The Wow Hits have never really excited me. They were never something I sat and waited for all year until it came out. But when my friend told me a little about this year's, Wow Hits 2004, I started getting antsy to buy it. I did, and let me tell you, it has to be the best Wow Hits I have ever heard.
Opening up the green disc is the Newsboys' hit, "He Reigns", from their Adoration: The Worship Album. Up next is MercyMe's "Spoken For", their second major hit after "I Can Only Imagine". Amy Grant returns once again to the Wow series with her hit, "Simple Things", from the album of the same name. And how could we escape a Wow Hits without that goodie, but oldie, Steven Curtis Chapman? This year, he offers up "All About Love". Although Bebo Norman's "Great Light of the World" is a great song, it seems as though this should have been on last year's Wow. Michael W. Smith adds his "Lord Have Mercy (Live)" to the mix, and the new Point of Grace hit, "Day by Day" makes it to the list. FFH's funky "You Found Me" follows, and then Avalon's "Everything to Me" from their best-of album. Nichole Nordeman's latest hit, "Legacy" makes the cut, followed by the bubbly "You're My God" from Jaci Velasquez. "Sing Alleluia" from the combined efforts of Jennifer Knapp and Mac Powell comes next and is really another song that should have been on Wow Hits 2003, as it was originally on last year's City On A Hill: Sing Alleluia project. Caedmon's Call brings us "Only Hope", a hit from their Back Home album. Mark Schultz gives us a sneak peek of his latest album, Stories and Songs, with the track, "You Are a Child of Mine", upbeat, yet tinged with a sad note as Schultz confronts the fears we all have of being rejected. Chris Rice offers up "The Other Side of the Radio", a good song, but I would have loved to have seen "Smile" on this album instead. Two bonus songs are thrown in for good measure: newcomer Warren Barfield's "My Heart Goes Out" and "Masquerade" from new duo Across the Sky. Barfield's track, a hit, fits well here, but Across the Sky's song somehow doesn't feel placed right.
The gold disc brings out a few of the more edgy sides of Christian music. A live version of "Nothing Compares" from the ever-popular Third Day starts things out on the right foot. "You Get Me" from ZOEgirl's newest album, Different Kind of Free, comes next, followed by Relient K's melodic hit, "Getting Into You". Stacie Orrico returns this year with "Stuck" from her self-titled release. Fans of tobyMac will certainly be excited to find the title track from his upcoming album Phenomenon listed among the songs. "Phenomenon" is a fun and edgy hip-hop offering from tobyMac, and fans won't be disappointed with his newest offering. Sixpence None the Richer brings us their radio hit "Breathe Your Name", and Jars of Clay follows with the soft sounds of "The Valley Song (Sing of Your Mercy)". Rebecca St. James makes her appearance with "I Thank You" off this year's best-of album. Out of Eden also decides to show us a little of their upcoming February release, "Love, Peace, & Happiness," with the title track from that record. Funky and fun, OOE fans will be greatly pleased. 12 Stones finally brings us a little more edge to the album with "The Way I Feel". "I Still Believe", the soulful ballad from Jeremy Camp, comes next and is followed by Kutless's latest hit, "Run". Jump5 gets into the groove with "Why Do I Do", a new track from their Accelerate album. The song is definitely Jump5, but somehow a step above some of their previous work. Audio Adrenaline's moving "Pierced" from their latest album Worldwide precedes Joy Williams' "By Surprise" which adds a little bit of a country feel to this installment of the Wow series. The bonus track on the gold disc is "All My People" by Lil IROCC Williams, a song which might be good in its own right, but definitely not worth a spot on the Wow Hits.
All in all, from worship to pop to rock to ballad to Joy Williams' country, you've got a great Wow this year. Although, I did miss seeing anything from Switchfoot (like "Gone" or "Meant to Live") or Sanctus Real, this is still one of the best I've seen. I thoroughly enjoyed this two-disc set, and am actually looking forward to see what improvement next year might bring to the Wow series.- Review date: 10/11/03, written by Shaun Stevenson
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