For the annual album release of Hillsong Worship (formerly Hillsong Live), the church proclaimed "No Other Name" and let that theme run through everything from the lyrics of the songs to the slogan of the annual conference, Hillsong Conference 2014.
For a church that started in a school hall it is impressive to see the worldwide influence Hillsong is having, particularly through its music. The album cover depicts Time Square in New York City with every billboard and advertising screen covered in the words "NO OTHER NAME".
The picture captures the moment the Hillsong Creative Team literally took over one of the most influential cities in the world, covering 27 digital screens and countless smart phones with a loop of images repeatedly saying "No Other Name" and "Jesus" for an hour long.
The audacity to pull off such a stunt in such an iconic setting speaks to the revolutionary spirit of this church as it seeks to "pioneer again" this year in all areas of its ministry. But this boldness is backed by success, in fact on the very release date of "No Other Name", the album went straight to number 2 on the iTunes charts in Australia, and reached number 1 in multiple countries around the world.
Musically, the sound of Hillsong Worship has not drastically changed much since its beginning 28 years, over 23 albums and over 13 million album sales ago. The congregational worship songs of this album are still lead by simple chord movements, gentle guitar riffs, vocally-strong melodies and simple lyrics that resonate immediately with the faith-filled worshipers, but the song-writing skill and thematic direction of the album is noticeable better than previous releases.
The songs blend into each other beautifully, creating a beautifully delicate soundscape that can be enjoyed pleasantly as background listening for hours.
But upon closer listening, each song takes you on a journey, developing ideas with a clarity and authenticity that draws the listener in and evokes heartfelt worship.
Authenticity is definitely something that is noticeable in this album. There is very little distraction from the message that is being delivered and as each Worship Leader offers their personal perspective on the one name they so passionately sing about, that message is never lost in complexity or poetic ambiguity but clarified in diversity and honesty. Each song tells its own tale of personal revelation, highlighting specific traits and aspects of God that they are lead to worship.
Lyrically, the song-writers have taken a noticeable intention in taking direction from the hymns and creeds that have come to define the Church of the Western World, words that have resonated with Christians for centuries with a power and depth like few since. This comes as a refreshing development from the washed-down, simplistic lyrics of modern pop, and often, modern worship songs. These songs carry a weight that seems to transcend a genre or generational style, the melodies and instrumentation become less noticeable as each declaration of faith exceeds the sound upon which it rides.
This is most noticeable in the opening track of the album "This I Believe", based on the Apostles' Creed, which is one of the oldest and most widely used statements across the Church at large. The story goes that an Australian Anglican minister sent a tweet suggesting Hillsong should write a song to the creed, and the team took it upon themselves to put the powerful statements to melody."In an age where there is so much division it's powerful to declare something we all believe is true, emphasising our core beliefs," said the songwriter Ben Fielding. "I love anything that has the power to unify the church. This creed has done that for close to 1700 years."
That heart to compose something eternal by both pushing to find the new sound whilst reaching back into the theological foundations of Christianity has created an album of simplicity, poignancy and transcendence. Hillsong's Global Worship and Creative Pastor, Cass Langton said, "We hope that this album gives Christians songs to sing and words to express their worship and love of God, irrespective of the background, denomination or culture that they come from."
"It's our prayer that these songs will help people to locate themselves within a vast story of Christian faith and that our confessions of faith in who Jesus is would help unite us as believers."
With a track listing of listing of 11 songs, 'No Other Name' features many of the best-known artists and worship leaders across the Hillsong team including Reuben Morgan, Ben Fielding, Matt Crocker, Joel Houston, Nigel Hendroff, Autumn Hardmann, Annie Garrett, JadGillies, David Ware, and Taya Smith.
Commercial success is almost expected for Hillsong Worship, but the power of this record will not lie in the sales of albums but in its ability to unify Christians all around the world, moving hearts and changing lives. As a forerunner of modern Christian congregational worship music, the effects of this album's message of unifying worship could significantly change the modern day church. And to see Hillsong use their ever-increasing influence to proclaim a simplified message of just one name under which all believers can gather under could well prove a shift to the future of the Church.
In the words of Hillsong's Senior Pastor Brian Houston: "There is a whole lot that is represented in names, but there is one name that stands alone, above all other names. And that of course is not your name or my name â it's the name of Jesus Christ."
Full track list:
1. This I Believe (The Creed)
2. Heaven and Earth
3. Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace)
4. No Other Name
7. Thank you Jesus
8. All Things New
9. My Story
10. Our Father
Daniel J. Mathew has finished his Bachelor of Music at Sydney's Wesley Institute and currently volunteers in Hillsong Creative, City Campus.
Daniel J. Mathew's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/daniel-mathew.html