Prime Cuts: Word of God Speak, Flawless, Homesick
Overall Grade: 5/5
MercyMe made talking about heaven and the afterlife cool again. Within the milieu of Western society, no topic scatters a crowd quicker than talking about death. But in 2001, MercyMe burst onto the musical scene and top the charts with a party pooper. "I Can Only Image" is one of the most sober and most celebratory treatise of heaven on this side of the Millennium. The song was unequivocally embraced by almost every genre of music, from AC to rock to pop to Christian and even country, making it the group's signature song! Seventeen years and nine studio albums later, we get this their third "greatest hits" collection.
"I Can Only Imagine - The Very Best of MercyMe" is released to coincide with the movie, novel and tour of the same titular. This 13-song set retrospectively looks back at the band's career starting from their double platinum 2001 album "Almost There" until 2014's "Welcome to the New."
There are virtually no new songs except for a new recording of their signature hit "I Can Only Imagine." While the original was recorded not long after lead vocalist Bart Millard's father lost a battle with cancer, this new version has the benefit of hindsight. Thus, the newer version has more controlled wisdom and nuance that makes this gorgeous ballad even more worshipful. Moreover, the lusher use of orchestrated strings gives this newer rendition a whimsical feel that is endearing.
The rest of the tracks ought to be familiar with ardent fans. And for the casual ones, this is a great opportunity to have all their biggest hits on one disc. What sets MercyMe apart from their peers is their uncanny ability to spin a unique canopy across tried and true topics. Many songs deal with the issue of divine healing. But how many songs out there actually deal with how God can use our hurts and his healing to bring about holiness? In this regard, their #1 hit "The Hurt and the Healer" is sublime!
Then we get the ultimate pop anthem "Flawless." Many songs deal with the redemption of Christ, but what does the Cross do to us? "Flawless" offers a careful exposition without coming across as hearing a theological textbook read aloud. Talk about creativity - "Dear Younger Me" is a touch of genius as the boys offer Godly wisdom to their younger selves, something you would image C. S. Lewis doing. And way before worship songs became a saturated affair now in CCM, they offer some of the best entries with "Word of God Speak," "God With Us," and "Greater."
Though the single "I Can Only Imagine" exploded Mercyme onto the music scene, they are by no means a one-hit-wonder act. Neither are they narrowly confined by their song. Rather, over the years, they have become a formidable act not only in CCM but beyond through their carefully crafted songs. This collection is proof of this.