Hillsong United "Wonder" by Michael Tackett (CMADDICT.com) on 2017-07-20 12:51:30
Hillsong United surprised us all when the announced in May that their new record, Wonder, would be released in June. (Almost a less than 30-day notice!) Hillsong United was just coming off touring for their last record, Empires, and promoting their new movie, Hillsong: Let Hope Rise, that many of us thought they would be taking a year long break or so to regroup and see what was next. So it was quite a curve ball to see this new record POP out of the blue. Their previous record, EMPIRES, was dreamy and the slowest paced record Hillsong United had every put out so I was curious to see if they would stick with that kind of musical formula.
To fully embrace and understand the context of Wonder you must first listen and understand their previous two records Zion and EMPIRES. Zion and EMPIRES were records that looked internally at the human soul and the struggle of faith, doubt and ultimately Praise of our Creator. Musically it was that of slow synths and not too many high guitar driven sounds or drumbeats.
Wonder is a different kind of record. It’s a record about hope, life, and freedom in the Creator. There are still struggles. Songs like “Future Marches On” and “Not Today” call for brighter days in the midst of struggle. “Look back no further than the Saviour’s cross/ Look to the future like the grave is lost/There’s a promise returning all the stolen years/There’s nothing left to fear/Now the King is here.
The slower songs like "So Will I (100 billion X)” and "Splinters and Stones" walk through Gods characteristics of love, promises to His people, chasing down those that have failed and lifting them out of the darkness.
The last half of the record closely resembles the slower side of Hillsong United. However, it's bright and full of uplifting lyrics. “Greatest of These” a dreamy song walks through commandments on how to strive to be more like Christ. Joel Houston with the help of guest vocalist Brooke Fraser sings “Be patient/Be kind/Hold no envy or pride/Be the first to come last/For another/Never forced/Slow to anger/Trust without keeping score/Long to suffer with truth/Love will never die”.
The only pain point is the length of the majority of the songs. While it's common to have songs at the 3-4 minute mark Wonder has 8 out of the 11 tracks clock in over the 5-minute mark. It's a common trait of Hillsong and a small annoyance none the less.
With Wonder, it seems Hillsong United has awakened from a long slumber. Wonder is musically and lyrically one of their best. While the album isn’t perfect its one you don’t want to miss out on this Summer. If you were a little bored with Empires I would highly encourage you to listen to this new offering. There's a mature sounding freedom and fun that I have never heard before on a Hillsong United record that I'm sure will make your day brighter.