On the announcement of Hillsong United's new release, Wonder, we take a look at their past year, and the new album available to buy today.
If yesterday you came up to me in street and asked me what Selena Gomez, a shaved head, Israel, and The Shack all had in common, I would have been absulotely stumped.
But, this has all happened in the past year for worship supergoup Hillsong UNITED.
Their song ‘Heaven Knows’ was written specially for the upcoming film of Wm Paul Young’s novel, The Shack. The group also toured around Israel, performing live versions of the songs from Empires, as well as the beloved song Oceans.
Then, turning heads across the internet, lead vocalist Taya Smith surprised many - and outraged some - by completely shaving her head. I can’t say I remember the last time a haircut caused so much heated debate. Along with this follicle furore, superstar Selena Gomez recently professed her admiration for this worship singer. She even performed a new song, that she herself had written, at a Hillsong Y&F concert.
A busy year, then, by all accounts. But why stop there?
2017 brings a brand new album from Hillsong UNITED.
The sixth album from the Hillsong UNITED, Wonder wants listeners to see the world God’s way. To walk in the light and rise above everyday noise, above mundanity and fear. And with a distinctly electronic sound to the album that draws on 80’s pop, as well as the distinctive sampling and textures of artists like Bon Iver, that give WONDER a clear identity and message.
To see the world anew, a new sound is needed. If the album were to sound exactly like the rest, what would be the point?
But even a glance at the tracklist tells you that this different. With song titles like ‘Splinters and Stones’, ‘Rain / Reign’, and ‘So Will I (100 Billion X)’,
1. Wonder \ 2. Shadow Step \ 3. Future Marches In \ 4. So Will I (100 Billion X) \ 5. Splinters and Stones \ 6. Glimmer In The Dust \ 7. Greatest Of These \ 8. Shape Of Your Heart \ 9. Not Today \ 10. Life / 11. Rain \ Reign \ 12. Water To Wine
But, you may be relieved to know, WONDER isn’t mere quirk and difference for difference’s sake.
Splinters and Stones, the first song from WONDER to be released, features moments of striking vocal modification and pulsing bass samplings. But, beyond the sounds, distinctive and moving lyrics that break out the unwritten list of worship metaphors paint comfort and safety in new, personal ways:
“When all I had to offer was my worst /
You saw my heavy heart, and loved me first”
And this chorus whose final image fascinates me in equal measure:
“All this time /
like a river running through my failure /
You carried me all this time /
like the splinters buried in your shoulders /
You carried me”
Nothing about this release is usual, but it makes me ask, ‘why should we strive to be usual in the first place?’
Yeah, the album does feature all the hallmarks of a Hillsong UNITED release (upbeat first song, picky-guitar riffs, refrains-a-plenty), but there is a greater sense of identity to this album too. It doesn’t try to be like anyone else. It doesn’t want listeners to see the world how everyone else sees it. It wants to bring a sense of imagination, a curiosity to listen honestly , to see the world with a renewed, and Godly, spirit of WONDER.
Available now, WONDER by Hillsong UNITED can be ordered here.
May 19th, 2017 - Posted & Written by Aaron Lewendon