Hillsong Young & Free – “III” (June 29, 2018)
Young & Free is the most well-functioning gear in the Hillsong music machine right now. This album is a great studio offering and perhaps the first full Y&F release that captures the full power of their sound without unnecessarily muddying it with a live audience. This is what an electronic music worship release needs to sound like. Young & Free has gone full electronic, a necessary step after Hillsong United essentially began occupying that territory and mixing it just slightly with natural instrument soundscapes. While this will certainly not affect Y&F’s live sound, their decision to go with a true studio album is a welcome one. Finally.
This album does everything that Young & Free should do in the right way. The choruses are hooky and fun, the chopped up vocal samples are tastefully executed, and the slower numbers manage to maintain the right electronic texture without losing the “ballad” vibe. Sonically, this record is pristine, current, and just generally tasty.
There are a number of stand out tracks on the record. “First Love” strikes right at the real life concerns of the “Young & Free” demographic, and turns generational concerns about the mass church exodus into a plea for God’s help. It is one of the most sharply focused topical worship songs I’ve heard in a long time, which makes it relevant not only for worshipping congregations but also for Christian songwriters. This is how you use worship to speak to a theme. Worship leaders and Christian songwriters should take notes from this.
The other major standout number is “Jesus Loves Me,” a partial remake of the classic song, with a changed time signature and meter, but otherwise a partial preservation of the original melody. The song manages to seem both childlike and mature. The addition of theologically meaningful verses gives the song some depth, while the refrain and bridge summon all the emotion of the original version and then some.
The only major fault of this album is a common fault of Hillsong albums in general: midway through the listening process, it gets a little tired, a little long-winded, and maybe a bit low-energy. This album with it’s ever changing sonic textures, manages to mitigate that problem a little bit, and would have been perfect if it weren’t for the 17 song tracklisting.
SO YEAH. THIS ONE IS REALLY GOOD.
(P.S. United can honestly get rekt until they WRITE SOME UPBEAT SONGS. I’m so sick of every popular worship song being so knees-draggingly slow. That is all.)