Review Rating: Must Listen! [4.8/5]
Award-winning musical artist, author, and actor, Michael W. Smith is a veteran of the CCM community and a household name. Winner of three Grammy awards, 45 Dove Awards, and an American Music Award, Smith has sold more than 15 million albums and continues to perform to sold-out crowds across the world. This Friday, Smith’s decades-long career of success continues with the release of his new studio album, A Million Lights.
Finding himself at a creative crossroads last year, Smith was seeking out God’s next step for his life. “I talked with my team at the beginning of 2017 and told them I’m not going to do another record unless I can write some stuff that really excites me. I was still grieving over my dad passing in November 2015 and I thought it might be two or three years before I did any recording at all, if I ever actually did record at all.” Shortly after, Smith’s creativity and passion were ignited, feeling called to spread love and understanding while in the midst of a sometimes divisive nation and a social media world full of negative language. From this inspiration, A Million Lights was born, a 13-track album full of spunky, toe-tapping tunes that embody positivity and optimism while carrying a necessary message.
The album opens with its cover track, kicking off with a catchy start. Sequences of synthesized melody paralleled with Smith’s dancing vocals together paint imagery suggestive of twinkling lights. Alongside ethereal accompaniment, the message of this song conveys the universe’s infinite wonder of who God is. The listener also enjoys unique sounds on the track “Crashing Waves,” in which the introduction features Smith’s voice layered in harmony, almost sounding faintly robotic-like, portraying an acapella feel. The lyrics of this song celebrate how Jesus was victorious over death, a message of hope when we feel broken and alone.
In “Conversations,” Smith’s inspiration for the album, a desire to unify people, is portrayed explicitly. Among techno-like, dance beat accompaniment, Smith sings out “Bring me into the conversation” and “I just want to talk to you, hear what you’re saying”- truly simple messages that have the power to revolutionize our relationships when taken to heart. About this song, Smith shares, “In the age of social media, people have forgotten how to talk with one another, to be civil … my parents taught me to love and respect others, even if we had differing points of view.” While the song tackles a tough topic, the overall tone of the song is rallying and uplifting, alluding to the positivity and hope we can have in hard situations when we learn to listen to one another with God at the forefront.
A slight detour from the prominent style of the album, “Hey Love,” is a simply beautiful ballad sung in duet. It immediately catches the listener’s attention with a warm solo piano introduction, joined by Smith in the first verse and chorus. This duo transitions to a trio as female vocals briefly take the lead before everything blends into harmony, further deepened with the addition of string accompaniment. The female vocals ring true in woven complement with Smith, creating the perfect blend and balance.
A Million Lights may be a slightly different style than what some expect to hear from Smith, but it won’t take long before the listener finds themselves singing along. The album is characterized by toe-tapping, infectiously catchy, synth dance anthems that share messages of love, understanding, and worship. Regardless of sound or style, Smith continues forward on his purpose to bring people together through music. “Until the world ends, music is the most powerful language there is,” admits Smith. “It can transform your life on every level, not just the spiritual. It can help people reconnect with why they’re here. That’s what I’m doing with A Million Lights.”
Can’t wait until release this Friday to hear more? Check out the latest news, including information on Smith’s Surrounded By A Million Lights tour coming Spring 2018.