These past few years have featured the re-emergence of the female vocalist in music including 2018, with 7 of my top 10 albums featuring the female vocalists Francesca Battistelli, Christa Wells, Plumb, Riley Clemmons, Caitie Hurst, Blanca, and LoveCollide.
There are two brand new artists that made an album with immediate impact, Riley Clemmons and Caitie Hurst, who are my top new female artists of the year with their standout songs “Broken Prayers” and “How Could I Be Silent.” Veteran artists Francesca Battistelli, for KING & COUNTRY, Christa Wells, Plumb and Casting Crowns each released their best albums in my opinion and they round out my Top 10 albums of the year. I’ve purposely left off worship releases since I have already posted a separate list of my top albums in that area.
This was yet another great year for Christian music, with several career albums having released. For female artists in particular, this may end up as one of the best years ever in music. Don’t miss out on any of these great albums. I’d love to read any feedback on albums I may have missed and whether there are any surprises. God bless!
1.Own It by Francesca Battistelli
I absolutely love Francesca's intentionality and complete focus on God's provision in her life. She is a uniquely gifted singer/songwriter with a big voice that is memorable and dynamic, yet intimate. These songs all have biblically-based lyrics that poignantly capture life's simple, yet vital messages. I'm really engaged by the emotional vocals and the prayerful lyrics found in these sacred songs. Francesca’s vocals will soothe your soul, and the vertical lyrics will direct your attention and focus to Jesus. There are several personal songs that melt my heart, especially “Royalty,” “This Can Change Everything,” "You Belong,” “Let the Light In,” “As Good As It Gets,” and “Defender.” If you like female singers that make you think while you enjoy their catchy and empowering songs, Own It is for you. I have three young daughters, and this is a solid upbeat pop album with positive biblical messages that is a great alternative to mainstream pop artists. This is easily my top pop album of the year, and Francesca’s “very best” overall album.
2. Burn the Ships by for KING & COUNTRY
Burn the Ships is for KING & COUNTRY’s much anticipated third album. The album once again demonstrates multi-talented musicianship with creative, insightful lyrics and ear-grabbing melodies. I’m really engaged by the sincere and soothing vocals and the prayerful lyrics throughout the album with the standout songs, “joy,” “God Only Knows,” “Amen,” “Burn the Ships” and “Control.” It’s important as believers that others around us see light reflected in our lives - in our words, actions, behaviors, and even our thoughts. That’s what Romans 12:2 and this album are all about, encouraging us to “burn the ships” of our past mistakes that we often align ourselves with. Don’t conform to the patterns of this world. That’s darkness. Our enemy seeks to destroy us with darkness. Instead, “choose joy.” I really enjoy the soothing and ambient musical vibe of this album, and the melodies and lyrics are all catchy and biblical. Musically the album doesn’t conform to the pattern of typical CCM music. Don’t miss out on this gem, because it is one of the top albums of the year.
3. Velveteen by Christa Wells
This album is filled with several of my new favorite songs by Christa Wells, which is saying a lot since I've had her prior albums in heavy rotation since they released. I generally rank my favorite songs based on how they move me emotionally. On this album, that includes the standout songs "Down Down Low," "Hold This House Up," "One Day" and "Velveteen." I actually can't listen to "Hold This House Up" or "One Day" without welling up, and you'll get emotionally swept up in the opening lyrics in "One Day:" "it's hard to sing when you're crying... it's hard to sleep when you're fighting for your life." Christa Wells is an anointed singer-songwriter, and she has a profound way of examining the deeper feelings buried in my heart and bringing me closer to God with her poignant words and tender singing. If you are looking for the words to express your feelings to God in times of hurting and pain, these songs are a wonderful companion. These are the most transparent, vulnerable and authentic songs I've heard in quite a while.
4. Beautifully Broken by Plumb
I absolutely love Plumb's intentionality and complete focus on God's provision in her life. Plumb's songs on Beautifully Broken celebrate God's breath, His Holy Spirit, being breathed into her life and her marriage. As a Christian father and husband, I can really relate to her songs about anxiety, marriage and parenthood. Plumb is one of my favorite writers in all of Christian music because her songs are so emotional, vulnerable and authentic with the standouts, “Beautifully Broken,” “Impossible,” “I Can Do This,” “God Help Me” and “I’m Not Alone.” Plumb is an anointed songwriter and singer, and she has a profound way of piercing my soul with her poignant words, tender singing and inspirational truths. The picture of God's unconditional love for us after all that we've done wrong is profoundly captured in these songs. God wants us to know that He's faithful to complete what's He's started in all of us who have put our hope and trust in Jesus. This is Plumb’s best album and one of my top albums of the year.
