- Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Every album has a starting point, a beginning spark. Sometimes it's set off by a series of events that form into a theme; sometimes the catalyst is a single conversation. For Matt Redman, the UK worship leader and songwriter, the elements that fueled what's arguably his most passionate set of new songs ever were two little words scribbled in his notebook.
The words have been Redman's constant reaction to all the "dark, disturbing, depressing news" that fills our TV screens on a daily basis, he says—because the gospel of Christ is about imparting news that's altogether different. Where there's darkness in the world, Jesus brings light; where there's depression, Jesus offers peace; where there's despair, Jesus offers hope. "It's truly 'beautiful news'—which is a phrase that I'd had in my songwriting notes for a little while," Redman reveals.
Knowing he may have latched onto the seeds of a memorable song—as well as an overall fresh way of singing about Jesus' message to both Christians and those who haven't yet embraced the faith—Redman knew that Beautiful News was the title of the whole record.
Indeed creativity—the prolific, highly energetic sort—is one of Redman's many strong suits. Emerging from the now legendary U.K. worship scene of the mid-1990s, Redman's songs have become a veritable worship resource over the last decade for countless churches all over the world. Songs such as "Blessed Be Your Name" (which garnered him a 2005 Gospel Music Association award for Worship Song of the Year), "The Heart of Worship," and "Better Is One Day" are beloved and have landed high atop the CCLI charts. Artists as diverse as Michael W. Smith, Kutless, and Rebecca St. James—to name but a few—have covered his songs. He's even penned several books on worship, which further expand Redman's ever-growing popularity in the vast community of committed worshipers and worship leaders.
Yet, on his fifth studio album, Matt Redman has managed to shift his creativity into a brand-new gear. The audible proof's all over the twelve tracks that make up Beautiful News. It's strident. It's about energy. Excitement. Mission. Movement. Full of music and poetic lyrics that leaves listeners with no choice but to act.
It mirrors, as it happens, Redman's mood while penning the album's endlessly epic, anthemic title track. On tour in the U.S. with fellow sixstepsrecords' lead worshippers Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio, Redman came offstage one night with the verse lyrics "swirling around my head and heart." So he grabbed a guitar, ran to the tour bus, and the song poured out right there and then. "Sometimes it seems to work like that—you have a theme for a song, and you spend a while just thinking about it and maybe doing a little Bible study. Then one time, often in a moment of praise, it all clicks together and a song flows out. I love those moments!"
Shout it out, let the people sing/Something so powerful should shake the whole wide world/Make it loud, make it louder still/Savior we're singing now to celebrate Your beautiful news…("Beautiful News")
But that's not the extent of the track's importance—it's also an historic moment for Redman. "I try increasingly to write worship songs with one eye on the unchurched person," he explains. "In 'Beautiful News' the bridge section says, There's a God who came down to save/and he calls your name," which is the first time I've written a lyric in the context of a worship song that speaks directly to people who don't know Jesus."
It's a potentially tricky dichotomy—a worship leader/songwriter penning a lyric so blatantly evangelistic. And while he's well aware of the parameters surrounding him ("Obviously worship songs are sung to God and for God," he says), Redman is seeing his reach extending to more than an audience of one these days—and yet that's all part of Redman's service of worship. "It's important at the time of writing to run everything through that 'unchurched-person filter,'" he maintains. "We have to ask, 'Are we conveying Jesus in a grand, gracious, and relevant way?'"
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