It's that time of year again when WOW Hits rounds up the best worship and Christian contemporary music of the year. 2014's edition features music from Chris Tomlin, Matthew West and Amy Grant. Labels including Capitol, Provident and Word Entertainment are all represented over the 36 tracks.
The compilation features 13 number 1s from the US Christian and Gospel chart and 12 top 5 radio songs. The platinum selling series contains two discs, with the deluxe edition providing listeners with an extra 6 songs.
Stand out hits include Big Daddy Weave's Redeemed, Casting Crowns' Jesus, Friend Of Sinners and King & Country's The Proof Of Your Love. Chris Tomlin's Whom Shall I Fear (God Of Angel Armies), and Matthew West's Hello, My Name Is will already be familiar to most listeners.
The CD inlay has been helpfully arranged to show which album each song is taken from. It's a great reminder that 2013 has provided the Christian world with some phenomenal albums. It's a year that's seen the long awaited return of Amy Grant, yet another superb album from ex DC talk giant Toby Mac and the best Passion album yet – White Flag. Its also a year that's seen a disappointing re-launch of Audio Adrenaline, the quietest ever Kutless album and a rather tame Sanctus Real release.
Like any good compilation WOW Hits 2014 brings together the best songs from the best (and worst) albums of the year. Put simply: If there was a Christian release this year worth talking about, you'll find it represented here. There's new worship hit Your Grace Finds Me from Matt Redman, an infectious pop tune from Brandon Heath, Jesus In Disguise and an uplifting, upbeat and altogether addictive Needtobreathe track, Keep Your Eyes Open.
Critics tire of WOW's format. But love it or loathe it, this series remains exceptionally popular. The entire WOW series (Hits, Worship, Gospel, and specialty releases) have so far raked in 28 million in sales. WOW is without doubt modelled on the secular NOW that's what I call music series and the latter is sitting pretty with 100 million album sales worldwide.
The NOW/WOW format is successful, and rightly so. Both series do a good job of bringing together the very best tunes from the past 12 months. Will the dual disc format continue to survive in the digital era? The jury is still out on that question.
One much warranted criticism of this series is that it delights in sameness. Make no mistake, the songs on WOW Hits 2014 may be popular, but they aren't necessarily the best tracks of the past year. This reviewer would have liked to see songs by The Digital Age, Beautiful Eulogy and Phil Wickham included. But no compilation limited to 2 discs can include everyone's favourites. All in all, this is a good summary of popular Christian music that's been predominantly made and played in the US.
Addicts of the WOW series will also be able to pick up a new edition of WOW Christmas this month, which features 30 songs, including 11 all new recordings. Fast forward 12 months and the chances are WOW Hits 2015 will be upon us. In fact if I were a betting man, I'd put money on it. This series is as regular as the seasons!