The best of 2012’s new worship songs from the summer festivals
The tent’s all packed up, the wristband you vowed you’d keep on all year just fell off in the shower, the holey airbed’s in the bin, and you’ve hit the festival comedown. You long nostalgically for sweaty circus tents full of thousands of people, many of whom haven’t showered in three days, singing their hearts out to songs they barely knew at the start of the week. But… how did they go again?
Or maybe you’re a worship leader and you haven’t been able to make it to a festival this year, and you’re thinking, “oh no, how am I going to work out which songs actually worked this year? How do I know which ones to introduce?”
Fear not! The Soul Survivor festivals are a great benchmark for new songs – their team are pulling together songs from all over the place and showcase them during their worship times, as well as writing their own stuff. Here, we look at the songs that were introduced this year, and I try and pick out some of the particular highlights…
But, before we crack on, it’s worth me saying that this is just my opinion – I’ve got it seriously wrong before! I’m just trying to apply these songs to a hypothetical local church setting and ask – which would work best? Also, this is not necessarily an exhaustive list and any details, whilst accurate to the best of my knowledge, have been attained through a mixture of hearsay, rumour, observation and research – they may not necessarily be right! Nuff said – on with the good stuff…
Good, homegrown organic goodness from the Soul Survivor vegetable patch
Beth Croft’sKingdom Come (chords, youtube) is a stonker. When I asked a couple of other worship leaders which new song if any they would be taking back to their church, this was it. It’s a commitment to Kingdom living even in the face of adversity, set to a moody, rolling soundtrack. The bridge, ‘to be thrown into flames, and still to say, my God he saves’ is a particularly solid line. Not typical in arrangement, this isn’t perhaps the easiest song to teach, but once learnt could be great for congregational worship.
Young kiwi worship leader Tom Field was back again this year, bringing with him a couple of songs, including Giving You My All (chords) and Spirit Rain Down (Tom Field, Jamie Rodwell et al)(chords). I’ll be honest – I’d say that neither is particularly suited to congregational worship – though the chorus of ‘Spirit Rain Down’ could be a useful tag. That’s not to say that they’re not good songs – rather that, particularly in the case of ‘Giving You My All’, they’re more suited to festival worship, and neither is massively original, and so don’t help in adding depth to your song lists.
With as many hugely gifted worship leaders as Worship Central, you’d expect them to produce some good stuff. They didn’t disappoint – Guardian (Ben Cantelon, Nick Herbert & Stu Garrard)(audio & chords, youtube) made several appearances. New Day (Ben Cantelon & Nick Herbert) (audio & chords, youtube) popped up at Momentum, as did Counting on Your Name (Tim Hughes, Nick Herbert and Ben Cantelon) (audio & chords, tutorial video). But, for me, the stand out song from the Worship Central stables was Luke Hellebronth’s Now is the Time (Luke Hellebronth, Martyn Layzell & Oliver Snelling) (tutorial video & chords, more here). This song integrates themes of the church, mission and justice, and is great as a pace-changer when you want to move up a gear.
The Mumford Effect
It’s often stated that worship music is normally two years behind the mainstream secular chart, in terms of its musical feel. So it was no surprise to find ourselves heading into neo-folk this summer, given that Mumford and Son’s pivotal game-changing album Sigh No More hit the shelves in 2009. Soul Survivor’s new associate pastor, Sam Bailey, popped out his song My Heart (chords), and it certainly fitted that mould. It’s not a song with massive depth, but it was amazing to sing ‘my heart will ever sing of you’ with thousands of young people. It is potentially useful as a call to worship at the top of a set, particularly if ‘woahing’ is your thing (more on that later…).
One of the most exciting things about this year’s festival was that the epic Rend Collective Experiment, a group of worshippers that, having set sail from Northern Ireland with their first album, Organic Family Hymnal in tow two years ago, were this year let loose on the main stage. They’ve previously led the late night worship sessions at Soul, where they’ve had a much more grungy sound than that found on their albums, mainly because, instead of their normal group, they’re stripped back to a travelling band of four or five. Instead, this year, they were co-leading with the Soul Survivor band and worship leaders, allowing them to maintain their big sound in all its folky goodness. There were banjos, dustbins, steel-strung guitars and jingling jonnys (look it up) galore.
