Album review for “Response” by Phil Wickham

Phil Wickham’s newest record, “Response,” won’t release until October 4th, but he is currently offering it for download as part of an exclusive pre-order on his website. On the day of this announcement, the website server crashed due to high demand for the album—and remained crashed well into the next day. The hype is well substantiated; Phil Wickham is one of the few “praise & worship” artists who bring musical and lyrical creativity to their songs. So, does “Response” live up to the hype?

Heaven Fall Down” starts things off with a catchy guitar riff and drumbeat. However, once the intro finishes and Wickham begins to sing, immediately one is struck with the realization that something is not entirely right. Anyone who is a fan of Wickham knows that he has a beautiful ability at writing visually striking lyrics. That ability is nowhere to be found on this track or on most of the album. Take a look: “Open our ears/Lord, let us hear/All that you are/Be loud and clear/Please be near.” Sounds like a typical “corporate worship” song that’s sung in churches nowadays, doesn’t it? One reason I respected Phil Wickham was because his songs weren’t commercialized or watered down for an easy sing-along.

Contradictory to its title, “Joy” is actually very disapointing. The song begins with a Super Nintendo-like synthesizer and the chorus is unoriginal and somewhat cheesy. Things pick up a little with “One God.” We hear Wickham’s beautiful voice harmonizing with itself. The chorus is catchy, yet feels a bit contrived. The first single off the album, “At Your Name (Yahweh, Yahweh),” is better than the previous track and has grown on me since my first listen. “This is the Day” features a piano and a pulsing
drumbeat, yet the weak lyrics leave little to be desired.

The quieter, “All I Want is You,” could be something special if it weren’t for the lyrics: “We all want something more, there’s something more we’re searching for.” The
driving bass line of “God of Our Salvation” is intriguing but once again, the lyrics are, sadly, recycled. The first sign of life comes deep into the album at track number eight in “Sun and Moon.” The heart and genuineness behind the song are what makes it the sole standout of the album. Wickham’s earnest vocals sing, “If love is a choice/Then I need you to hear my voice/I’m the one knocking on your door making all this noise/Whatever it
takes/I give it all away/I want to show my love in a thousand ways.
” The song employs the help of a somber violin and slide guitar, which mix things up refreshingly.

Things turn Angels and Airwaves with “This Love Will Last Forever,” with a modern feel and catchy chorus. It’s a solid highlight in an otherwise bleak collection
of songs. “All I Am” is another highlight, which starts out slow but builds up into a heartfelt declaration of loyalty to Christ. Things come to a close with “The Victory.” When it first begins, it seems like it will be a powerful and emotional song to end with, but, things don’t ever pick up and instead conclude awkwardly.

I am a huge supporter and fan of Phil Wickham. Despite what I heard on “Response,” I still feel he is one of the best rising Christian artists with a great talent. If
Wickham can return to his roots and tap into that superb creativity that I know is inside of him, he is capable of making a fantastic record just like “Cannons” and “Heaven & Earth.” Whether Wickham received unwise counsel to play it safe or if this is sincerely the new “sound” he wants to go with from now on, we may never know. Let’s just hope it’s not the latter.

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