- Let Praise Awaken
- Put Your Hands Up
- Your Name Brings Healing to Me
- Great is Your Love
- This One Thing
- The Anthem (Full Song)
- This is the Day
- I’m Gonna Praise
- O My Heart Sings
- You are Stronger
- Rise Up
- Limitless (Studio Version)
My favourite album from Planetshakers was Rain Down back in 2003, having some of my favourite songs, from ‘Rain Down’, ‘Could I Ever’, ‘Big’, ‘Everything’s Changed’ and ‘To You I Sing’. With the Australian worship movement being around the Christian music industry ever since their first album in 2000, Planetshakers have delivered well choreographed songs and quite a number of song hits and memorable albums throughout their 12 year career. Nevertheless, in this music industry where worship albums and artists are seemingly popular one year and shunned, discounted and forgot about the next (with Hillsong, Bethel Live, Jesus Culture and Passion sharing the worship scene, is there any place for Planetshakers to fit in?); Planetshakers’ new album Limitless doesn’t really live up to expectations that were set for it after their less than impressive 2012 album Heal the Land. While there may be a few impressive tracks on the album as a whole (‘Limitless’, ‘This One Thing’), the album feels more like showmanship and a performance rather than a worshipful service full of uplifting and inspiring lyrics.
Recently watching a youtube video that seemingly pokes fun at how some worship songs could be constructed within 5 minutes if you follow a few steps, sadly, Planetshakers, while their hearts are sincere and their intentions great, fail to impress myself (and I’m sure many other listeners) with their formulaic writing and themes that I’m sure I’ve heard on previous albums (by other artists as well as Planetshakers themselves). With some lyrical material often seen as to be written without much thought and covered up by some fancy dance music to dispel from the fact that their songs, while a treat for Planetshakers fans, hardly seem to lead listeners into a state of worship without hearing a great deal of overproduction instead of a song that is meant to inspire and encourage. I could be sounding pretty harsh and many Planetshakers fans will come to this worship movement’s defence. Nevertheless, there are some bright moments in ‘Limitless’ and ‘This One Thing’. An upbeat rock anthem and a ballad respectively, Planetshakers are able to do with these two songs what they have failed to employ with the rest of Limitless. As I listen to the lyrics Joth declares, that ‘…I’m saying goodbye to all my limitations, I’m saying hello to the God of all creation…’, though it may be cheesy and dreadfully unimaginative, the inspirational moment works as I understand that with Christ in us working in everything that we do, our obstacles and hardships can be seen as conquerable with Christ. A tad overproduced in the music department; ‘Limitless’ is both a live and a studio recording on the album, giving listeners encouragement and clarity as we seek to understand the power that we have in and through Christ as we tackle our trials and tribulations. ‘This One Thing’ is a beautifully written song about being in God’s presence, and similar in theme to Matt Redman’s ‘Better is One Day’. As we cry out to the Lord, asking Him to dwell in us and us in Him forever as we stay in His presence, we are encouraged to carry it wherever we are. The repetitious bridge of ‘…open heaven, we cry more of You…’ is a great moment of surrender as we see God’s glory come down from heaven and sweep through the nations, using us as vessels and catalysts for change and transformation with our friends, family, and others we meet throughout our weeks. Well done Planetshakers for these two highlights on an album that is sadly not one of my favourites.
Sadly, the rest of the album pales in comparison to my favourite standout track. Despite the great musical quality full of electronic beats and strong vibrant guitars; the lyrical depth with many of these tracks leaves much to be desired. From ‘…if you love Him don’t stop praising, put your hands up…’ (‘Put Your Hands Up’) and ‘…everyday of my life I’ll praise You Every moment I’ll bless Your name You have given me love unfailing H-E-Y H-E-Y…’ (‘Let Praise Awaken’), to ‘…we’re gonna rise up for You In everything that we do From glory to glory, strength to strength, we’ll go, for You…’ (‘Rise Up’); the lyrics, while they continue to speak truths that ought to be remembered and placed in our hearts every hour of the day, seem a little formulaic and ‘basic’, with an overload of musical sophistication that it seems like the music is more important than the lyrical ingenuity, so much so that I reckon some of the music from these songs may fit very well in a dance club or a rock concert. Not to discount the band’s passion for making music, it seems like the pressure of releasing an album every year has led the band to write songs that I could even possibly write (if I stick to the youtube formula)- maybe even coming up with a song that comparably rivals one or two of the Planetshakers songs on Limitless. On average, ‘Rain’, ‘O My Heart Sings’, ‘Great is Your Love’ and ‘The Anthem’ collectively run for 47 minutes- enough length to fit in a pop CCM album, and while there’s nothing wrong with long songs (one of my favourite songs of 2012 and possibly of all time is ‘Don’t You Want to Thank Someone’ by Andrew Peterson lasting a very long 9 minutes 56 seconds), the repetitious nature of these songs, either in chorus, bridge or singing ‘woah’s, can drag on to the point of the listener skipping the song to see if there’s any other interesting song on the album.
Bands, artists and worship artists need to evolve and try new tactics and other things so to bring in more listeners and promote their songs in the wider community, and so far, Planetshakers haven’t done it with this album. With Hillsong being the main Australian worship band to be culturally accepted in the U.S., worship movements like Jesus Culture, Bethel and Passion seem to provide more engaging and enjoyable melodies. How long would the lyrics ‘…I know Youʼre for me Youʼre not against me You only have good thoughts about me…’ (‘I’m Gonna Praise’) take to write? I’m not trivialising the process, yet I have to question the creativity when an album releases without even a year’s turnaround, especially when most of the new material is written by Joth Hunt alone. Not that there is a problem with that, but what I like about Passion, Bethel and Jesus Culture is the variety of writers, as well as each of the members also have solo careers and promote their own music alongside the live annual albums. With Planetshakers however, there seems to be not much promotion, so only a fan of Planetshakers would appreciate the material, despite the band’s desire for other listeners to hear their music. While great with their intentions, the execution of many of these songs fails to leave an impression upon myself, and I’m sure many other listeners. One of the most underwhelming praise and worship albums within the last year, this is a certain purchase if you enjoy Planetshakers in all its forms, however, if you are looking for some creativity and ingenuity, steer clear from this album and maybe purchase others from artists like Phil Wickham, Meredith Andrews, Kari Jobe and Paul Baloche.
Overall: Planetshakers’ latest album has become lost in the haze of other great releases in 2013 so far, and while it’s not necessarily their fault (I’m sure they spent a great amount of time songwriting), the songs still feel lacking in the creativity that has been present in their albums before (especially Rain Down 10 years ago). The controversy in 2006 is sure to rock the band, and while there has been a massive overhaul of singers and songwriters (Henry Seeley, the main worship leader from Planetshakers earliest days is no longer fronting the group), I don’t think the band’s reputation isn’t where it was before the incident that sparked the writing of the song ‘Healer’. While this album is perfect for Planetshakers fans, despite my own hesitations in this album in comparison to other worship albums in 2012/13; if anyone does want to check this album out, you are most welcome to so as to see how you enjoy it or whether another worship artist is better for you. Nevertheless, Planetshakers have tried very hard in the music department; let’s just hope that their new album in 2014 is miles better than their recent albums Heal the Land and Limitless!
RIYL: Hillsong, Passion, Bethel, Jesus Culture