From their latest album, You Are My Vision (chords, tutorial video, live video) is a reinterpretation of Be Thou My Vision. I’m not going to lie – I love this song. I can understand why the puritans want to the leave ye olde lyrics as they are – they definitely still ‘work’ – but, this reworking opens up this awesome hymn to a whole new generation. The affirmative statements slightly alter the meaning from the original, but that’s part of what makes this song a useful addition, rather than just another rearrangement.
They also led a stripped back version of You Bled (chords, tutorial video, music video), a beautiful cross-focussed song from their first album, capturing the story in a more simplistic way than most. The official music video is well worth a watch.
But my favourite song that Rend introduced was Build Your Kingdom (chords, tutorial video). Avoiding the ever-present pitfall of flowerly, theological language, it first calls on God’s spirit to revive the heart of the believer, before detailing the believer’s thirst for justice, then finally calling on God to bring his Kingdom through us, the church. Each verse ends, ‘we are your church’. Can’t recommend this song highly enough, though not the easiest to lead.
Whilst we’re on the ‘Mumford Effect’ – I overheard a few people saying they’d love to use these songs, if only they could de-folkify them. I sympathise – not all of us have a banjo gathering dust in the attic that we can crack out at the drop of a hat. But, at the same time, I heard others saying that what they loved about the way Rend led worship was the freedom they had from musical, electronic perfection. There seemed to be a raw, unpolished energy about their playing in worship which really clicked with people. So maybe just go for it? So what if it’s not totally perfect – it doesn’t have to be! And this sound is evermore popular – people will be able to relate to it.
Another band, which, in all honesty, I hadn’t come across before researching this article, are United Pursuit. Well, again, they seem to not be so much a band as a collective (sound familiar?) of worshippers living in community, and songs coming out of that. One of their writers is Will Reagan – two of his songs, Break Every Chain and Set a Fire surfaced at this year’s festival. Both are fantastic songs for times of spirit ministry – Break Every Chain is great for times when God seems to be releasing people from stuff, and Set a Fire is a gutsy call on God to bring his spirit – a rougher version of Consuming Fire: “So set a fire down in my soul/That I can’t contain and can’t control/I want more of you God” (audio). Have I come to this party really late?
Two years ago, I commented that I was surprised the fantastic You Alone Can Rescue (Matt Redman & Jonas Myrin) (chords, tutorial video) hadn’t made an appearance at the festivals – and at Momentum this year, it finally did! 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) (Matt Redman & Jonas Myrin) (chords, tutorial video, music video) was also played at Momentum. Both are brilliant songs that have massively helped our church in worship. With 10,000 Reasons, just be aware that different people start the verse lines slightly differently – my advice is study how Redman does it, then teach that.
And Everyone Else…
The super-talented trio of producer/writer/players Jason Ingram, Paul Mabury and Stu G (formerly of Delirious?), who together form One Sonic Society seem to be the kings of collaboration. Forever Reign (Jason Ingram & Reuben Morgan) (Hillsong version chords, tutorial & live videos, OSS live video), has been covered left right and centre, so it was no great surprise when it came out at this year’s festival. For me, this actually isn’t Sonic’s best song – I love The Greatness of Our God (Jason Ingram , Stuart Garrard, Reuben Morgan) (chords, live video) and Lay Me Down (Matt Redman, Jonas Myrin, Chris Tomlin, Jason Ingram) (tutorial video & chords, live video), which came out of a session involving shed loads of great writers (I much prefer the more driving feel of the Sonic version to Tomlin/Passion’s). Their new live album is fantastic – given their pedigree I’m expecting to see big things from these guys. As an aside, worship song writers generally seem to be working increasingly collaboratively, which is great to see.
Exalted One by Elevation Worship (chords, video) is an ok song. Elevation are a group of worship leaders serving a church in the US by the same name. On a brief assessment, their worship seems to be close to Hillsong in style. If your congregation are used to that style, this might work well for you. If not, this isn’t perhaps the best song to use to try and get that particular ball rolling.
Speaking of the Aussies, Go was another big song at the festivals. By Hillsong United, it’s by no means new, but was new to Soul Survivor. The lyrics aren’t particularly strong – ‘roll back the curtains from our eyes’ is one example. What really struck me though was the Olé Olé Olé Olé section in the middle – initially I thought whoever was leading had done it as a dare, but no, it’s on the recording and everything. I’ll be honest – why?! For me, this is a song best left to the festivals (video).
