“Have you ever seen the wonder?” is the question that opens the album Wonder by Hillsong UNITED. The title track and first single of Hillsong’s fourth studio album begins with a mysterious tempo as the question is asked. But then it switches to a driving beat, offering hope and vibrancy for those who have just discovered the light and wonder of a life impacted by a loving God and the amazing work of Jesus.
The album continues its strong opening when worship leader Taya Smith provides a firm female vocal lead performance for the song “Shadow Step.” This song explores following Jesus with small and faith-filled steps starting wherever he meets us, whether it’s at the sinner’s table or the well.
“Future Marches In” is by far the catchiest track on the album with a melody that my brain put on repeat for hours after hearing the song just once. The track envelops the listener with a quiet start that drips with anticipation, slowly building until the anthem of a chorus is revealed. I find it near impossible to stay quiet as the song plays. While this song may not receive as much critical acclaim as Hillsong’s earlier song “Oceans,” which set a record by staying on the U.S. Christian charts for over a year, “Future Marches In” has been crafted to a similar standard and includes a mysterious x-factor, making it the highlight of the album.
Unfortunately, after such innovation and variety throughout the first three songs, this album loses momentum quickly as it presents a series of slower worship songs with lyrics and themes found in many other Christian worship songs. I realize a variety of worship songs are needed to help congregations walk through multiple experiences of joy, lament, adoration, celebration, grief, remorse, hope, and more. Perhaps the next nine songs on the album would do well if heard individually.
However, the way they are arranged on the album highlights their similarities in tempo (all well below 100 beats per minute), arrangement (longer worship ballads), and theme (focusing on personal salvation), leaving the listener craving more variety.
The ninth track entitled “Not Today” offers a brief respite with its 1980s synthesizer sounds, soaring female vocals, and lyrics that offer a unique perspective on the Christian walk. But immediately following this track are three more unmemorable and lengthy worship ballads. The final track of the album is almost 10 minutes long, making it hard for the listener to stay engaged.
I’d recommend listening to the beginning of this album, possibly incorporating either “Wonder” or “Future Marches In” into worship services if appropriate. And if you are looking for music to assist you during times of personal prayers and meditation, the second half of the album could be helpful. (Hillsong)