5. Riley Clemmons by Riley Clemmons
Riley’s vocals are so strong and pure. Electronic pop music has made a big mark on the music scene, and the production on these ultra-catchy pop songs could easily be featured in mainstream music alongside top-selling artists. Being a dad of three young daughters, it is difficult to find role models who are making edifying and exciting pop music. You hear pop music everywhere you go, and most of the time the songs are fairly hollow when it comes to life application and promoting a positive self-image. This album is loaded with positive, grace-filled messages of hope including, “Hold On,” “Better For It,” “Remember,” “Broken Prayers” and “Honest.” The upbeat musical arrangements on this album perfectly accentuate these great songs.
6. Future by Jordan Feliz
Jordan Feliz's debut album The River was one of my top 10 albums of 2016. The combination of Jordan's stellar vocals, up-tempo melodies and pop music feel really brings home the solid Gospel messages. Future is one of the most compelling and lyrically transparent albums of the year and features the standout songs, “Witness,” “Count That High,” “Faith” and “Changed.” Jordan has vaulted himself among the industry's top singer-songwriters with an album that rivals the latest by Brandon Heath and Matthew West. As it turns out, we only scratched the surface of Feliz’s soulful, inspiring and meaningful storytelling. If you want to be challenged, moved, and get deeper with Jordan Feliz, don't miss out on this practically perfect album.
7. How Could I Be Silent by Caitie Hurst
Caitie Hurst has the gift of encouragement, and every single song lifts me up. She has an infectious and upbeat musical style, layering her strong and distinguished vocals over the top of one hooky melody after another. Caitie has really emerged as one of the top new female vocalists in Christian music, and she is a great role model for girls. She has delivered the ideal album to minister to anyone struggling with fear and self-doubt. Every song is a great showcase of Caitie’s excellent singing voice, and you can practically hear her smile as she delivers one infectious song after another. The layered and well produced musical arrangements on this album perfectly accentuate Caitie's powerful and passionate songs. Don't miss out on one of the most inspirational albums of the year. You won't be able to help but dance and sing along with the stand-out songs “How Could I Be Silent,” “Walkin’ on the Water,” “Nothing to Hide” and “Answers.”
8. Shattered by Blanca
As a follow-up to her hit song, "Real Love" from Blanca's EP Real Love, she has released her full-length album Shattered. These engaging and poignant songs are a follow-up to her debut self-titled solo album, which featured the standout songs "Not Backing Down," "Greater is He," "Different Drum" and "Who I Am." If you are looking for the words to express your feelings to God, these songs are a wonderful companion especially “What If,” “Real Love,” “Steady” and “Shattered.” These are the most honest, vulnerable and moving songs I've heard in a while. This entire album is loaded with relatable lyrics, incredible singing and prayerful themes about what it means to be a child of God. Musically, the album features a great mix of confessional ballads and singer-songwriter pop music. Give Shattered a few deep listens and you'll love it. I hang on every single word and the stirring vocals, prayerful lyrics and musical arrangements are breath-taking. Blanca has written and sung an exceptional set of songs that deal with the identity struggle we all face of knowing that as children of God we are made in His image and we are made whole by His love.
9. Tired of Basic by LOVECOLLIDE
Tired of Basic is the third album from the CCM sister duo LoveCollide, which is made up of Lauren Budnick and Brooke DeLeary. It takes a major step forward sonically while maintaining messages that are unashamed of the Gospel. The album includes the standout tracks, "Wildfire," "Undeniable" and "I Don't Want It." It is a solid follow-up to their sophomore project, RESONATE, which featured the mission-minded title track "Resonate," "Atmosphere" and "Storms." Do yourself a favor and buy Tired of Basic immediately. You'll be refreshed, nourished and encouraged to turn to God for your strength. LOVECOLLIDE's music truly sets me apart from daily distractions and circumstances, causing me to focus all of my attention on Jesus.
10. Only Jesus by Casting Crowns
The very relatable and transparent words of these songs perfectly depict our daily walks as believers, all wrapped around catchy songs. All of the tracks display musical and lyrical excellence, and the intentionality of Casting Crowns, highlighted by “Only Jesus,” “In the Hands of the Potter,” “Even When You’re Running,” “One More Song for You,” “Awaken Me,” and “Start Right Here.” These are catchy melodies and biblically-based lyrics reflecting unashamed faith. This new album demonstrates once again the passion and energy that have made Casting Crowns one of Christian music's most compelling acts. True to form, new project Only Jesus reflects real life and emotion, from longing and struggle to breakthrough and gratitude. Front man Mark Hall’s forthright songwriting and intimate and unmistakable vocals are backed by powerful arrangements and stellar musicianship. The album derives its power from the fact that life and music intertwine so fully. These are very passionate worship songs sung with vocal sincerity and reverence, with biblically based lyrics, and there are several instantly sing-able and worshipful arrangements. This album is Casting Crowns’ crowning achievement, and one of my top albums of the year.
NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.
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