After listening to Adoration, the latest album from Brenton Brown, I can’t help feeling doubly frustrated for two completely different reasons.
On the one hand, Brown is a seasoned worship artist, previously mentored by the great Brian Doerksen (“Come Now Is the Time to Worship”), and every bit as skilled a songwriter as Matt Redman (“The Heart of Worship,” “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord”) and Tim Hughes (“Here I Am to Worship”), if not Chris Tomlin (“How Great Is Our God,” “Forever”). With accessible and melodic music that’s equally influenced by Brit pop and Americana, the South African born worship leader has written or co-written several of the best-known worship songs over the last decade. Yet for some reason, his name isn’t nearly as recognized as the aforementioned artists.
Conversely, how many times can an artist be introduced, positioned, re-introduced, and marketed further in a four-year span? After contributing to several Vineyard albums (including the landmark Hungry project), he released his solo debut Everlasting God in 2006. It went largely ignored, despite the strength of the title track (popularized by Tomlin and Lincoln Brewster). Brown followed up with Because of Your Love in 2008, which like its predecessor, reacquainted listeners with some new versions of his best known songs. It too went largely ignored. Then came Introducing Brenton Brown in late 2009, a six-song sampler and one of the first in a new series of budget-price discs meant to call attention to great worship artists. Too early to say, but I’m betting most people haven’t bothered to get it.
So here we are again with Brown releasing another album of songs largely comprised of past material. Adoration contains the bulk of the Because of Your Love album and half the Introducing sampler—same recordings for the most part.
Hence my frustration. If you already have Brown’s other albums, you really don’t need Adoration. But if you’re a worship music enthusiast and still unfamiliar with Brown as a songwriter/artist, it’s hard to fathom why.
Indeed, most of the songs contained on Adoration were written in 2008 (when Because of Your Love released). There’s the 4/4 time remake of his 1998 evergreen “All Who Are Thirsty,” delivered with more pedal steel, and the reverent 10-year-old Vineyard staple “Holy” based on Revelation. The peppy “Because of Your Love” and anthemic “Our God Saves” were both co-written with Paul Baloche (“Open the Eyes of My Heart,” “Above All”). Additional highlights include the driving praise of “Amazing God,” the humble worship ballad “Adoration,” and the familiar but catchy feel of “Wonderful.”
As for the two truly new tracks, “We Need You” is a ballad heavy on guitar and pedal steel, inspired by the classic Annie Hawks hymn “I Need Thee Every Hour.” In contrast is “A Thousand Stars,” a catchy song about pursuing dreams with God’s help, though too personal to be a worship song—it’s actually a perfect expression of Brown’s desire to see his music ministry grow.
There’s not a bad song on this album, with several that would be excellent additions to any contemporary congregation’s worship repertoire. But then if you have Brown’s previous albums, you already knew that, and thus have no reason to pick this up—download “We Need You” and “A Thousand Stars” off iTunes or a similar site instead.
I can’t champion Brown’s music enough for the church, but there’s got to come a point where the introductions must stop so he can progress instead of spinning his wheels. My fear is that we’ll see some sort of best-of compilation in a few years that will look similar to this album, with the inclusions of “Lord, Reign in Me,” “Everlasting God,” “Humble King,” and “Hallelujah (Your Love is Amazing).”
The fact that Brown has so many familiar songs speaks well of the impact he’s had on the church. The fact that he’s still being positioned as a new artist after all this time suggests that people are struggling with how to jump start this talent’s artistic career.
Standouts: “We Need You,” “Amazing God,” “All Who Are Thirsty”