5.08.2014

The 10 Best Matt Redman Songs You're (Probably) Not Singing at Your Church













To some people who read this blog it may seem like I do not like worship leader and church music 

songwriter Matt Redman. Well, I wanted to do something to make it clear exactly where I stand regarding his work.


To give some context, a couple of weeks ago I posted an entry called "Why I've Never Sung Matt Redman's "10,000 Reasons" At My Church" and despite saying numerous times that I loved Redman and that song in particular a lot of people (on Facebook) still had some negative things to say about the piece, often commenting "Why does this guy hate this song so much?" Also, a couple of years ago I wrote a piece called "Worship Leader Death Match!: Fernando Ortega vs. Matt Redman" wherein the victor of my fictional worship leader duel was Fernando Ortega simply because Ortega seems more concerned with crafting music congregations can sing while Redman (as of late) seems more concerned with crafting big worship conference, stadium-ready anthems.

So, it might seem like I have a lot of negative or critical thoughts about the guy. Well, sure, but if I am being critical in the last few years it is only because I believe Redman to be the best contemporary worship music songwriter of the current generation. And here is the reason why: nobody else has managed to capture that tentative middle ground necessar in crafting worship songs between both musical creativity and musical accessibility as well as lyrical depth and lyrical accessibility. Congregational song is a unique kind of art that needs to be simultaneously deep and simple, creatively unique but easily singable.  I believe Redman has maintained this balancing act for almost two decades now. Whereas Keith Getty and Stuart Townend's ("In Christ Alone", "The Power of the Cross") songs are often too wordy and the melodies are often uninteresting or Chris Tomlin's ("How Great is Our God", "Forever") music is sometimes too focused on getting the best pop hook, Redman's songs have consistently managed to bring both sides together (again, IMHO). That is, more than anyone else he has merged the academic and populist sides of worship music—a most necessary skill in the realm of church music which is not merely about artistic expression but about a helping a diversely talented group of people make art together


So, just to show my appreciation of his work, I have put together a list of the best songs Redman has given the church that I believe most congregations are not currently singing or perhaps never really caught on in congregations to begin with but should have (I have thrown in a couple of other lists as well just for fun). I do not sing every one of these songs currently in my congregation, but every one of them is more than worthy to be sung. They are all deeply rooted in Scripture, with some directly corresponding to different Biblical stories. There is a wide range of themes here as well, from calls to mission, intercessory prayer, eschatological hope, and Redman's most prevalent theme throughout his career: the work of Christ on the cross.


Disclaimer: you will immediately notice something about this list: none of the songs come from albums any later than Redman's 2004 album Facedown. This will reveal my bias as to when I think he was producing his best work. I really mean no insult to the songwriting relationship he has with Jonas Myrin, but for some reason the music from Beautiful News onward has to me fallen on the bland/generic side. I should also let it be known that of the 10 or so songs in the CCLI/Songselect top 100 lists that Redman has written I currently only do two of them in my congregation ("Better is One Day" and "Blessed By Your Name").  While I think basically all of his music is solid stuff, I honestly think the selections in this list are the more excellent choices both lyrically and musically than what is currently popular.


Here is where you can find Matt Redman's albums on Amazon.


So here you go:

Section 1: The 10 Best Matt Redman Songs You're 
(Probably) Not Singing at Your Church

10. "Now to Live the Life" from The Heart of Worship

It is really difficult to find great sending-forth and/or missionally focused songs. The next two songs do just that and with excellence.




9. "Mission's Flame" from Facedown





8. "Let Everything That Has Breath" from The Heart of Worship

This is a simple yet powerful song that makes a great call to worship.





7. "Knocking on the Door of Heaven from The Friendship and the Fear

There are not many worship songs that simultaneously spur the people on to intercessory prayer while also leading them to worship.




6. "There is a Louder Shout to Come" from The Friendship and the Fear
What will our worship be like on That Day, the day he comes and reigns in glory? This song gives us a hint of that.




5. "Light of the World" from The Father's Song

There is so much richness to the lyrics of this song. I have found it is suitable for numerous seasons and holy-days of the year, including Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, The Transfiguration, and the Road to Emmaus story. Chris Tomlin must have thought this song was worthy of more attention as he recorded it for his Christmas album from a couple of years ago, Glory in the Highest.





4. "Thank You For the Blood" from The Father's Song

This song works great during Easter, communion, or in times of general celebratory praise: "We sing of all you've done!"




3. "Lord Let Your Glory Fall" from Revival Generation: Let Your Glory Fall 

and Where Angels Fear to Tread
Has anyone else written a worship song based on Solomon's dedication of the temple? The time signature may throw some off, but it still deserves to be sung.





