We should never take it for granted when young people jump up and down singing the praises of King Jesus. For nearly a thousand years, save for the canonical singers of the church, no one was permitted to sing in church. In 364 A.D. the council of Laodicea had made it a decree that no lay person could musically intone a syllable in church. Such an injunction remained publicly unchallenged until the time of Jan Huss a thousand years later. Together with other indictments against the Czech reformer, Huss was later burnt alive at the stake. And while his body was fuming with fire, Huss died singing a hymn in praise of Jesus Christ. Can you imagine being murdered because you sang in church? Even though the singing of the psalms was back in John Calvin's days, choirs and harmony singing were perceived as inappropriate as they were deemed to be disruptive to the unity of the church. Considering that almost half of our church's history the church had little or no congregational singing, we have come a long way. Nowadays, not only can we sing to God in churches but we have such a plethora of worship albums where we can praise God in any crevices of the earth. Now with the advent of Hillsong Young and Free, even our teenagers are encouraged to worship in ways that speak to them.
Way back in the late 1990s, Hillsong worship pastor Darlene Zschech had the vision that the young should have their own brand of worship music that speaks in the musical vernacular they could understand. Thus, Hillsong United was birthed. However, after 15 years or so, Hillsong United has matured and it has become a tour de force worship band in its own rights. With members in the team passed what we might consider the "youthful" demographic, it is time for Hillsong to launch another worship team that represents its burgeoning youth ministry. Current youth pastor Laura Toggs (also the daughter of senior pastor Brian Houston) has now formed a team comprising of worship leaders that lead youth worship across the campuses of Hillsong Church; and they are called Hillsong Young and Free. Gone are the big names that often come with every Hillsong Live recording, this record is exclusively written and led by youth worship leaders of the Australian mega church. So, what is their debut libe worship album "We Are Young and Free" like? With a titular like that, one would imagine that the music to be reflective of its secular dance/pop counterpart: explosive in terms of the sound, perfunctory in terms of its vocals, gaunt in terms of its melodic structures and trite in terms of its lyrical content. Surprisingly, this is not the case.
Imbued with some reverb 70s sounding guitars, "Brighter" has an acoustic roots feel that shows that the youthful team are not to be stereotyped. In terms of strong melodic structures, "Embers," "Wake" and lead single "Alive" have borrowed much from their older Hillsong Live counterpart. They are irresistibly catchy with that built-in crescendo type of chorus that will get churches singing in unison in record time. Hillsong Young and Free also takes an adventurous step forward to where few worship bands dare to tread. While many worship songs are more rock-based, songs like "Lifeline," "Back to Life" and "In Sync" move the band to the dance floor with the latest electronic beep and the swirling tunes. "End of Days" certainly belies the team's youthfulness. Calling to mind Matt Redman's "10,000 Reasons," "End of Days" speaks of worship as an eternal activity, a sobering indictment against those who throughout church history have tried to silence the praise of God.
More profound moments come with worship ballad "Close." "Close" could easily rival some of Hillsong Live's most worshipful ballads such as "I Surrender" and "My Heart is Overwhelmed." Featuring some high church organ at the start before morphing into a haunting keyboard-led tune, "Close" is a sobering cry for greater intimacy with Jesus: "I want to be close to you... there is nothing in this world that compares to all you are." The ethereal "Gracious Tempest" calls to mind Hillsong United's "Ocean" in its lyrical content as well as its cinematic ambiance. But it is also Hillsong Young and Free at their poetic best: the image of Jesus being described as a gracious tempest is so oxymoronic yet it is so paradoxically true. "We Are Young and Free," though primarily made for the younger generation, has much to contribute to the worship of the church at large. After a thousand years of silence, may albums like these service the church with praises bold and loud till the "end of days."
Hillsong Young & Free - Back to Life [Music Video]