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Change Your World

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2005 1 Nov
Change Your World
Sounds like … worshipful pop reminiscent of her work with Hillsong Australia and the music of Twila Paris, Margaret Becker, Celine Dion, or earlier Rebecca St. James and Natalie Grant.At a glance … Change Your World is much like Zschech's first solo effort—a fine pop release that's slightly different from her worship music with Hillsong, yet not quite different or varied enough.Track Listing You Are Here Miracle Captured Call Upon His Name You Know My Name Never Give Up Change Your World Where Would I Be Glorify Your Name Sing Over Me You Are Holy Agnus Dei

Her name has become synonymous with worship over the last decade, due to her leadership at Hillsong Church in Australia and standards like "Shout to the Lord" and "Worthy Is the Lamb." World-famous, yes, but Darlene Zschech would argue that she's no superstar. She certainly has the makings of one as a gifted songwriter, vocalist, and performer, though aside from some work singing commercial jingles, Zschech has always focused her time and talents in praise of God and his goodness.

Which is why her first solo album, 2003's Kiss of Heaven, carried such potential. Self-described as her "little hobby," it was an opportunity to offer a departure from contemporary worship—a new aspect to Zschech as an artist, indulging the pop diva side that never pursued a major recording career. Yet despite the pop production, a couple romantic ballads, and a cover of U2's inspirational rocker "Walk On," the majority of Kiss of Heaven sounded very much like a worship artist's album. Certainly not a bad thing, especially to the devoted fans of Zschech/Hillsong, but still a missed opportunity for the famed worship leader to try something radically different.

The same is true for Change Your World, proving again that you can take the worship leader out of the church, but you can't necessarily take the worship out of this worship leader. Zschech believes that the songs are more "testimonial" and "horizontal" in tone, but that doesn't necessarily make them less worshipful. Perhaps a better way to say it is that these songs are slightly less corporate, not intended for group singing in church. In that sense, the album may not be the usual Hillsong recording, but other artists have released albums like this under the worship banner.

A great example is the first radio single, "Miracle," an upbeat programmed pop song reminiscent of Avalon with a slick world music hook. It's about using our lives as an offering to make a difference for Christ's kingdom, yet while it's more horizontal in scope, it's no less worshipful than similarly themed hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers." By the same token, it's possible that "You Know My Name" was written to be more personal, but it's no more so than some of the Psalms or a worship song written by Rebecca St. James.

There's no question that worship plays a significant part in Zschech's life, so we can accept that "My Yesterdays," "Glorify Your Name," and "Captured" sound like typical Hillsong ballads. There's also an interesting cover of Michael W. Smith's "Agnus Dei," the only song on the album that she didn't have a hand in writing. By far, the album's strongest track is "Call Upon His Name," a catchy and beautifully written modern day hymn similar in tone to Twila Paris, and easily one of the best worship songs Zschech has ever written.

Really, only two of the twelve tracks fall outside the worship music category. "Never Give Up" provides simple words of encouragement to a funky programmed pop track reminiscent of early albums from Rachael Lampa or Cindy Morgan, and thus not particularly distinctive. The title track is a dramatic pop ballad inspired by mission trips and the shocking Rwandan genocide of 1994, offering hope to the hurting. The album would have benefited from some more songs like this, applying Zschech's faith to the world around her. However, the song's production is surprisingly dated, more like what you'd expect from late '80s Margaret Becker.

That very production is both a strength and weakness here. Aided again by longtime friend and collaborator David Holmes, Change Your World has a good sound—slick, but not overly glossy and not like the typical Nashville AC pop production. Complimenting that is Zschech's voice, pleasantly softer in the studio and a nice change of pace from belting out songs at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. That said, Change Your World gets a little too monotonous two-thirds of the way through, upon realization that the songs aren't varying much musically or lyrically. It's one of those albums where the songs work fine individually, but become boring collectively.

Still good for what it is, this falls somewhere between Hillsong's straightforward corporate worship style and the earlier inspirational pop stylings of Twila Paris, Rebecca St. James, and Margaret Becker. How much more interesting it would be if Zschech stepped further outside her comfort zone to offer songs with more musical variation about faith in everyday life. Perhaps one day, we can look forward to day Zschech changing her world artistically.

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