Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hillsong: A Beautiful Exchange Review

When it comes to Hillsong, I tend to be intermediate. I enjoy listening to Hillsong here and there, but generally, I tend to go for Hillsong United. When A Beautiful Exchange was released, I was surprised to find out that not only did I enjoy it, I couldn’t stop listening to it.

One thing that really stood out to me about A Beautiful Exchange is how obvious it is that the worship leaders of Hillsong only want to point people to Christ. In Darlene Zscheck’s own words: “Father, let them quickly get their eyes off of us. We just want to point them to you, God, because you are the Author of truth. You are the only One who is to be praised.”

Led by Reuben Morgan, Darlene Zscheck, and Joel Houston, and featuring appearances by many others, A Beautiful Exchange has something for everyone. Beginning with the powerful upbeat track “Our God Is Love” led by Hillsong United’s very own Joel Houston (and written by Joel and Brooke Fraser Ligterwood’s husband, Scott), we find crowds shouting out these awesome lyrics: “This is love/ Jesus came and died and gave His life for us/ Let our voices rise and sing for all He's done/ Our fear is overcome,” and then leads into a chanting “Our God is Love!” This is clearly an immediate sensation. “Open My Eyes” follows, and is led by worship leader Reuben Morgan. This track retains the sound of “Our God is Love,” and contains these lyrics: “Open my eyes, oh God/ open my heart to see/ all the wonder and the power of Your name/ By your grace I live/ By your grace I see/ All my life and my salvation is in You.”

“Forever Reign” was the highlight of the album, led by Jad Gillies. Things slow down a bit with this track, but it is obvious that this track will find itself at the top of charts, as with “Shout to the Lord” or “Hosanna.” In fact, it is already finding itself remade by other contemporary worship bands. I very much enjoyed the powerful worshipful lyrics of the chorus: “Oh, I’m running to Your arms/ I’m running to Your arms/ The riches of Your love/ Will always be enough/ Nothing compares to Your embrace/ Light of the world forever reign.”

Ben Fielding leads “The One Who Saves,” and it again contains simple yet profound lyrics with outstanding worship: “We have found our hope/ We have found our peace/ We have found our rest in the One who loves/ He will light the way/ He will lead us home/ As we offer all to the One who saves.” The highlight of this track was the bridge which simply says, “His love endures/ forever His love endures/ forever and ever.” I find Hillsong’s bridges to be some of the greatest musical accomplishments.

Another highlight was “Like Incense/ Sometimes By Step,” a song that was led by Brooke Fraser Ligterwood (singer of “Hosanna”). This song actually combines two verses written by Brooke with the chorus of Rich Mullins’ famous track “Sometimes By Step.” Running 7 minutes, it is a song that you cannot help but throw up your hands in worship to. I found this to be one of my favorite tracks from the record. It is then followed by “The Greatness of Our God,” written by Reuben Morgan and Stu Garrard, formerly of Delirious? Although not as full as the version popularized by Natalie Grant, it contains the same sentiment and is about the overwhelming power of our God.

Jorim Kelly leads “The Father’s Heart,” a song about God’s glory. Again, the highlight was the bridge: “Whoa/ Sin is broken/ The lost now chosen/ The Father's heart.” This track, although on the slower side of things, boasts on behalf of Hillsong’s “alive” drums. After “The Father’s Heart,” Joel Houston gets things rolling again with “You.” The highlight, is the second half of the first verse: “My dreams have found a purpose/ my future in Your hands/ this life would have no meaning if it weren’t for You.” This song highlights all the wonders of God: “It is You who breaks these chains/ It is You who lights the way/ and everything I am cries out to You!”

