Maybe the pandemic has made us more nostalgic and more contemplative. Out of our top 10 Christian albums, many of them are ballad-heavy and two of them are re-recordings of old favorites. Nevertheless, 2021 had given us many top quality and God-centric albums, here is our top 10!
In a genre that is getting predictable, Elevation Worship and Maverick City Music have joined forces to shake up worship music. Eradicating the tacit divide between Gospel Music and CCM, many of these worship songs have a free-flowing Gospel vibe and lots of ab-libs. Moreover, many of songs have a more personal and even a narrative framework. This adds dimension to worship songs who may often be too "professional" sounding, stripped of individuality. Case in point being "Talking to Jesus;" the song is framed by the narrative of co-writer Steven Furtick's recollection of hearing the power of his grandmother's prayers.
It has been a couple of years since Hillsong Worship released an album's worth of new material. With These Same Skies (Live) they have return to form on at least two fronts. First, gone are those sloppy song writing tropes where the hooks of songs are lifted from a hymn or an old praise song or worse still from Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus." Second, the album is more focused on Hillsong Worship rather than UNITED or Y&F. Gone is the endless list of anonymous sounding worship leaders. Back in the fold is Reuben Morgan (who has written some of their classics such as "Cornerstone," "God is Able," and "Mighty to Save") who gets to co-write three out of the 9 songs here.
Songs are like well-taken photos. With the right angling and with the right amount of light, a good photo can be differentiated from an average counterpart. A good photo needs to bring new shade, color, meaning, and perspective to what may be a familiar scene. The topics that Joseph Habedank deal with on this new record may not be new, but he brings perspectives that are refreshing and awe-inspiring. Habedank describes Change is Coming as his most important record in his career because many of issues the songs deal with, such as addiction, Judas, the rebellious side to Christ's ministry and so forth, are important to him. Instead of delving into these topics on autopilot, Habedank tells them in contexts and vocabularies that are palatable and engaging, making many of the songs take on a brand new lease of life.
Every Bethel Music release is worthy of attention. 2021's release Homecoming (Live) is no exception. It does not take a prophet to predict that latent in this 16-song, there are going to be countless worship classics that are going to be sung across the globe in the years together. This is because most of the songs are not only congregational in its execution, but there is also attention paid to ensure most of their songs are memorable and singable. However, there is a major departure for this album, Brian and Jenn Johnson have taken a back seat. The couple are only featured as lead vocalist on one song each; a shame when the Johnsons are so integral to the face of Bethel Music. In their place, Cory Asbury, Dante Bowe, and Zahriya Zachery are the names that appear on more than one cut.
Not many songwriters can reference Pinocchio and King Lear within the lyrics of a song. And not too many songs get you to think about the depravity of the human condition, death, suffering, and God's presence in ways that are probing without offending. Carolyn Arends is a deeply thoughtful and creative songwriter. She is not comfortable to construct her songs around cliches and superficial lines. Rather, with poetic beauty and ruminative imagination, she has crafted these 12 new songs. With folky and organic sounds backing these gems, Recognition is easily this CCM veteran's best album to date.
The Collingsworth Family's (CWF) Just Sing! simply contains the sounds of heaven! The grand orchestral sounds, the seamless singing, and the elegant-sounding production coming from Bradley Knight and Kim Collingsworth, make this record sound celestial. Add to all of that, these 14 songs all thrive on singable melodies and profound theological truths. This album is easily a contender for one of CCM'S best albums for 2021. Just Sing! finds the family working for the second time with Bradley Knight and their first in partnering with Gaither Music. In this day and age when record companies and even artists themselves are not willing to invest much money and time in the making of records, this album sounds like it was cut on a big budget with great attention paid to its execution.
CeCe Winans has won 2 Grammy Awards and 23 GMA Dove Awards. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, she has sold over 5 million albums worldwide, and she has collaborated with stalwarts such as Whitney Houston, Michael W. Smith, Patti LaBelle, BeBe Winans, Mary Mary, Vince Gill, and many others. Yet, despite her success in the music industry since the early 80s, "Believe For It (Live)" is her first ever live record. Comprising of newly scripted songs, some of her older material, and her cover of contemporary worship songs, this is a stellar collection of 13 well-curated songs (plus two studio versions of "Never Lost" and the title cut "Believe for It"). Whilst many live records falter from too many meaningless ab-libs or ceaseless chatter, the songs tightly flow one into another. However, this doesn't mean that Winans is on cruise control; she does interact meaningfully with her audience and she even offers an altar call after "I Have a Savior" which is one of the album's highlights.
Classic movies often get to be re-made after a lapse of time, but not so much with music albums. However, Michael W. Smith's Worship is an exception for a couple of reasons: first, Worship was released on September 11, 2001, when America gasped in horror at what happened to the Twin Towers. As a result, many turned to the worship of God and Smith's album became the soundtrack. Second, the songs on the original Worship album are all evergreen staples. There are no duds on there; every track on the record has been sung across churches internationally for years and years. 20 years later with 9/11 resurfacing back in people's memories, it makes sense that Smith's re-visits his iconic album again.
Bethel Music's "Peace" records are not just original albums. Rather, they have specially utilized sounds that have been scientifically proven to being calmness and tranquility to those who hear them. Vol. II follows on the heels of last year's inaugural project. Save for one brand new song, this 12-song collection features the Bethel team re-imagining most of their better-known songs, with a few surprises including Lauren Daigle's own "Rescue," Elevation Worship's "Graves into Gardens," UNITED's "Another in the Fire," Phil Wickham's "Battle Belongs," and Sinach's "Way Maker." To bring more excitement to the project, Daigle, Phil Wickham, Dante Bowe, and We the Kingdom have also been enlisted as lead vocalists.
What a brilliant idea Steffany Gretzinger has had in her hands! Whilst there are many throwback albums to the glory days of the hymnody, there are very tributes paid to glory days of the 90s where "choruses" (yes, that's what worship songs were called) were blooming. In an effort to pay tribute to her dad ho had recently gone to heaven, Gretzinger has decided to put her own signature spin on these "choruses." Those who have grown up in church during the 90s and into the 2000s will remember these offerings from Don Moen ("Give Thanks"), Marty Nysrrom ("As the Deer"), Graham Kendrick ("Knowing You"), and others.