A Million Lights
Prime Cuts: Hey Love, A Million Lights, Your Love
Overall Grade: 2.5/5
Prime Cuts: Here I Bow, King of My Heart, Light to You
Overall Grade: 3/5
Michael W. Smith has been known to craft songs without any expiration dates. After more than three decades, his song "Friends" is still the soundtrack of countless graduations, farewell parties, and funerals. Even though there have been more recent love songs, Smith's "I Will Be Here for You" is still an ever popular song for couples to dance to at their wedding receptions. Even to this day, the proportion of worship teams playing to Smith's rendition of "Above All" still overshadows the original versions by the song's co-writers Lenny LeBlanc and Paul Baloche. With such a sublime discography, the expectations are high when it comes to Smith's latest twin releases.
One must tip our hats off to Smith. While many of his peers are already retired golfing somewhere in Florida, this 60 year-old veteran is still churning up not one, but two records this year. The first "A Million Lights" is a studio record, while "Surrounded" is a live worship album.
Let's start with "A Million Lights." Showing no sign of retreating to just doing retro Christian music of yore, "A Million Lights" is a stunningly polished album with beats and production that can easily rival artists a third of his age. The title cut "A Million Lights" sounds fresh, crisp and contemporary. But why has the song failed to gain traction on CCM radio? It's the same problem that pervades throughout the record - the songs lack depth and memorability.
If these songs were crafted by an artist in his or her twenties, it's forgivable but for a veteran who has been blessing Christians, churches and radio for more than 30 years, the songs are bereft of wisdom. Case in point is "Forgive." Co-written by his fellow CCM artist Wes King, the song deals with forgiving a long time hurt. But the song doesn't detail the emotions associated with the pain and there's no denouncement of how the protagonist came to his resolution. The song is just flat and one dimensional.
"Surrounded" is a fraction better. This is because 6 out of 12 cuts are worship covers. Smith is stellar in his cover of Brian and Jenn Johnson's "Here I Bow," Elevation Worship's "Do It Again," Cory Asbury's "Reckless Love," and John Mark McMillan's "King of My Heart." But when it comes to the originals, the same problem persists. The songs are deprived of any depth. The title cut "Surround" is a horrid example of juvenile writing. The song only contains permutations of one line: "God, you fight our battles for us." "Washed Away" is redeeming simply because the bulk of the melody is fluorished upon the hymn "Nothing But the Blood of Jesus."
For someone who has 25 studio albums and 75 released singles under his belt, these two albums are not reflective of what Smith is capable of. The songs sound like they were a rush job. Smith might be better off in releasing one album packed with 10 carefully crafted time defying songs rather than releasing this copious mess.