2. "Worthy, You are Worthy" from Facedown

This is probably Redman's strongest "general" worship song. Just get lost in the wonder of singing praise to the God who is "worthy to be praised, forever and a day".





1. "Breathing the Breath" from Facedown
This is probably my favorite Matt Redman song. Don't worry about the bridge in 7/4 time (you can change it to 4/4 or challenge yourself to play it as written if you like). There is so much Biblical truth about who God is and who we are because of God packed into this song.




Section 2: The 5 Best Matt Redman Songs You'll Probably Never Sing at Your Church (because they are either a little dated, are goofy sounding, or the melody is a bit tricky [and thus not accessible], despite being lyrically excellent)

1. "The Cross Has Said It All" from The Friendship and the Fear

I wish the music didn't sound so...peppy; the lyrics are amazing.

2. "I Am Yours" from The Heart of Worship

This is one of my favorite Redman songs. The lyrics to the bridge absolutely slay me:
"And if my food is to do your will, then I'm hungry, so hungry."

3 "Rejoice With Trembling" from Where Angels Fear to Tread
A worship song that reflects on the paradox of God's otherness and his intimacy with us that has parallels to the Children of Israel being stranded at the foot of Mt. Sinai while Moses went up to receive the law. There is depth in this song that has never been properly noticed.

4. "Revelation" from The Father's Song

Another paradoxical song about God's closeness/holiness that reveals Redman's deep Biblical literacy.

5. "Undignified" from various albums

This song definitely suffers from the "too youth groupy" moniker. But wait. Read the lyrics. It is a challenging song, admonishing us to reject the pride we have in ourselves in order to dance before and dwell in the presence of the Lord as David once did. It would be difficult to make a bunch of stuffy (probably white) adults sing this song, but it is probably a song they need to sing.


And just for fun I wanted to end with this category:

Section 3: Dance Oriented Worship Song
I'm not saying Redman writes dance worship music in the same way someone like Andy Hunter does, but over his career I would have to say he has made a very concerted effort to encourage God's people to express their worship to God in the form of physical movement. On just about every album from the past 10 years he has had a song that calls for the congregation to dance, and on every occasion he gives theological justification for this call. It is not merely youth group hype for him; there is theological justification to DANCE. To me this is a bold move as most of the people he is leading in worship come from stoic Western white cultures who would rather just stand there.

The list of these songs would include:

1. "Undignified", as mentioned above
2. "Dancing Generation" from Facedown
3. "For Your Glory" from We Shall Not Be Shaken 
4. "We are the Free" from 10,000 Reasons
5. "Sing and Shout" from Your Grace Finds Me

You can read my review on Matt Redman's latest album Unbroken Praise here.

___________________
Other Worship Related Articles:
The Top 5 Worship Songs From the Last 10 Years
Dear CCLI: Here are 5 ways you can become better
Ask a Worship Pastor #1: What are the greatest misconceptions about your job?

3 comments:

Caleb said...

Not a bad post, I like to see new songs and I love Matt Redman! Although I don't know if I would consider In Christ Alone "too wordy" as I think there are very few songs written in the last 50 years that are as beautiful in sound and lyrically rich as that one is. I do agree though that sometimes worship songs can sacrifice the melody in order to pack as much "theology" into a song, disregarding the idea that sometimes it is ok to worship God in simplicity (although I don't believe In Christ Alone falls for that)! And on the other hand worship songs are nothing more than attempts at alternative pop, and the lyrics become nothing more than a filler. We need more Matt Redmans, Tim Hughes, Paul Baloches that can hold both of these things together! Thanks for the post, be blessed

Chris Marchand said...

Caleb, I totally agree with you about "In Christ Alone". You're right, it might the THE song of the past 50 years, if we could ever say such things. I should have been more clear in my post. The reason "In Christ Alone" was in parentheses was to let readers know what their most popular songs were. I wasn't saying that song in particular was too wordy or the melody too boring melodically, but I think a lot of their song could fit in that category. As a whole I like their songs but they really struck gold and haven't really been able to replicate that since whereas Redman has written a ton more singable songs IMHO and they don't tend to overwhelm us with their words like the Getty's tend to do. Thanks for the comment, I hope that makes sense.

Nathan said...

This is a great list, and I really need to look into some of his older stuff. You left out my personal favorite though..."I Will Offer Up My Life" is one of his best. It unfortunately seems like everyone writing for contemporary worship music cowrites now, and I seem to be among the few who think the songs are not as strong. The sheer volume of output has increased, but I think the quality of the songs has diminished in most cases. I wonder if/when that songwriting process will shift again.