The WOW compilations began years ago as samplers of the cream of the crop for Christian music. You could pick up a WOW release and pretty much get a good idea of what was the best in pop and rock in the industry. Disc one offered the best in pop and adult contemporary while disc two would give a good sample of some of the slightly edgier stuff available. Also, at one time, fans could pick up a WOW disc for an exclusive remix for a favorite song or to hear a new track from a CD not yet released. However, in recent years, instead of including a fair mix with a few goodies thrown in, the series has more recently focused on the radio hits.
The end result plays more like the Top 30 on pop radio than a good sampler. If you're a fan of radio and the songs that appear on it, even after each one suffers immense airplay, you'll love all that's included on WOW Hits 2005. But the definition of each CD has been blurred. The degree of rock cuts on the second disc has dropped greatly, making room for more contemporary pop efforts from Stacie Orrico, Bethany Dillon, and Nate Sallie. The overall collection is more mellow and tame than in past years, with more of a slant towards adult pop. While WOW 1999 featured artists like the Supertones, the W's, dc Talk, and others more rock-oriented, the most aggressive you'll find on WOW Hits 2005 are rock tracks from Third Day and newcomers Mute Math.
The album opens with MercyMe's ballad "Here With Me" (which sounds much like a sequel to "I Can Only Imagine"), before Steven Curtis Chapman's unique "All Things New". The simplistic pop-country "Who Am I" from Casting Crowns precedes the Newsboys cover of "Amazing Love" and Matthew West's hit pop/rock single "More". The inspirational sounds of Selah's "You Raise Me Up" follows, with the Billy Joel-esque "Letters From War" by Mark Schultz and the power pop sounds of Jaci Velasquez's "Unspoken". The Purple Disc (Disc One) continues to stylistically twist and turn as it flows into Rachael Lampa, FFH, Bebo Norman, Avalon, Nicole C. Mullen, a new cut from Caedmon's Call, Chris Rice, Darlene Zschech and closing with a bonus cut of newcomer Shawn McDonald. People enjoying the more adult contemporary and inspirational side of CCM will eat up disc one. Anyone who doesn't will simply detest most of it.
The Silver Disc opens with a song more than two years old from pop/rock artist Jeremy Camp. Third Day's "I Believe" is a rock treat that oddly introduces Stacie Orrico's "More To Life". TobyMac's pop/punk-fused hip hop in "Gone" precedes the Kutless ballad "Sea Of Faces" and Tree63's cover of the popular worship song "Blessed Be Your Name". BarlowGirl's Evanescence-esque "Never Alone" slows the momentum back down and is followed up by Bethany Dillon's upbeat acoustic pop "All I Need" and Building 429's contemporary/rock hybrid "Glory Defined". Jars Of Clay's folk pop gem "Show You Love" is a treasure which finds good company among David Crowder's "Open Skies". Todd Agnew's spin on "Amazing Grace" in the Nickelback-fan-friendly "Grace Like Rain" helps wind down the record, accompanied by ZOEgirl's rocker "Beautiful Name", and Audio Adrenaline's emotional ballad "Leaving 99". Nate Sallie's "Whatever It Takes" is a pop anthem sorely out of place among the light metal-influenced rock ballad from Day Of Fire and Mute Math's synth heavy highlight "Control".
WOW Hits 2005 is a biased collection of popular tunes in Christian pop, but an unfair sampler of today's talent. More or less the cream of the pop, this installment is sadly missing artists like Switchfoot, Tait, Rock 'N' Roll Worship Circus, Bleach, Skillet, Blindside, Sanctus Real, Everyday Sunday, Pillar, John Reuben, Sarah Kelly, and many others. You just have to wonder who selects these songs. A fair pop radio collection, but a weak sampler, WOW Hits 2005 doesn't make the grade.- Review date: 10/4/04, written by John DiBiase
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