Chris Tomlin, Burning Lights
Longtime Chris Tomlin fans will be surprised to hear rap featured on the opening track of the celebrated worship leader’s eighth studio album, Burning Lights. With a shimmering instrumental intro that highlights the songwriter’s artistic side, the faint spoken-word ease of Lecrae can be heard. The intro folds into powerful pop anthem “Awake My Soul,” a definite album highlight as the award-winning rapper returns on the bridge in full-force to tell the story of Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones straight from Scripture.
From there, Burning Lights launches into the first radio single, “Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies),” which is already making its way up the charts. The song encompasses what fans have come to admire most about Tomlin – his ability to pen a song churches around the world can instantly claim as their own with strong hooks and truth-filled lyrics.
In addition to Lecrae, Tomlin hosts more guests on this album than any other in his discography. Phil Wickham joins him on the stripped-down “Thank You for Saving Me,” a heartfelt expression of gratitude. The always lovely Christy Nockels makes an appearance on the sound “Jesus, Son of God.” But it’s Kari Jobe who contributes to the centerpiece of the album, “Crown Him (Majesty).”
Much like “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone),” Tomlin has refurbished the old hymn “Crown Him with Many Crowns” and added an additional chorus and bridge. When this hymn was originally written it incited controversy between Protestants and Catholics. Ironically, Tomlin, an obvious leader in the Protestant church, revisited this song with friend and fellow songwriter Matt Maher, a leader in the Catholic church. The song lives up to its majestic name, creating a powerful moment of praise and adoration, and will no doubt take its rightful place in worship gatherings around the world for years to come.
Several favorites from the latest Passion project also made the studio cut, including the aforementioned “Jesus, Son of God,” the Mumford-esque “Lay Me Down” and the GRAMMY®-nominated “White Flag.”
Inevitably, “God’s Great Dance Floor,” will be a listener favorite. If you can only download one song, this is it. The cut begins with a steady ’80s beat and builds to an all-out dance party, capped with a loud horn section. The song, an adaptation of an old Martin Smith contribution, adds a burst of color and funk amid a sea of solid pop worship that’s pleasantly unexpected. The musical diversity on Burning Lights is a testament to the three in-demand producers who worked with Tomlin: Jason Ingram (Tenth Avenue North), Ed Cash (Kari Jobe) and Dan Muckala (The Afters).
Burning Lights commences with a departure of sorts for Tomlin. The lyrics of “Shepherd Boy” find him identifying with David and musing in first person, birthing the title and the idea behind the record and perhaps his whole purpose as a worship leader: “I’m no hero of the faith / I’m not as strong as I once thought I was / I’m just a shepherd boy / Singing to a choir of burning lights.”
Overall, the album is a strong representation of where the award-winning singer-songwriter has been and where he’s going. It’s a solid collection of pop anthems that manage to maintain musical relevancy without compromising lyrical integrity. There’s more of an edge present than on previous efforts, proving the often soft-spoken artist is willing to take some risks. If this is the direction he’s headed, fans will be happy to go along for the ride.
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