In our special 8TH ANNUAL WE LOVE CHRISTIAN MUSIC AWARDS editorial series, members of the NRT staff have a back-and-forth discussion about this year's nominees. In Part 1 of our series, we kick things off with a dialogue between NRT Contributors Bradden Ford and Jasmin Patterson about the three Worship categories in this year's awards.
Bradden: 2019 has been an amazing year for Christian music of all types, styles, genres, and passion that has been shown through so many artists. Worship especially has been thriving in recent years with many powerful albums, songs, and the message of the Gospel reaching throughout. Diving in with me to these worship categories for the We Love Christian Music Awards is NRT contributor and devotional writer, Jasmin Patterson. Focusing on Worship Album of the Year, what do you think of all the nominees, Jasmin?
Jasmin: I'm excited to be chatting about these nominations with you, Bradden! All Sons & Daughters has been one of my favorite bands for years. They occupied a special space in worship music, offering that folk-acoustic worship style. I was sad to see them disband, so I've loved hearing David Leonard's solo music and how he still has a bit of folk feel but incorporates some elements of contemporary pop as well. I also really appreciate the season of wrestling with God through doubt and anxiety that the songs were born from.
A standout nominee to me is Influence Music for their sophomore album, Rebels. They're an independent worship collective from Influence Church in Anaheim, CA and they've really grown in impact this year. Their vocalists include Matt Gilman, formerly with International House of Prayer, and Michael Ketterer who became a household name after his run on America's Got Talent earlier this year. Christian rapper, Propaganda, even appears as a feature on the album. Their lyrics carry a sense of vulnerability that I think is really special and they create worship music that embraces some pop and hip hop stylings while still being worshipful in focus. Definitely one of my favorite worship releases this year. What do you think about the nominees?
Bradden: David Leonard's album was a surprising one for me in style but filled with moving lyrics that really have been touching fans, just like you said. Leeland, however, will probably take this award with their powerful release Better Word. Songs like "WayMaker" have caught fire in churches all over with themes of love and the name of Jesus moving throughout this entire album. Leeland's album is definitely one of the standouts and best worship albums of the year!
Personally, I'd love to see Lindy & The Circuit Riders win this one. Being just their second album, Lindy & The Circuit Rider's has greatly impacted me with the passion and love for Jesus shining through these songs of worship and praise. Driven By Love is currently my favorite album of the year and personally has changed my life. The message of surrender, awakening, and a call for revival in Jesus makes this album more than an experience but a reviving time of worship. With so many awesome artists, it will be great to see who fans pick!
Jasmin: Agreed! It's so hard to pick one album to win this! Luke + Anna Hellenbroth also delivered an incredible debut album on Integrity Music this year. Luke is actually one of the writers of popular worship anthem, "Spirit Break Out." I love the way Motions of Mercy captures both intimate and anthemic moments of worship in the same project. There's not one song on that album I didn't love. I agree with you, Bradden, that Leeland is probably the frontrunner in this category, but I would also love to see Influence Music win as well. Should we move on to The Chorus Award for Church Worship Album of the Year?
Bradden: Yes! Church Worship Album of the Year has been a favorite category of mine with so many amazing worship albums birthed from churches all over the world. So many bands on this list have greatly impacted millions of hearts and continue lifting up the name of Jesus! What do you think about these nominees, Jasmin? Who do you think fans will vote for? Jasmin: Bethel Music's Victory has had several songs from that project take off and become anthems for the Church. "Raise A Hallelujah," "Living Hope," "Goodness of God," and "Stand in Your Love," which has made an impact on Christian radio this year. It's also been great to hear Hillsong UNITED create an album that returns a bit to their original sound with People while still representing their growth into who they are as a band today. I love UNITED's willingness to grow and explore creatively without fear and I've really enjoyed their venture into the electronic space and the studio albums over the last few years, but there was something beautifully nostalgic about this album that brought me back to when I first fell in love with their music and the impact it had on my journey with God. I imagine that's the case for a lot of listeners. People is one of my favorite releases from Hillsong UNITED in a long time. Both Hillsong imprints and Bethel are such staples in church worship music that I believe they are each strong contenders for the win.
