Prime Cuts: I Love You Lord, The King is Among Us, Unstoppable God
Elevation Worship's brand new album "Wake Up the Wonder" is the perfect specimen for a study of what is going right and what is seriously erring in modern worship music today. Judiciously "Wake Up the Wonder" does possess many lofty qualities worship leaders have been striving for in years. In many ways, this album is the poster child of what worship albums should aim for. But on the other hand because the album has so incorporated so much of today's trendy gloss, the disc also check marks many of the things that have turned many off worship music too. But before we bring out the microscope, it's fair first to say by way of introduction who Elevation Worship is. Elevation Worship is the worship team of Elevation Church, a mega church in Charlotte, North Carolina. The band members include Chris Brown, Mack Brock, Wade Joye, London Gatch, Jane Williams, Brad Hudson, Andrea Smith, Jonsal Barrientes, and Matthews Ntele, as well as many other contributing musicians and vocalists.
"Wake Up the Wonder" is the church team's second live album released this year. Earlier in the year, January to be precise, they released "Only King Forever," which featured the worship staple "The Love of Jesus" with Darlene Zschech as the song's guest vocalist. Ten months later, they are back with "Wake Up the Wonder." This new live album was recorded on August 1st in front of an electrifying crowd of 16,000 worshippers at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina. Based on Genesis 28 and the story of Jacob waking up to realize he is in the presence of God, "Wake Up the Wonder" calls the modern church to do the same. This album seeks to encourage listeners to rediscover the wonder and "Wow Moments" of God in the midst of their everyday lives.
So, what works on this album? For starters, "Wake Up the Wonder" removes the scaffolding that often exists between the worship team and individual worshippers. Many of these songs are written with a diary-like transparency that they literally search our souls and present our hopes, fears, and love before God without a veiled pretense. In this regard, "I Love You Lord" is a gem. Structured on a hymn-like template with some gorgeous sounding strings, "I Love You Lord" does open surgery to the heart as our deepest longings for Jesus are laid bare. Moreover, the band is not afraid to explore fresh and newer sounds. The ethereal sounding "The King is Among Us" with lots of spacey notes ushers in a holy awe that exudes throughout this song. And they are not afraid of incorporating EDM beats into "Already Won" giving Hillsong Young and Free a run for their money.
But the disc also underscores some of the perennial errs of today's worship music. Despite having an intriguing album theme and titular garnered from the Biblical narrative of Jacob, why was the story of Jacob never utilized in any of the songs? Though there is an apparent theme but the songs are not tied enough to show us how this theme is developed across the record. And most dire is that many of the songs here are devoid of sustaining images or depth or narratives. Even if these songs are supposed to be love songs directed to God, they are paltry at best. If secular love songs today are rifled with images or interesting turn of phrases, why should Jesus get any less? Less jarring but yet a concern is that many of the songs borrow similar guitar riffs and chord progressions from the numerous worship songs out there. Unless you are singing these songs week after week, it takes a long time to tell some of the songs apart from each other.
"Wake Up the Wonder," in short, does have its points of excellence. But then it's also deeply flawed in other areas. Perhaps, two albums in a year is a little too much for the team. One would wish they would take a breather and spend more time ruminating over Scripture before churning up yet another disc prematurely.