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Music / Hillsong

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Hillsong Church is an Australian Evangelical Protestant megachurch founded in 1983 by Pastor Brian Houston and his wife, Bobbie. Initially known as Hills Christian Life Centre, it started out meeting at a public school hall with just short of 50 people. Over the next decade, though, its congregation grew by the thousands, eventually relocating to a new building in a nearby business park. Integral to this massive growth was their own worship band, Hillsong Life, which used a variety of styles in their worship music. Their first album, Spirit and Truth, was released in 1988.

Hillsong quickly grew to become one of the largest and most influential churches in the world, with over 80 locations and 130,000 people in attendance every Sunday. Much of their popularity was driven by the massive commercial success of their music, which had a significant influence on bringing Christian Rock into actual church services in the 21st century; enter any modern megachurch on a given Sunday and you will likely hear at least one song from their vast catalogue played during the worship set. Hillsong's high profile led many American celebrities, including the Kardashians, Chris Pratt, Justin Bieber, and Kevin Durant of the National Basketball Association, to attend and associate with the church and its affiliates. This made Hillsong even more popular and even elevated some of the church's American pastors to celebrity status themselves, particularly the New York City head pastor Carl Lentz, who became a "spiritual mentor" of sorts to Bieber.

However, Lentz's firing for "moral failures" in 2020note  led to the release of the documentary series Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed on Discovery+ in 2022, which further covered the church's exploitative reliance on near full-time volunteer labor despite its sizable funding and the criminal charges Houston faced for covering up his own father's sexual abuse of a minor while he was a pastor in the 1960s. The release of this documentary coincided with more serious allegations of sexual abuse by several Hillsong pastors, including Houston himself, leading to a mass series of retirements and the closure of several of their international campuses.

Hillsong currently has three main bands which lead worship and release music: note 

  • Hillsong Worship: Originally known as Hillsong Life (having rebranded in 2014), this band is the original Hillsong worship team and is known for releasing and leading contemporary worship music. Early worship pastor Darlene Zschech's song "Shout to the Lord" became one of the biggest crossover Christian hits of the '90s and helped to first elevate the church to international prominence. Later hit "Mighty to Save", released in 2006 and originally sung by Zschech's successor Reuben Morgan, was the best-selling Christian hit of that decade and established the sound that would later be adopted by United. Even with United's ascent, the rebranded Worship still remains very popular, with their song "What a Beautiful Name" seeing massive streaming numbers in the late 2010s and winning Grammys and the Dove Song of the Year award. Its lineup has changed multiple times throughout the decades; its current leader is Brooke Ligertwood, who stepped up in 2017.

  • Spirit and Truth (1988)
  • Show Your Glory (1990)
  • The Power of Your Love (1992)
  • Stone's Been Rolled Away (1993)
  • People Just Like Us (1994)
  • Friends in High Places (1995)
  • Shout to the Lord (1996)
  • God Is in the House (1996)
  • All Things Are Possible (1997)
  • Touching Heaven Changing Earth (1998)
  • By Your Side (1999)
  • For This Cause (2000)
  • You Are My World (2001)
  • Blessed (2002)
  • Hope (2003)
  • For All You've Done (2004)
  • God He Reigns (2005)
  • Mighty to Save (2006)
  • Saviour King (2007)
  • This Is Our God (2008)
  • Faith + Hope + Love (2009)
  • A Beautiful Exchange (2010)
  • God Is Able (2011)
  • Cornerstone (2012)
  • Glorious Ruins (2013)
  • No Other Name (2014)note 
  • Open Heaven / River Wild (2015)
  • Let There Be Light (2016)
  • The Peace Project (2017)
  • There Is More (2018)
  • Awake (2019)
  • Despierta (2020)
  • Take Heart (Again) (2020)
  • At Easter (2021)*

  • Hillsong United: Stylized as Hillsong UNITED (or just UNITED), this band is the most popular of the three and likely the one those unfamiliar with the Christian music scene have heard something about. United grew out of the church's youth ministry, which in 1995 was split into Wildlife for teens aged 12-17 and Powerhouse for teens and young adults aged 18-25. After being two separate bands, several members agreed to join and form an official "united" group to release their songs. Their arena rock style and lyrics were massively popular, generating hits like "Hosanna", "Lead Me To The Cross", "The Stand", "With Everything", and many more in the late 2000s that helped expand Hillsong's popularity. They continued to build on this early success throughout the 2010s; "Oceans (Where Feet May Fall)" topped Billboard's Christian Songs chart for over a year and was briefly the most successful Christian song of the streaming era. Their sound makes them a perfect fit for full arenas, and the band regularly tours and performs at many prevalent Christian festivals and conferences. Joel Houston, son of the church's founders, is their most prominent member and leader.

  • One (1998)*
  • Everyday (1999)
  • Best Friend (2000)
  • King of Majesty (2001)
  • To the Ends of the Earth (2002)
  • More than Life (2004)
  • Look to You (2005)
  • United We Stand (2006)
  • All of the Above (2007)^
  • Unidos Permanecemos (2007)
  • The I Heart Revolution: With Hearts as One (2008)
  • [a_CROSS // the_EARTH] (2009)
  • Aftermath (2011)^
  • Live in Miami: Welcome to the Aftermath (2012)
  • Zion (2013)^
  • Zion Acoustic Sessions (2013)
  • Empires (2015)^
  • Of Dirt and Grace: Live from the Land (2016)
  • Wonder (2017)^
  • People (2019)
  • In the Meantime (2020)*
  • The People Tour: Live From Madison Square Garden (2021)

  • Hillsong Young & Free: By the early 2010s, nearly every member of UNITED was at least in their early 30s, and most had married and started families. While no one wanted to disband this group, many at Hillsong felt a need for a new band that would resonate more with younger people and youth groups with a louder, more modern, and faster-paced sound. Enter Young & Free, a band made of church members in their late teens and early-mid 20s that innovated a new style of CWM combining the pop, EDM, and dance trends of their era. They perform in the main campuses' youth ministries but also occasionally go on tour. As they each share performance roles equally and rotate members to stay "young and free", they have no firm leader.

  • We Are Young & Free (2013)^
  • This is Living (2015)*
  • We Are Young & Free: The Remixes EP (2015)*
  • Youth Revival (2016)
  • Youth Revival Acoustic (2017)
  • III (2018)^
    • III (Live at Hillsong Conference) (2018)
  • III (Studio Sessions) (2019)
  • III (Reimagined) (2019)
  • All of My Best Friends (2020)
  • Todos Mis Mejores Amigos (2021)
  • All of My Best Friends (Acoustic) (2021)

Troper lead me where my trust is without borders...

  • Big Fun: Pretty much describes Joel Houston whenever he's not leading worship.
  • Epic Rocking: Most of their live albums include versions of songs that can span over ten minutes, fitting with a tradition in worship music to use repetition for purposes of both reflection and celebration.
  • New Sound Album: UNITED's Wonder stands out from much of the rest of their discography, both sonically and lyrically. While several prior Hillsong songs had been critiqued for repetitive lyrics that over-emphasized thanking God for personal salvation, Wonder pleasantly surprised many by offering more complex assessments of faith and theology and a more specific call to action to love other people as much as God does, all wrapped in a more pop-leaning sound that still kept alive their reputation for memorable hooks.
  • Younger and Hipper: Young & Free's whole raison d'être. This was originally UNITED's purpose, but their runaway success led the church to let them age with their audience and to create Young & Free, which rotates out members as they age out of their intended demographic.