Hillsong Young & Free emerged in 2013 after the breakout success of their debut album We Are Young & Free. More dance and techno oriented than that of their predecessors Hillsong United, and geared towards a teen audience, their fresh new sound resonated with churches as they modified the sound of praise and worship music. Releasing their follow up EP This Is Living in 2014, they return with the same revitalized and compelling tones that first captivated audiences.
Opening with the lead single “This Is Living” featuring the rapping of Billboard #1 artist Lecrae, the Young & Free team draw listeners in with a heavy synthesized tone. The male vocal is similar to Owl City’s Adam Young or AIRPORTS, and the simple and pure pop sound will attract teens instantly. In many ways, this track is the ultimate dance party. The electro beats give rise and fall to the tune, and Lecrae’s rapping interlude enforces a conviction in true, authentic living coming from a relationship with Christ.
Moriah Peters leads the vocals in “Energy,” and the synthesized tone continues, this time reminiscent of an 80’s dance tune. Singing, “More than a rush of adrenaline, you will sustain me to the end,” her vocals are sweet and pure to the ear, yet it is the heavy back beat that drives this tune. “Pursue” gives us a worship ballad that relies heavily on synth for dynamics. This is not necessarily a criticism, as it is a unique sound to the band and they consistently deliver it to a high and compelling standard. It will stand out to people familiar with the inspirational genre simply for the fact that it is new, yet in this, the Young & Free team show an awareness of their core audience and thus embrace this niche in an incredibly powerful way.
An acoustic version of “This Is Living” follows, and if I may be so bold, I have to say I prefer this to the original. Within this version of the lead single, we finally hear the full capacity of Moriah Peters’ incredible vocals, and there is an ethereal quality to this track that will captivate you. With the instrumentation driven by an acoustic guitar, the lyrics come to the forefront and resonate on an increasingly deeper level. While this version doesn’t boast the rapping of Lecrae, the simplicity and pure tones within it make it the stand out track on the EP.
Concluding with “Sinking Deep,” the intensity of the previous track is carried to this piano-based ballad. Fans of Jesus Culture will love the depth found in the vocals, and there is a warmth that emulates from the prayer to be drawn closer to God. Building with the assistance of a beautiful piano interlude and the addition of drums towards the end of the song, this final song shows a maturity in Young & Free which gives them room to explore and grow in the years to come.
With over two decades dominating the Christian music genre, Hillsong Church have found another niche that is completely theirs to own. Mixing top notch dance and techno sounds with praise and worship is relatively new, but there is no doubt Young & Free execute it better than most anyone else. Teens and young adults will love this new EP from Hillsong Young & Free, and the unique talent found within the band will no doubt give them more worship anthem and dance tracks in the future.