There were, however, two Hillsong songs that I’d consider using in the local church – Came To My Rescue (Hillsong United) (chords, video) was used as per this video (we just used the bridge as a tag) – very usable, similar in some ways to Cantelon’s Be Lifted High and LIfted Up. Not that it’s new, but we also used the fantastic You Are Here (The Same Power) (Dave George and Grant Pankratz) (chords & audio).
Another song which I’d consider using part of is Jeremy Riddle’s Fall Afresh (chords, video). The haunting melody complements the searching cry of the lyrics perfectly.
The Old Guard
It was great to hear a number of older songs resurfacing and finding a new voice – Better Is One Day (Matt Redman) and Hungry (Kathryn Scott) both made multiple appearances. How Great Thou Art (Stuart K. Hine) also received a lot of play.
There were some interesting new arrangements of some older songs – Because of Your Love (Al Gordon) was set to Jessie J’s Domino, and Jesus Saves (Tim Hughes) had a section from Coldplay’s Every Teardrop is a Waterfall inserted.
The jury was split on this one – gimmick or genius? It was good to these older songs in a fresh way, but, to do this shouldn’t necessarily mean using pop songs – look at the revival Holding Nothing Back had when it was covered by Jesus Culture.
Conspicuous By Their Absense
It would, of course, be impossible for Soul Survivor to use every good worship song that’s out there right now – they have to be selective. There are, however, two songs I’d like to share with you that have been particularly usable and helpful in our worship at Kings.
The first is Kristian Stanfill’s fantastic song Always (Jason Ingram & Kristian Stanfill) (chords, audio & tutorial video). This is such a powerful anthem – it’s almost like a corporate, more spiritually aggressive version of Redman’s Even Though I Walk.
Secondly, Chris Tomlin’s All to Us (Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Matt Maher & Jesse Reeves) (lyrics, audio & tutorial video). You’d be hard pressed to find a better song that articulates the hope and purpose of the church. We’ve actually had to be careful not to sing this song too often, it’s that good.
‘Woahing’ – you can hear me whinging about it here. Haven’t got much to add to that, except to say that they seem to be getting longer… I mean, I think I get it – ‘woahs’ help to encourage participation – they involve the congregation in the musical accompaniment of the song. Or, as in Wickham’s You’re Beautiful, can be used to express things which words just don’t cover. Sometimes though, I wonder whether it means that we lose thinking space in songs. And when a song is almost half ‘woahing’, you start to wonder whether the writer just ran out of words…
Whilst we’re on the subject of space in worship, clapping between every song (which Soul Survivor, to their credit, tried to discourage) can really prevent flow. Silence isn’t always bad! I think I’m getting old… interestingly, at Momentum, clapping only seemed to happen when it fitted the point where we were at in worship. I guess that with worship, it’s something we learn – as we mature, we learn to be more purposeful, we think more about what we do. That’s not to say that the all young people all Soul Survivor are spiritually immature – I’m sure many weren’t, but people tend to get swept along with the masses.
But Which to Choose?
Realistically, as worship leaders we can’t just introduce every new song that pops out and assaults our ears. We have to carefully consider which songs are going to bless the church we’re serving – a song may work brilliantly in a tent of several thousand young people, but Hillsong’s Go is unlikely to take off with a congregation of 10 and Ethel on the organ. When adding a new song, we have to ask – is this song going to add anything new to our worship when put together with the songs we already use? Are there topics which our current list of songs doesn’t cover? Are we short on songs with deep theology, or do we need more songs for our times of ministry and response?
To pin my colours to the mast, I think the kingdom thread has been somewhat overlooked in worship songwriting over the last few years – both Kingdom Come and Build Your Kingdom could help to redress this if they gain momentum. 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) is a really valuable song, as is All to Us. Now is the Time is another song which breaks into unfamiliar territory.
But what do you think? Have you come across any good new songs over the summer? Have I missed any? Share your favourites in the comments section below.
Tom Barber graduated in Theology at University College Durham in 2011, and is now in his second year working and training with King’s Church Durham, with placements for 2012-13 in worship and pastoral ministry. He’s been attending Soul Survivor since 2005, and has served on team at the event for the last four years. And he flippin’ loves worshipping.
Thanks so much to Tom for such a brilliant overview of the new songs. A similar post he wrote back on 2010 was one of the most popular of the year.
Of course Tom’s reflections are rather UK-centric. Yet a good 70% of visitors to the Musicademy site are from outside the UK (notably North America, Australia, Singapore etc etc). What new songs did you find at this years’ summer conferences and festivals? Which songs have made it back to your congregation already? Please comment below.