“Love Like A Fire” comes next, and slows down the pace a bit. Written and sung by Matt Crocker it is obviously about the consuming fire of God: “Your love is like a fire/ burns for all to see/ My only desire/ to worship at Your feet/ so let this fire consume my life!/ Let Your love take me deeper/ Draw me closer to where You are/ ‘cause all I want is more of You!” “Believe” is another slower-paced track lead by Darlene Zschech and offers these lyrics: “I will sing/ You are strong enough/ In my weakness God be lifted up/ and I will sing/ lift Your praises high/ Lord be magnified/ You make all things new/ I will believe.”

“Beautiful Exchange” was the slowest track on the record and also the longest. It speaks of the “beautiful exchange” of Jesus giving His life for our sins. In my opinion, it’s a little too slow, but still a beautiful song. “Beautiful Exchange” is led by Hillsong worship leaders Joel Houston and Annie Garratt. Reuben Morgan then sings the last live track on A Beautiful Exchange, “Thank You,” a song thanking God for salvation, and His giving His life for us.

My favorite track on A Beautiful Exchange was the last track, the “Forever Reign” radio version. Because it was recorded in the studio, it is obviously more full, and has more depth and therefore does not contain a crowd of people singing at the depth of their lungs. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the shorter remake.

Hillsong’s A Beautiful Exchange actually surprised me in two main ways: for one, it had some tracks (especially the two upbeat ones led by Joel) that were Hillsong United style, and therefore caught my attention. Secondly, I was amazed at the simplicity of the lyrics, yet the depth they contain. I am not aware of any other CD that provokes worship like Hillsong’s A Beautiful Exchange. I would rank this CD one of Hillsong’s best albums, sitting beside For All You’ve Done or Blessed. This is an awesome CD!

Rating: 4.5/5
Release date: June 29, 2010

Track listing:
1. Our God is Love
2. Open My Eyes
3. Forever Reign
4. The One Who Saves
5. Like Incense/ Sometimes By Step
6. The Greatness of Our God
7. The Father's Heart
8. You
9. Love Like Fire
10. Believe
11. Beautiful Exchange
12. Thank You
13. Forever Reign (Radio Edit)


  1. Hey! I'm Ella's sister. I love Hillsong United! Cool blog! I follow your blog now. Check mine out: :D

    P.S. No matter what Ella tells you, I'm not just following you because I'm jealous of her (because I'm not). *laughs*

  2. Wow, great review! I was actually surprised at the attention this album received generally. (Not because it's not good, but because it is good!) I have loved Hillsong so much basically because of their position expressed in Darlene's prayer. Isn't it so incredible that after 2,000 years songs are still being written about the awesome wonder of God's love proven through Jesus Christ? Like the first song goes, "Age to age, we will be singing in the light of all He's done!"

    Your review of this album is FANTASTIC, and I hope it helps get more people's interest kindled!
    Music is a great testimony to the fact that we were made with a purpose, that there is more to life than matter and chemicals, because music has the ability like nothing else to draw a very immaterial thing out from within people's souls. And it was created for this purpose: to connect people with their Maker! And Hillsong has VERY talented and skilled people working to help the church do just that!

  3. P.S. I've tried to find Like Incense so I could post it; unsuccessful. Sorry! Another incredible song!

  4. Alyson-Louise: Well thanks for following! I'll come around and take a look at your site! And glad to see that you're a fan of Hillsong United, too!

    The Other Alice: I'm sure glad you loved the review. Only you would know. ;) To be honest, it was quite a challenge to describe the type of impact that a CD like this can have on the listener. But you summed it up well in you comment. Thanks for coming around again! :D

  5. Wow nice review. ;) Good job Jay! :D

  6. What's the different between Hillsong and Hillson United?

  7. Marvin: Thanks Marvin! Glad you enjoyed! :D

    P.W. Hillsong United is a branch of Hillsong Church geared towards the younger generation. Therefore their music is usually more upbeat. They do many of the same songs as Hillsong, though. Hope that answers your question! :D

  8. Oh man I LOOVE "Our God Is Love" and "Like Incense"!! Arsome review! :D


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