Michael W. Smith needs no introduction to most, as he has now been in the CCM industry for over thirty years and has released twenty-five albums over that span. However, here is something you probably never dreamed you would hear in the same sentence; Michael W. Smith releases a new album titled A Million Lights, full of piano pop and electronic dance music stylings. Yes, Michael W. Smith and EDM. If you are anything like this reviewer who is a long-time fan of his work, this may be a shock to your system. You may hate it at first, but maybe, just maybe it grows on you. Having said all of that, not everything works perfectly, and ultimately this may not be your thing, but there are a few highlights worth mentioning if you are willing to take on this unexpected musical turn.
Title track and lead song for the album "A Million Lights" kicks things off with the synthesizers and familiar Smitty melody, but then kicks into a gear that takes it places that mainstream artists like Coldplay and Chainsmokers haven been with recent releases. The song, like many others on the album, has a strange way of slowly growing on you, and gets better with repeat listens. It is upbeat, hopeful, and fun. Another that falls in a similar category is second track "Conversations," which, apart from distinct Smith vocals, could fit on a Justin Bieber, Kygo, or DJ Snake album musically. "Crashing Waves" takes the most familiar musical approach to fans of his worship releases, with its gang vocal chorus, organ drenched bridge, and drums high in the mix. The best slow moment on the album comes from "Hey Love," a tender piano ballad featuring beautiful female harmonies. Their voices weave together pleasantly as they sing, "Hey love it's me/hey love it's me/I want you like I wanted you back then/I want you more today than I did then/In other words I want you always."
The two main critiques are that a few of the songs come off feeling either too derivative of their influences, a la songs "Your Love" and "Something In My Heart," and there is arguably too much schmaltz on songs like "Footsteps" and "You Make Me Feel This Way." Otherwise, a catchy tune, the lower register he reaches for in the verses of "You Make Me Feel This Way" comes off as trying a little too hard. Overall, though, this is a solid, albeit heavily influenced, take on modern pop from a Christian music icon.
Therefore, if you can overcome the weirdness of Michael W. Smith releasing an EDM infused album, or you are a fan of that genre of music itself, this just may be the release for you. Now that I am over the surprise turn of musical direction, it is really beginning to grow on me, and I could see revisiting A Million Lights often this year. For fans of Michael W. Smith the worship artist, approach this one with an open mind, and if it doesn't do anything for you, hold on for his worship focused release, Surrounded, coming next week.- Review date: 2/15/18, written by Josh Balogh of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Rocketown Records / The Fuel Music
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