Prime Cuts: God I Look to You (Francesca Battistelli), For the One (Jenn Johnson), King of My Heart (Steffany Gretzinger)
Overall Score: 4/5
Every Bethel Music album is an important release. Bethel Music, like Hillsong Worship, Chris Tomlin, Matt Maher, Darlene Zschech and Matt Redman, is in such a position that they shape the content of the church's worship more than any other artists. Due to the ubiquity of their music across churches, what they put out is of vital importance. Glad to say, "Starlight" is stacked with prodigious expressions of Godly worship that they are going to give Christians all across the world fresh and exciting vocabulary in the worship of our God. Comprising of 14 tracks (one acoustic rendering and two spontaneous worship moments), the album was recorded live on their "Worship Nights Tour."
Nevertheless, "Starlight" marks three departures for Bethel Music. First, gone are all their male worship leaders. Just like their "You Make Me Brave," all the songs here feature women as lead singers. They include Bethel Music's Jenn Johnson, Steffany Gretzinger, Amanda Cook, Kristene DiMarco, Kalley Heiligenthal, Melissa Helser and Hannah McClure along with guest worship leader and songwriter Francesca Battistelli. Second, not all the songs here are new. "King of My Heart" is a cover of John McMillan's recent hit, "For the One" was originally found on Brian and Jenn Johnson's recent release, and "God I Look to You," which bears a 2010 copyright, is from Bethel's older repertoire. Third, if you are looking for the Bethel to kick up their feet and cha-cha to some frenzied EDM uptempoes, you will be disappointed. Synth-led ballads with those big anthemic chorus is more the patented sound across the album.
Maybe it's the familiarity but the Francesca Battistelli-led "God I Look to You" has a magnetic power to it. From the first synth notes to its propulsive chorus, you can't help but worship along. What's of interest is that the chorus bears a striking similarity to Hillsong Worship's "What a Beautiful Name." Is this a case of Brooke Fraser listening a little too much to Bethel? Jenn Johnson, the matriarch of the team, only gets one cut this time. Without any bombast, Jenn Johnson delivers a quasi-country acoustic guitar version of "For the One" (a prayer to be more loving) that is so moving that it can cause an irritation to our tear ducts. Steffany Gretzinger, with her Stevie Nicks vocal intonations, offers a rousing version of McMillan's "King of My Heart," only to be let down by the under developed and repetitive chorus.
Amanda Cook tries to cook up a storm on an otherwise melodically diffused title track "Starlight." Much better is "You Came (Lazarus)" which captures the invigorating joy of Lazarus and his family when Jesus finally arrived after days of waiting. However, without he narrative frame of the Biblical story present in the song, the Biblical illiterate may not catch the song's gist. Melissa Helser gives the record a much recess from the heavy balladry by offering a spirited take of the fast-paced "Catch the Wind." While the string-laden Kalley Heiligenthal-led "The War is Over" is a must-hear: few songs capture the larger work of the Cross and how it applies to our daily struggles with more eloquence than this.
On the whole, "Starlight" does glow with some very powerful worship moments, though not all the "stars" shine with the same intensity. Nevertheless, this is an important album. It doesn't take a prophet to predict that just as ubiquitous as the stars are, these songs are going to find their places in tomorrow's worship of the church.