Modern Worship Turns 10
Michael W. Smith
Perhaps the best-selling worship album ever, Worship wasn't significant to modern worship because it was recorded by Michael W. Smith. Instead, the disc proved instrumental in asserting once and for all that artist-led worship was a trend that was here to stay—even the choir was made up of an all-star cast. Smitty himself was no stranger to singing God's praises when Worship released, having spearheaded the Exodus compilation and penned a handful of time-tested church classics, including "Great Is the Lord" and "Agnus Dei," the latter of which is taken to new heights here. Released the day of the September 11 terrorist attacks, literally millions found comfort in the album while also being exposed for the first time to important modern worship anthems such as Chris Tomlin's "Forever," Kelly Carpenter's "Draw Me Close" (prominently featured on Exodus), and "Above All," penned by worship veterans Paul Baloche and Lenny LeBlanc.
He had two albums under his belt prior to this album, but it was Arriving that catapulted Chris Tomlin from a worship leader with the Passion conferences to one of the biggest stars in Christian music. Radio airplay had a lot to do with this breakthrough, as stations embraced rapturously the three biggest singles off the album—"Indescribable," "Holy Is the Lord," and "How Great Is Our God." But the beauty of these songs wasn't just that they sounded great on the radio; they were also terrific corporate praise selections, captivating churches nationwide and the upper echelons of the CCLI chart. Tomlin's subsequent albums were more calculated, but the organic, from-the-ground-up approach of Arriving confirmed that the best worship albums happen when you least expect it.
Look to You (Hillsong/Integrity)
The most electrifying thing to happen to youth-oriented modern worship, Hillsong United has been around since 1998, but it wasn't until their 2005 release Look to You that they truly found their voice as a band. Before it, they were merely an amped-up version of the adult Hillsong team—their early hits "Everyday" and "One Way" proved that much. Look to You changed all of that. It saw them evolving into a live worship juggernaut in their own right, taking their church's customary stadium-sized stylings and giving them a Brit-pop makeover, complete with breathtaking dynamics, keyboard layers, and tighter songcraft than before. Interestingly, Look to You is the first chapter of a rock-solid trifecta that continued with United We Stand and All of the Above, a three-disc saga that propelled United to the very forefront of youth worship worldwide.
Though not as influential in the life and times of modern worship, these recordings stand out for sheer artistry and the influence they've had on other worship albums.
A Greater Song (Integrity)
You Shine (Hosanna!)
With more than 25 albums to his name as a songwriter or producer, Doerksen stepped out as a titular artist with this elegant, near-liturgical capstone.
David Crowder Band
A Collision (sixsteps)