Austin French, “Freedom Hymn”

Debuting Contemporary Christian singer Austin French has released his first single, “Freedom Hymn,” which is now breaking at Christian AC, with a current new peak at No.26 with a bullet on Billboard’s Hot Christian Songs chart.

Freedom Hymn, written by French with Kayliann Lowe, Douglas Lowe, Kyle Lee and Jacob Harrison, is a declaration of what awaits us in Christ Jesus, is a catchy guitar-driven track that is fuelled by French’s immensely likeable voice. The former Rising Star runner-up from 2014 has gone through quite the experience on his way to where he is now, and with a songwriting and artist management deal from Fair Trade, we may be looking at one of CCM’s newest and brightest stars.

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Rend Collective, “Joy of the Lord”

Rend Collective has released the effervescent Joy of the Lord, a truly enjoyable pop/rock romp that combines Irish folk inclinations with Scripture to produce an delightful praise anthem, one of my favorite tracks so far this 2016.

Psalm 28:7 says, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” Rend Collective’s Joy of the Lord brings this verse to bold, ebullient life, with banjos and hurdy-hurdy’s underscoring the outburst of praise, exclaimed in a chorus that invites worshipers to sing and absolutely refuses to let go.

Written by Rend Collective with songwriter/producer Ed Cash, known best for his work with Chris Tomlin, the biggest strength of Joy of the Lord is its passionate declaration of trust in a God Who will see us through our trials and tribulations. Christians going through a valley season will appreciate and delight in its biblical truth and irresistible call to worship.

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Kari Jobe, “I Am Not Alone”

Contemporary Christian singer and songwriter Kari Jobe has released I Am Not Alone as the second single off her latest album, Majestic. After the success of the carrier single off this new release–Forever debuted and peaked at No.5 on Billboard’s Christian Songs chart–one would think that Kari would have a hard time following it up, but I Am Not Alone fits the bill perfectly. Written by Jobe with some of Contemporary praise and worship’s biggest names, including Marty Sampson (Hillsong United), Mia Fieldes, Ben and Austin Davis, Grant Pittman, and Dustin Sauder, I Am Not Alone is an earnest declaration of faith in a God Who is with us, in both good times and bad. Clearly written with a heart for community praise, this track will no doubt do well, and hopefully get Jobe her second straight, well-deserved Top 10 hit.

I AM NOT ALONE Lyrics
Kari Jobe

When I walk through deep waters
I know that You will be with me
When I’m standing in the fire
I will not be overcome
Through the valley of the shadow
I will not fear

I am not alone
I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me

In the midst of deep sorrow
I see Your light is breaking through
The dark of night will not overtake me
I am pressing into You
Lord, You fight my every battle
And I will not fear

You amaze me
Redeem me
You call me as Your own

You’re my strength
You’re my defender
You’re my refuge in the storm
Through these trials
You’ve always been faithful
You bring healing to my soul

Mandisa, “Press On”

Contemporary Christian star Mandisa has released Press On as the third single off her Grammy Award-winning album, Overcomer. Typically, third singles are rare now in the Contemporary Christian genre, owing to higher promotional costs and whatnot, but the folks at Sparrow feel that there is still value in releasing Press On to radio, and I’m so glad they took the risk.

Press On is one of the best tracks on Overcomer, and for good reason. The album’s melody is instantly singable, after all, and the song’s encouraging message will speak to thousands, just like its predecessor, the album’s title track. There is an incredible remix available on the album’s Deluxe version (as well as Mandisa’s follow-up release, Get Up: The Remixes). While follow-up single Back to You was no slouch–a number 12 finish is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of–there were still many great potential singles off Overcomer, and Press On is right there on top. I feel both the original and the remix have solid radio airplay power, and hopefully, Mandisa will be able to score herself yet another top 10.

Jamie Grace, “Fighter”

Contemporary Christian singer/songwriter Jamie Grace has released Fighter as the third single off her latest release, Ready to Fly. After Christian radio’s somewhat lackluster response to Do Life Big, Grace digs into her songwriting bag of tricks and comes up with this inspiring track that showcases the strength that can be found within each of us to lift ourselves up off the floor and our situations. By highlighting the green grass of a father working hard for his family, a single mother struggling to raise her kids by herself, and a child with cancer, Grace hopes to encourage everyone to look deep within themselves and find the strength to get through.

