My Rating: Must Listen (4.5 / 5)
The name “Hillsong” is definitely no stranger to the Christian music scene. A megachurch originally based in Australia and now with extension sites around the globe, Hillsong Church is well known internationally for its music ministries. Beginning in the late 90’s with award-winning band Hillsong UNITED, their ministry has evolved to include a new musical addition. Formed in 2012, Hillsong Young & Free is a youthful revival, aiming to create new sounds that relate to the younger generations of believers. Last month, Hillsong Y&F released Youth Revival Acoustic, a new take on their previously released, Grammy-nominated live album, Youth Revival. While Youth Revival Acoustic isn’t truly acoustic in the traditional sense, here instead meaning “stripped down,” it features more intimate versions and expressions of the original songs off the live album of the same name. The album features 8 “acoustic” tracks and 2 studio tracks from Youth Revival, as well as 8 visual tracks and bonus music videos.
To achieve a markedly different, raw worship experience, tracks utilize a mix of vocals, piano, and balanced synthesized supporting accompaniment. “Only Wanna Sing” builds its foundation on piano, celestial-like sounds, and effortless male/female harmony, while “Never Alone” pairs an angelic, blemish-less soprano vocal with a smooth synthesizer. However, both create sanctuaries of soul-speaking worship.
“Falling Into You” and “Real Love,” two No. 1 hits from Youth Revival, are each re-envisioned on the new album in stripped down, acoustic versions, as well as studio recorded tracks. “Falling Into You (Acoustic)” begins with piano and light synthesized sounds, pulling you in with the crystal clear female vocalist that enters, all framed within a slowed groove that provides reflection, adoration and worship. Conversely, the studio version starts out with stronger, EDM-pop accompaniment that is the basis for the whole track. This lends to more upbeat, celebratory worship. Regardless of sound, the message of the lyrics convey that when things feel like they’re falling out of control, we’ve got nothing to lose by falling into God and striving to love the way He loves us. While the acoustic version is more reflective and the studio version more energetic, this tune features a sure rhythm and synthesized style that are characteristic of the hits streaming the radio airwaves in pop music today.
Beginning with a solitary piano melody, “When The Fight Calls” can be described in two words- simply stunning. A pitch-perfect female vocalist enters and her duet with piano is delicate yet powerful. The first chorus adds subtle male vocal harmony, followed by supporting accompaniment that’s gradually painted into the background as the song continues. Halfway through, the song slightly changes pace going into the bridge, again beginning simply with beautiful vocals and accompaniment that grows and builds through worshipful expression. The song confirms that even when all seems to be going wrong in life around us, we know our Savior is greater and He is forever, so we will sing His praise with all that we have in us.
When speaking about the album, Hillsong Y&F’s Laura Toggs explains, “The heart of this project is to capture the true potency of the songs in their rawest form and to draw us closer to Jesus yet again.” Youth Revival Acoustic holds true to this intention. Though the group’s aim may be to relate the Word to the young adults of the church, these stripped-away renditions of their songs create a worship experience to which all generations can relate. The vocals are spot-on and filled with passion, helping transform the listener’s mind into an attitude of humble adoration, worship and praise. Though new in their beginnings, Hillsong Y&F has already begun to make meaningful contributions to CCM, and we look forward to how God continues to use this group for His kingdom.