Prime Cuts: SOS, Sing Wherever I Go, Free, Amen
Overall Grade: 2/5
The songs of We the Kingdom are captivating. They have straddled the tacit divide between raw expressions of worship and the polished stadium-filling explosions of praise well. This means their songs not only sound authentic but there's a sing along quality to them that posture them well in the context of congregational singing. Their versatility has also opened for them opportunities to record with a ray of diverse acts such as Chris Tomlin, Rend Collective and NEEDTOBREATHE. The Tomlin-connection shouldn't come as a surprise as We the Kingdom is fronted by Ed Cash. Cash has not only produced many of Tomlin's records, he has also been the co-mastermind behind the creation of many of Tomlin's worship anthems, including "How Great is Our God", "Red Letters, "Jesus Messiah", "Whom Shall I Fear", "All My Hope" and many others.
Like the songs of Tomlin, this 6-song EP is also geared for congregation worship. The set opens with the jaunty "God So Loved;" what makes this song so enthralling is that it is inviting. It boldly invites congregates to lay our addictions and our failures and lay them at the Cross. The song's unvarnished bravery and straightforwardness in worship are worth heeding to. The slower "Dancing on the Waves," with its faint echo to Hillsong UNITED's "Oceans," also pushes us to the edge of our comfortability to trust in Jesus in life's uncertainties. And tracks such as "SOS" and "Holy Water" have hooks strong enough for even the most tune-deaf pew seater to warm up to in no time.
But the record is not shielded from lyrically ambiguity. Worship songs, like sermons, are teaching tools to be used in the church to draw the church to God's truth. So, lyrics need to be Biblically accurate and they need to be as clear and as precise as possible. First, one's not clear what the metaphor of "Holy Water" mean. We the Kingdom sings: Your forgiveness/Is like sweet, sweet honey on my lips/Like the sound of a symphony to my ears/Like holy water on my skin. What on earth does "holy water on skin" mean? Does "holy water" refer to the healing waters that prosperity Gospel teachers sell on their TV programs that promise instant healing to those who are willing to fork out $100 for a tiny bottle of water from river Jordan? Or does it refer to the "holy water" in the context of the Roman Catholic Church? If it is either one of the situations mentioned, the metaphor is not Biblical. If not, what does it mean?
Second, the song "SOS" is a song that speak of our helplessness before God. But if you read the lyrics carefully, there's no Gospel in it. Nowhere in the song is there any mention of Christ, the redemption he brings, and the forgiveness of sins that he does on our behalf. Granted there are some Psalms which are entire laments without any hint of good news, still these psalms are in the minority. Third, there are lots of missed opportunities. The titular of "Dancing on the Waves" introduces a great metaphor. But the metaphor is not developed in the song. The team could have connected the metaphor to the Biblical stories of Jesus calming the sea or Jesus walking on water or even Jonah in the belly of the fish.
We the Kingdom needs a lyrical gatekeeper to help the team nuance their lyrics so that their words are punchy, poetic, true, and clear. It's not wrong to indulge in Scripture and utilize metaphors in Holy Writ, rather than from naval rhetoric (i.e, the song "SOS"). Most importantly, worship songs need to be clear, as John Piper once said these to worship leaders: "Don't give us too many (songs) where we have to change the meaning in order to be faithful."