Certainly one of the strongest tracks off Ready to Fly, Fighter is indeed inspiring, and charming in its simplicity. I don’t take to task the fact that Fighter‘s choice of topic isn’t anything particularly new, despite the fact that Matthew West and Mark Schultz have written songs along this line with greater skill and execution. However, one thing we need to take into consideration is that Grace is a teenager with Tourette Syndrome (she’s a fighter!). Giving her credit for her heart to encourage and her skill to come up with this song, despite assistance from tobyMac, Cary Barlowe, and Christopher Stevens, is only natural, because it is deserved.

My only other beef with Fighter, which is minor, is how God isn’t explicitly in the song. The only part I feel that alludes to Him is how each person “gets down on his/her knees and finds the courage to believe.” The source that gives the aforementioned courage and strength could be anyone, regardless of faith, and ultimately, possibly even ourselves, a dangerous possibility in this new age era of self-help and self-strength, and I think a mention of Jesus directly anywhere in there, given that Grace is a Christian singer, may have been even more powerful. But that’s just my nit-picky little opinion. It’s still a good song.

FIGHTER Lyrics
Jamie Grace

Seven bucks an hour
bills stacked on the counter
Got a baby on the way, don’t have to feed
His pride is gettin’ torn down
His confidence is worn out
This ain’t the way he dreamed that it would be

But he won’t ever ask why
‘Cause he’s made up his mind

He’s a fighter, got that fire
When they thought he’d fade away
Throws a fist up, as he gets up
Feelin’ stronger everyday
When he gets down on his knees, he finds
the courage to believe
He’s a fighter, he’s a fighter
who inspires me

She’s got no time for makeup
‘Cause she’s got three boys to wake up
Never thought she’d have to raise them on her own
And some days she feels like cryin’
But she’s holdin’ on, survivin’
on the love that makes their little house
a home

And she sees it in their eyes
All the reasons why, yeah

She’s a fighter, got that fire
when you thought she’d fade away
Throws a fist up, as she gets up
Feelin’ stronger everyday
When she gets down on her knees,
she finds the courage to believe
She’s a fighter, she’s a fighter
Who inspires me, oohooo
She inspires me, yeah

She’s been here before
And she’s only eight years old
But she knows the name of every nurse she sees
And though she don’t like the chemo
She waits it out, never losin’ hope that
someday soon she’ll be cancer-free

She’s a fighter, got that fire
when they thought she’d fade away
Throws a fist up, keeps her head up
Feelin’ stronger everyday
When she gets down on her knees,
she finds the courage to believe
She’s a fighter, she’s a fighter
who inspires, yeah
He’s a fighter, he’s a fighter
who inspires me
He inspires me

You’re my inspiration, my inspiration, yeah
You’re my inspiration, my inspiration, yeah
You are my inspiration, my inspiration, yeah
You’re my inspiration, my inspiration, yeah

Francesca Battistelli, “He Knows My Name”

Christian singer/songwriter Francesca Battistelli has released the second single from her latest album, the criminally under-appreciated If We’re Honest. Titled He Knows My Name, it is one of the best tracks on her latest CD, an honest and joyful declaration of faith and trust in a God Who accepts us for who we are. A song that runs a similar vein with music from Matthew West and Jimmy Needham, who have written songs about identity and humility, He Knows My Name is a track that many of us will be able to relate to. I’m so glad that Battistelli continues to release songs that are instantly singable and wonderfully relatable. This will easily be another Top 10 hit; it may even trump the previous peak of Write Your Story. Absolutely brilliant work from a Contemporary Christian musician whose discography continues to mature and grow with every new release.

HE KNOWS MY NAME Lyrics
Francesca Battistelli

Spent today in a conversation
In the mirror face to face
With somebody less than perfect
I wouldn’t choose me first if
I was looking for a champion
In fact I’d understand if
You picked everyone before me
But that’s just not my story

True to who You are
You saw my heart and made
Something out of nothing

I don’t need my name in lights
I’m famous in my Father’s eyes
Make no mistake
He knows my name
I’m not living for applause
I’m already so adored
It’s all His stage
He knows my name oh, oh,
He knows my name oh, oh

I’m not meant to just stay quiet
I’m meant to be a lion
I’ll roar beyond a song
With every moment that I’ve got
True to who You are
You saw my heart
and made
Something out of nothing

I don’t need my name in lights
I’m famous in my Father’s eyes
Make no mistake
He knows my name
I’m not living for applause
I’m already so adored
It’s all His stage
He knows my name oh, oh,
He knows my name oh, oh

He calls me chosen, free forgiven, wanted, child of the King,
His forever, held in treasure…
I am loved

I don’t need my name in lights
I’m famous in my Father’s eyes
Make no mistake
He knows my name
I’m not living for applause
I’m already so adored
It’s all His stage
He knows my name oh, oh,
He knows my name oh, oh

Matthew West, “Do Something”

Contemporary Christian singer/songwriter Matthew West has released Do Something as the third single off his newest release, Into the Light, and the follow-up single to the massively successful number one single, Hello My Name Is.

