingly dated, but still ‘current’ ‘See the Light’ (TobyMac), ‘Over and Over’ (Riley Clemmons), ‘Keep Me in this Moment’ (Jeremy Camp), ‘Run to the Father’ (Cody Carnes), ‘Love God, Love People’ (Danny Gokey), ‘Holy Water’ (We the Kingdom), ‘I CHOOSE TO WORSHIP’ (Rend Collective) and ‘Glorify’ (Jordan Feliz) have all charted within the last year or so, and are all deserving on this compilation. ‘Enough’, by Social Club Misfits, and featuring Fair Trade Services artist Austin French on vocals, slips into this compilation, and while I may not have heard this song on the radio as of yet, maybe it’s because I’m not as well-versed in rap and hip-hop as I care to admit, and thus, maybe it has charted on rap/hip-hop radio and I haven’t even noticed. Nevertheless, upon first glance, the album looks good- if only WORD and Provident undertook compilations themselves- both last year and this year; then we’d get a decent reflection of the year’s biggest hits, right?
‘…SOZO Playlists: Top Christian Hits Volume 2 features an all new collection of the best songs of the year from today’s top artists. With over 2 million fans across streaming services, SOZO Playlists is a trusted brand and market-leader specializing in expertly curated playlist collections safe for the whole family. Now you can have this expertise with SOZO Playlists: Top Christian Hits Volume 2, a compilation inviting music fans everywhere to enjoy hit songs of the year from top selling Christian artists such as TobyMac, Jeremy Camp, Danny Gokey, Crowder, Jordan Feliz, and the hot break out single from brand new artist, We the Kingdom! 15 explosive tracks for the low price of $9.99, you’re sure to find new favorites among great songs such as “See The Light,” “Holy Water,” “Keep Me In the Moment,” “I’m Leaning on You,” and brand new singles, “Glorify” from Jordan Feliz and “Over and Over” from Riley Clemmons…’ This above is the logline about the new compilation. And even though this compilation is better, in leaps and bounds, compared to last year’s attempt, it still has a way to go. This bold assertion that this collection contains, and I quote ‘the best songs of the year from today’s top artists’ can be a little bit of astretch if you ask me. With all the songs that are timely and fitting for this compilation, there are songs that just…not as timely, right? Or not even as popular? ‘I’m Listening’ (Chris McClarney) and ‘Symphony’ (Switch) weren’t exactly big radio hits when they were in fact on radio, right? And ‘Best Friends’ from Y&F can maybe seem a little too quickly released, to even be considered on a compliation such as this, right? I mean, where’s even the love for artists like Pat Barrett (‘Canvas And Clay’), Kari Jobe (‘The Blessing’) Hillsong Worship (‘Awake My Soul’), recent signees to Capitol CMG, Mosaic MSC (‘Fountain (I Am Good)’), Mandisa (‘You Keep Hope Alive’), underappreciated sibling quartet the young escape (‘So Alive’), even the ever-reliable Chris Tomlin (‘Thank You Lord’ or ‘Who You Are to Me’, anyone?)? Then you have only 2 representatives of Centricity Music (Unspoken and Jordan Feliz) and no one else- where’s Lauren Daigle (‘Rescue’ or ‘Still Rolling Stones’), Apollo LTD (‘You’) or even new signees needtobreathe (‘Who Am I’)? Add to the list artists from Capitol CMG which are just not present (Chris Quilala, Hillsong UNITED, Kim Walker-Smith, Mack Brock and Sean Curran) and you wonder who is really, really, making these compilation lists. Maybe, just maybe, compilations should just be abandoned entirely, and we as fans of CCM and music in general can make our own playlists on Spotify to our hearts content. Maybe that will solve all issues right?
I’ve said this once and I will say this again- WOW Hits was never a perfect brand, and neither is this new compilation series either. But sometimes in order to break through and prove that this compilation series is worthy enough to take notice, then hard decisions have to be made- starting with swapping out ‘Enough’ by Social Club Misfits, ‘Best Friends’ by Y&F and possibly ‘I’m Listening’ by Chris McClarney right away. Regardless of the faults, this new compilation is sure to get us buzzing, I certainly have. Then again, this new compilation is never going to make me forget WOW Hits, nor should it. Ah well, time to discover new artists within CCM a different way. Maybe I’ll just go on to my ‘Release Radar’ page on Spotify then. Regardless of opinion, the songs are good, the bold decisions of songs by Rend Collective, We the Kingdom, Cody Carnes, Riley Clemmons, Danny Gokey and Crowder are good. But if you want to have a one-stop shop for all things Christian music related for the year 2020, then this album isn’t really it- it’ll give you a very, very biased snapshot, but still, just a snapshot. Maybe you will have more luck on Spotify sifting through. Nevertheless, the album has been made. Will I buy it? Probably not. Will other people who are not in the Western world? Yes they will. So let us give people and listeners what the statement on the press release for this album professes- the best of the best.
Are you going to listen to this compilation both now and into the future? Why or why not? Missing WOW Hits as much as I have? How much of the now-defunct series has influenced your life thus far? Thank you WOW Hits for the many many years, here’s hoping SOZO Playlists continue from where WOW Hits left off with as much anticipation and wonder. Well done WOW Hits for all the memories- SOZO Playlists– there weren’t that much memories made together last year, let’s make some new ones from this year onward!
3 songs to listen to: Run to the Father, Holy Water, Over and Over
RIYL: Hillsong Worship, Rend Collective, Riley Clemmons, Cody Carnes