In the history of praise and worship music, there have always been leaders, the ones in their era writing the songs that everyone else ends up singing. Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, tobyMac, Third Day—it just seemed like anything they put out turned to gold and people would end up singing it across the nation every Sunday.
Hillsong United easily belongs in that group. Having penned hits like the guitar-driven “Lead Me to the Cross,” the epic “Mighty to Save,” and the beautiful “Hosanna” (which might be the most perfectly written praise and worship song), their place in the annals of Christian music fame isn’t going anywhere. (I’m sure there’s a special place reserved for them next to Darlene Zschech.)
The thing is, Hillsong United are forward thinkers. When Christian music was getting stale, they reinvented it with powerful guitars and a new arena-rock slant on praise and worship. And as it always goes with early shakers, it’s merely a matter of time before the public responds and the sound sticks, or if life takes a different direction and it doesn’t pan out.
Zion is like that. If you were expecting the praise and worship music that’s popular today, you’re going to be in for a surprise. It’s got a severe electronic bent—and not the trance-style EDM stuff the kids are listening to these days. It’s much deeper in scope, the band utilizing the digital aspect as almost a metaphor for reaching the digital age on a different level.
While I respect the direction, the record is long and it’s rough to listen to for an entire 90+ minutes. (There are 10 people in the band so “expansive” may be very deliberate.) I suppose the good thing about their genre, though, is that most of the songs will be cherry-picked and played individually anyway. Whether they wrote it knowing that or not, the public has been responding in incredible favor for Zion. I don’t know how much that speaks for people yearning for new praise and worship music, or if it means they follow what the leaders are telling them, but commercially it’s stellar. As a piece of work, it’s grand in scope—to be respected for sure—but it could have easily been pared down to at least an hour.