Personally, I'd love to see The Belonging Co win this. The Belonging's roster is stacked with worship leaders who are also talented and beloved Christian artists in their own right: Natalie Grant, Mia Fieldes, Sarah Reeves, Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes, to name a few. Just from keeping up with them online this year, I've heard testimonies from these artists and other Belonging attendees of the power of God's presence in worship and the stories of transformation in people's lives coming from their community. There's something about an album that really captures what God is doing through a local community of believers and then shares that with the broader Church, inviting them into the same. That's something I believe all of these albums have in common, actually, and what makes them each worthy nominees for Church Worship Album of the Year. But there is definitely a move of God happening through The Belonging Co as a church and in their music and I believe that's worthy of recognition.
Bradden: So true Jasmin! Love what you said about these albums and the Church Worship Album of the Year category as a whole. The Belonging Co would be an awesome win for this award and could surprise us. Planetshakers though would be my pick here. I've gotten to know and worship along with many of the songs at Planetshakers online church every week. Singing these songs even at my own church, the energy and encounter of God's presence that moves throughout are amazing. Rain holds a special place in my heart with such a spiritual atmosphere of His presence raining down.
I think Bethel has the best chance at taking this award, and very well deserved, with yet another standout album of the year and a huge following from fans of worship and radio. It would also be great to see Hillsong Worship win this as well. Awake is probably my favorite album by Hillsong yet with such a fresh, moving, simple, yet powerful touch of the Spirit of God through this whole album. Both Bethel and Hillsong also have some amazing songs on radio along with a few other bands.
Jasmin: Yes! Can't wait to see how this one turns out! The next and final worship category is Worship Song of the Year. As a worship leader myself, I really appreciate all these worship categories but especially Song of the Year. It seems like every year there are a few songs that become true anthems reaching far and wide in the Christian community and it's really amazing to witness. There are some great contenders this year.
The immediate stand out for me is "King of Kings" by Hillsong Worship. The variety of topics we can sing to God about in songs of worship and conversation with God is vast. We see that throughout the Bible and in the modern worship songs crafted today, but I love when simply praising God for His character is at the forefront. I believe that is the heart of worship before anything else and my goodness does "King of Kings" capture that in a powerful way! Not to mention that Brooke Ligertwood's worship leading on the song is so engaging and her vocal is flawless as usual. That would be my pick for the win, but these are all such amazing songs! "Raise A Hallelujah" is really special too. I think Jonathan and Melissa Helser of Bethel Music really gave the Church a song of faith and victory to cling to this year, and it's been amazing to see the impact the song has had across denominations and expressions of worship.
Bradden: From "How Great is Our God" to "Reckless Love," it's awesome to see how God uses powerful songs of worship every year to impact hearts all over. This year, as you said, is full of so many more great ones! "King of Kings" would have to be my pick as well with such a Biblical and powerful song of worship. However, songs like Hillsong UNITED's "Whole Heart" and Elevation Worship's "See A Victory" are also some awesome songs that have moved many hearts, in churches and the world. "Whole Heart," being one of Hillsong UNITED's biggest songs, could win this with it's encountering message and moving lyrics. The vocals of Taya Smith and Aodhan King of Hillsong Young & Free paired together make this song stand out even more. Can't forget the underdog but rising song, "Breakthrough" by Red Rocks Worship either. It will be great to see fans vote any of these stirring and powerful songs to take the award!
Jasmin: It's been so fun to reflect on the year in worship music with you, Bradden! I can't wait to see how the fans vote and which songs and albums resonate most with them!
Bradden: Thank you very much Jasmin! Awesome discussing it with you! As we say: This is not about competition but a celebration of Christian music of the year! Excited for what God is and continuing to do through worship music in His Name!
NOTE: Voting is now open through Friday, January 31, 2020 at WeLoveAwards.com. Winners will be announced during our Facebook Live broadcast from Visible Music College's Memphis campus on Tuesday, February 25, 2020.
Bradden is a Christian music lover with a hunger for every heart to awake in the presence of God. Although he's young, he's currently a youth pastor and speaker sharing the message of Jesus and His Revival rising. Jasmin is a lifelong fan of Christian music who is passionate about helping others connect with Christ. She lives in Kansas City where she serves in college ministry and runs a blog to help seekers and believers discover and live biblical Christianity.
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