Where would Christian music and Christian Radio be without WOW? In an effort to mirror the secular music market, and the ‘NOW’ series, executives at the Sparrow Records started a project in 1994 that would have a Miracle-Gro effect on Christian Music. For those who do not know, the ‘WOW’ series is an annual collection of many of the year’s best new Christian songs. In 1995, WOW 1996 was released featuring songs from dcTalk, Stephen Curtis Chapman, 4Him, Amy Grant, and many more.
In total, the album featured 30 different performers and bands. Some of the names were well known names, like Petra and Sandi Patty, but some were fairly new, such as the Newboys. Through the history of WOW, you knew an artist was making waves if they made it onto the WOW album. The second edition, WOW 1997, featured new names, like Rebecca St. James and that group called Third day. Jaci Velazquez got her turn for WOW 1998, the O.C. Supertones appeared on WOw 1999, Jeremy Camp appeared in WOW Hits 2004, and Casting Crowns first appeared on WOW hits 2005.
The ‘WOW’ series had several major impacts on the Christian Music Industry. The biggest impact, in my eyes, is how they centralized the major players in the industry allowing listeners to find groups that speak to them, and allowing for a snapshot for a vibrant genre. Through the 70’s and 80’s there were, at most, a dozen artists that a Christian could name. In the 90’s if you wanted to discuss Christian music, every other major song was sung by Amy Grant. WOW albums shed light on the entire industry.
In addition to providing for familiarity of artists, the ‘WOW’ series has allowed for a connection between generations. WOW 1996 included the standards from the 80’s like Petra, and Twila Paris, but I can personally attest to the fact that our family had not heard of Geoff Moore and the Distance. The Newsboys and others owe WOW for a growth in their recognition. With WOW connecting both generations, it created a foundation for a market, rather than the segmentation we see in many churches when we talk about worship.
To a similar extent, WOW has given Christian Music an easy way to see our Heritage. The Newsboys and Stephen Curtis Chapman are two of the four artists to appear both on the first WOW 1996 and last years WOW Hits 2015. WOW Hits 2015 also features for KING & COUNTRY. Luke and Joel Smallbone are the younger brothers of WOW 1998 Alum Rebecca St. James. Both Mandisa and Jamie Grace have received early career boosts from WOW 1996’s tobyMac who was then with dcTalk. Christian music did not have this kind of environment so easily seen 20 years ago.
If you want to learn more about Christian Music and it’s history, hop over to Amazon and get a few of the older releases. You’ll get great music and might find a few new favorites. The next edition of the ‘WOW’ series is set for release today!. Grab a copy because it will be an easy way to get a collection of many of your favorites.
Keep listening to the good stuff – Timothy!