Now, I’ll be honest: Do Something was one of my least favorite tracks off Into the Light. This song calling for social responsibility and accountability, while well-intentioned and ultimately faithful to the Christian call to be salt and light in our communities, felt a little tired for me, especially since Matthew had somewhat tackled the issue previously in My Own Little World.

But after having seen the video, I admit it’s winning me over. The simple yet moving video touched me deeply, and I found myself a little emotional by video’s end. (Read: I shed a few tears.) I wasn’t expecting that kind of personal reaction, to be candid, and a few people may be jaded and not react at all, but it moved me. That’s the mark of a good video — when it captures the essence of a song and complements it wonderfully, and the video did that for me.

Will Do Something perform well at radio? Well, I’m sure it will. Whether it’ll be as successful and as embraced as Hello My Name Is remains to be seen – and I was rather hoping for Unchangeable or Wonderfully Made to be the next release – but we’ll just have to wait and see.

DO SOMETHING Lyrics
Matthew West

I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something

I’m so tired of talking
About how we are God’s hands and feet
But it’s easier to say than to be
Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves
It’s alright, “somebody else will do something”
Well, I don’t know about you
But I’m sick and tired of life with no desire
I don’t want a flame, I want a fire
I wanna be the one who stands up and says,
“I’m gonna do something”

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something

We are the salt of the earth
We are a city on a hill (shine shine, shine shine)
But we’re never gonna change the world
By standing still
No we won’t stand still
No we won’t stand still
No we won’t stand still

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something
It’s time for us to do something
It’s time for us to do something

Building 429 feat Blanca Callahan, “Press On”

Okay, it’s official, I totally love Building 429.

I thought We Won’t be Shaken is one of the best CCM singles I’ve ever heard, bar none, and was SOOOO disappointed it didn’t top the main chart. (Thanks a lot, Matthew West.) Now the follow-up single from the 2014 Grammy Award-nominated Contemporary Christian Album of the Year is Press On, featuring Group 1 Crew’s Blanca Callahan.

Absolutely brilliant! Press On – which, unfortunately, seems to have been given a Wrecking Ball retitle by some creative individuals looking perhaps to capitalize on a certain teen superstar’s similarly titled number one single – is fantastic in its own merits. Easily singable, great lyrics, and of course, a dynamite performance by the uber-talented, ever-reliable Blanca Callahan – how does this woman NOT have her own record deal?! – make Press On a terrific radio single and easily Building 429’s most accessible radio single to date. Surefire Top 10, and I wouldn’t go out of the way to say it could outperform its predecessor and go all the way to number one.

PRESS ON (WRECKING BALL) Lyrics
Building 429

Sometimes this world starts breaking me down
I get so lost I think I’ll never be found
And there are moments of fear and doubt
Even the best fall to the ground

I am a mess, I am a wrecking ball
I must confess that I still don’t get it all
Lord I believe that all Your words are true
Doesn’t matter where I’m going if I’m going with You
I press on, I press on, I press on
When I still don’t get it

I see the world through my jaded eyes
I get frustrated when there is no Why
I put my focus on worthless things
Even the strong fall to their knees
God only knows what we all need

I am a mess, I am a wrecking ball

I must confess that I still don’t get it all
Lord I believe that all your words are true
Doesn’t matter where I’m going if I’m going with You
I press on, I press on, I press on
When I still don’t get it

Life goes on, life goes on
But Your love will prove
All I need, all I need
I will find in You
Life goes on, life goes on
But Your love will prove
All I need, all I need
I will find in You
I press on

I am a mess, I am a wrecking ball
I must confess that I still don’t get it all
Lord I believe that all Your words are true
Doesn’t matter where I’m going if I’m going with You
I press on, I press on
I press on, I press on
When I still don’t get it

Life goes on, life goes on
But Your love will prove
All I need, all I need
I will find in You
Life goes on, life goes on
But Your love will prove
All I need, all I need
I press on