Released: May 26th, 2015 / Total Tracks: 12 / My Favorite Song: Touch the Sky / Already on the Radio: (4) Touch the Sky
The wikipedia page for this album mentioned a few weaker reviews for this album, but if I were to give stars, I’d say this is a 2/5 Star offering. (Hey, should I give star ratings? Leave your thoughts in comments.) Whether it is due to their brand name status in Christian Music, or the success of the unique sounding ‘Oceans,’ from their last album, this latest album may be getting some pity support. In my opinion, this is just the worst album I’ve purchased since re-starting my blog. (To be fair, that is just 5 albums.)
Let me start with what I did like from this release. United continued to out-pace much of the Christian Music world by creating some unique music for their songs. From an instrumental stand-point, their artistry and skills is evident. From track to track, the music would get me interested in hearing what the song was going to say. BUT THEN CAME THE LET DOWN!
The producers 100% dropped the ball for ‘Empires.‘ In just about every track, the lyrics were blurred together, the music over-powers the vocals, and you are stuck with a song that in many places becomes unclear. This is particularly true in just about every track when Taya Smith is not taking the lead with vocals. I played with the volume mix in both my car and on my laptop and I just can’t get a clear sound from the vocals. Oh, and by the 9th track, the creativity runs out and final 4 tracks sound very similar.
Now, let me back track for a moment. I have put the blame on the producers because I would assume it is their job to catch such issues during a recording. However, this could be a clear example of worship leaders failing to help the listeners engage with their praise. I can think of several times in my life when the musicians leading worship are so wrapped up in a song, that they are ruining the sound for those whom they are to be leading. To put it another way, sometimes when a worship leader is introducing a song to their fellowship, they jump to their personal worship and leave the congregation scratching their head on lyrics, or feeling pressured into rejoicing in a message they are not receiving because they do not understand.
This issue is part of the reason for the Contemporary/Traditional worship rift. Corporate worship is supposed to lead all who gather in songs of praise. However, I’m sure you know from personal experience that sometimes it is hard to worship when we do not understand or hear the message we are lifting to the Lord. Logically, after such a worship service where a member of the congregation, or in some cases a generation, feels left out, we should expect them to want to cling to the music that leads them to a place where they feel connected with God. In my opinion, ‘Empires,’ is one of these CD’s. The creative worship group comes off so focused on their worshipful expressions, that they stumble on the purpose of their music; Leading God’s people to greater, more clear worship.
So with that said, here is the album’s lead single, ‘Touch the Sky.’
I would encourage you to listen to this album and form your own thoughts too. After all, what speaks to you may match up better than this album did with me. – Timothy