The NewReleaseToday staff has passionately dubbed 2017 "The Year of Worship," and with so many praise projects releasing in the past year, it was tough to narrow down the nominations to just five.
But narrow we did, and now NRT Contributors Mark Ryan and Jay Wright debate the merits of the nominees, and speculate as to who will ultimately win The Encounter Award in the 6th Annual WE LOVE Christian Music Awards.
Mark: I have always looked at worship projects as very personal things to review/critique. There could be one song or album that carries a person through a season in their life. The project could be birthed out of movement or church that we closely relate to (like Hillsong, Elevation or Bethel). This year's nominees for the Encounter Award (Worship Album of the Year) give us a balance of solo and group projects, live and studio recordings, some veteran artists and some that were new to me at least.
Jay: I agree, Mark! We've got solid worship releases from Elevation Worship, Kari Jobe, and Jeremy Riddle that have definitely carried me through rough moments, the songs reaching me right when I needed them. Then there's Iron Bell Music, which, although they are an up-and-coming artist, definitely have heartfelt worship. Ricardo Sanchez is a fun one, too, an album that will have you dancing along! Which one of these releases speaks most to you, Mark?
Mark: I had to go back and listen through each of the albums. I hadn't heard Ricardo Sanchez's Taste + See until today. So as far as my year went, this one didn't have a huge impact on me. "Do It Again" by Elevation Worship, and "Belong To You" by Iron Bell were definitely two of the tracks that got me through. And as far as full projects, I think they were the two that I could relate with most and probably had more plays on my Spotify that the others.
The thing with worship albums for me is that live recordings are extremely impactful. It is almost as though that the same move of the Spirit that was present in the room during the recording is imprinted on the album and I find it much easier to enter a place of worship with those albums than with studio recordings.
Jay: I agree wholeheartedly, and it is almost always the case for me, too. Oddly, however, the album on this list that has impacted me the most this last year is Kari Jobe's The Garden. Not only did it have an impressive theatrical feel, and stellar vocals from Kari and her husband Cody Carnes, but every single lyric spoke directly to my heart. Kari's lyrics choose not to sing about her brokenheartedness, but rather all about the Healer. I played the album through countless times and was reminded that Jesus is always the answer. Such a phenomenal album!
Another one on this list that I have had on repeat is Jeremy Riddle's CD More. Wow! That album definitely surprised me! It had powerful worship songs like "It Only Gets Stronger" (my personal favorite) and "Sing to My Heart," but also had some irresistibly catchy tunes like "More" and "Love on Fire" that made me want to dance!
Mark: As I listened back to Kari Jobe's album, I was reminded of what a good album it was, and Jeremy Riddle has such a prophetic voice in worship. It was the album that I was waiting for more than any other this year and it didn't disappoint. So we have to narrow things down to get to our choice for the best worship album of 2017.
I think we might both agree that Taste + See from Ricardo Sanchez would be the No. 5. That just leaves us with four to parse through: the megachurch Elevation Worship, the veterans Kari Jobe and Jeremy Riddle, and finally the relative newcomer, Iron Bell Music (which was actually founded in 2009). So let's get to No. 4. What say you?
Jay: I'm going to say No. 4 for me personally is Iron Bell Music, though I have to say what a great album it is! As you mentioned, "Belong to You" was a phenomenal song! The other three albums are ones I've had on replay all year, so they make it to my top 3. What's your No. 4, Mark?
Mark: No. 4 for me would be Jeremy Riddle. I just didn't have enough time with it for it to be in my top 3. However. We are deciding on the top album not our top album so I would as well put Iron Bell Music in No. 4, and then Elevation as No. 3. The Elevation Worship album was such a good album with so many congregational, singable, worship songs. I think we're down to our top 2. Jay?
Jay: I agree that Elevation Worship is No. 3 for me. The title track definitely spoke to me, as well as "Do it Again" and many other songs. It was indeed a great worship album! My No. 2 favorite on this list is Jeremy Riddle's More album. As you mentioned, I had been looking forward to it for a while, and was not disappointed. So many songs on that album spoke to me!
Mark: So that brings us to No. 1 then. Kari Jobe's The Garden, was not only impactful and worshipful, but the production values were extremely high. Her voice soars through choruses and you can feel her heartfelt worship. It was a tough list to get through, each album had its own merits. Kari just delivered a work of art this year that put her above the rest. Any last words to close us out Jay?
Jay: Definitely agree with you, Mark! I think The Garden was a masterpiece! We have five excellent worship albums on this list, and I can't wait to see which one has been most impactful to fans this year!
Do you agree with Mark and Jay? Cast your votes, either way (see how that rhymed) by heading over to weloveawards.com now through January 26, 2018! Vote now, vote often!
Mark is a follower of Christ, husband to one wife and father to three beautiful girls. He writes, runs and sometimes writes about running. Mark blogs at themarkcryan.com and tweets as @theMarkCRyan.
Jay Wright, an upstate New Yorker in his twenties, loves Jesus, worship music, energy drinks, and getting to know people. He also shares his music thoughts at Jay’s Musik Blog.
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