- Endless Light
- Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise)
- I Surrender
- Hope of the World
- All My Hope
- Grace Abounds
- Children of the Light
- Stand in Awe
- Love Knows No End
- Greater than All
- Hope of the World (Studio)
- Love So High
- I Desire Jesus
- Praise Him
Hillsong’s songs are present in every church worldwide; with many of their songs like ‘Mighty to Save’, ‘Hosanna’, ‘This Is Our God’ and ‘Lead Me to the Cross’ embraced in both individual and corporate worship. Now releasing their 21st live album in Cornerstone, Hillsong have given us plenty of songs to sing inside the walls of the church. However, looking at this from a musical standpoint, I have come to respect the band in it’s mission to uplift and inspire the younger generation to take a stand for Jesus; but apart from a few standouts like singles ‘Hope of the World’ and ‘Cornerstone’, as well as a few others like ‘Love Knows No End’ and ‘Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise)’, the rest of the album fails to live up to the hype surrounding the album during the weeks prior to release. With plenty of repetitious lyrics (to encourage the church worshipper), this will certainly not bring in listeners more akin to a ccm/pop leaning, and with the ease of releasing albums by Hillsong (and Hillsong UNITED- an extension of the live movement!), Hillsong aren’t breaking any new ground, lyrically and musically, with many of their songs somehow feeling familiar (like I heard the themes on their own albums previously!), and not many standing out as I run through this 16 track album. If I were to consider whether to purchase this album, I don’t think I will part with the money (unless you’re an avid Hillsong supporter!).
Both ‘Hope of the World’ and ‘Cornerstone’ are standard radio-friendly melodies that assert Christ’s importance in our lives and how He is ‘…the hope of the world, lifted on high, calling us home with arms out wide…’ With lead singer Reuben Morgan proclaiming God as the hope for humanity, we are met with a piano undertone as we immerse ourselves in Christ’s promise for our future. ‘Cornerstone’ is the hymn ‘The Solid Rock’ rebirthed; with a strong piano melody, complete with light acoustics and plenty of background vocals. An added chorus also ‘modernises’ the track, with lead singer David Ware cries out ‘…Christ alone, cornerstone, the weak made strong in the Saviour’s love…’ A reminder at how God is our rock and steady foundation that we rely upon, both ‘Cornerstone’ and ‘Hope of the World’ showcase some of Hillsong’s strengths with each song capturing a special moment as individuals around the world are swept into a time of worship.
‘All My Hope’, ‘Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise)’, ‘Children of the Light’ and ‘Love Knows No End’ are all standouts in a mixed bag that Hillsong brings as they present their latest worshipful offering of 2012. With a strong guitar introduction, worship leader Joel Houston gives listeners a reason to celebrate our freedom in Christ in ‘Children of the Light’. Through lyrical hopefulness in how ‘…everything will find its place under Your name…’ we are met with courage in the midst of big drum beats as we proclaim that as we move along with our everyday walk, the Lord is right beside us, shaping us into the godly men and women He has longed for us to be since we knew Him. ‘Love Knows No End’ presents to us a mesmerizing piano hook that draws the listeners into the musical and lyrical complexities at how God continuously showers us with grace undeserving. As David Ware reiterates the message that ‘…Your love it knows no end…’, we are swept into the truth, easily accepted at first but rarely fully understood or comprehended until we’re faced with a situation where God’s love is the only constant we can rely on. A great reminder that Christ’s love goes beyond our comprehension, ‘Love Knows No End’ is one of Hillsong’s best on Cornerstone.
Similarly, both ‘All My Hope’ and ‘Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise)’ (both sung by worship leader Annie Garrett) are able to resonate with listeners as each song speaks about placing all our fears behind us and our hope and trust in Christ, thus rising above our circumstances as we move into belief that as we in Christ, there is no condemnation. As Annie sings out across a soft piano melody and light percussion, ‘…all my hope is in You, all my strength is in You, with every breath my soul will rest in You…’, we are given a lifeline to place our troubles and cares- in the loving arms of our Heavenly Father as we soak in His unfathomable grace and mercy. ‘Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise)’ furthers the theme of surrender; that as we give up our ambitious and selfish desires, we will be able to ‘…stand a new creation, baptised in blood and fire…’, boldly holding onto the promise that ‘… I will rise, as Christ was raised to life…’
With the great melodies, there are always songs that somehow under whelm, and Hillsong is no exception. Though I thoroughly respect Hillsong’s integrity, passion, and energy as they boldly proclaim God’s renown to generations; Hillsong’s live albums tend to blur together over the years, with no real album standing out amongst the rest. Except for a few melodies spoken about above, Cornerstone seems to be a blur. ‘Endless Light’ and ‘Running’ are upbeat and energetic tunes that show listeners that nothing beats running after the Father in heaven, however, something is missing from these songs. Whether it is repetitious lyrics or not, something needs to improve if they want to draw in the casual listener, rather than relying on the singles to promote the album’s marketability. Songs need to hook and engage someone, either with a lyric, or a musical melody that pierces hearts. Sadly, Cornerstone only has a number of these before each song starts to feel similar even when it isn’t. ‘Praise Him’ is a ball of energy, proclaiming God’s faithfulness and giving Him the due praise, however, with lyrics like ‘…praise Him with all of the music, praise Him in all of the nations, praise Him with all of creation, we praise Him…’, it can seem a little repetitious and at some times, unintentionally irritating.
‘Grace Abounds’ seems like every other melody out there speaking about Christ’s death and resurrection, and sadly, Chris Tomlin’s ‘Jesus Messiah’ is sung with much more passion and hopefulness. ‘Stand In Awe’ gives God the declaratory stance that He is ‘…better than life than anything in this world…’, however, previous songs like ‘All I Need Is You’ and ‘This is our God’ have similar themes, and are much more captivating and anthemic. However, through all the meshing of melodies through the musicality of Cornerstone leaving many songs seemingly forgettable, lies a gem in ‘Love So High’, co-written by international Christian writer Jason Ingram, Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin. Breathing freshness into the tracklist; this melody is almost certain to feel at home on a Chris Tomlin album in the future. As Matt Crocker gives praise that God’s love is ‘…so great, higher than the stars, unfailing love, deeper than the sea…Your love, it’s everything to me…’; we are met with a range of metaphorical moments as we are swept into the anthem full of strings, horns, background vocals and a piano undertone as listeners around the world individually and corporately praise the King of Kings. Well done Jason, Chris and Matt for creating one of my favourite Hillsong melodies since ‘This is our God’!
Overall: While there are some decent melodies and several standouts, the album fails to leave a lasting impression, except for the anthemic moments in songs like ‘Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise)’, ‘Love So High’, ‘Hope of the World’ and ‘Love Knows No End’. A must for an avid fan of the band, this album stays in the genre ‘safe’ when it comes to originality (both musically and lyrically); not really making a lasting impact on myself as I compare this live record to many worship albums that released this year already (Passion: White Flag seemed more fluent and lyrically passionate!). Hillsong have never really been an artist for me to ‘wow’ over, and after this album, my stance hasn’t changed. Though half the album made an impression; Hillsong need to drastically make an improvement if they want to continue to promote their album to new listeners. There are always people who’ll still keep buying their records; however, I am certainly not one of them. If you’re looking for creativity and musical originality; this is not the album for you, rather; you pick up another album, like Bellarive’s The Heartbeat or Rend Collective’s Homemade Worship by Handmade People!
RIYL: Bethel Music, Jesus Culture, Planetshakers, Deluge