Prime Cuts: Fade Away, Lift Jesus Up, Follow You Anywhere
Overall Grade: 3/5
Congruous with the thousands of teenagers and young adults that congregate each year at Passion City Church's yearly conference, "Follow You Anywhere" is dynamic, loud, anthemic and youthful. As with their copious annual albums, which perennially drop during the week of the conference, this 2019 set doesn't deviate much from the templates set by its predecessors. Here you find the same lineup of worship leaders such as Kristian Stanfill, Melodie Malone, Brett Younker, Crowder, and Sean Curran taking the leads on the microphones. And you get the same scribal stalwarts such as Hillsong's Scott and Brooke Ligertwood, Jason Ingram and Phil Wickham returning to the writing sessions. Yet, one ingredient is missing from this year's set, it is inspiration. The melodies launches out with volume, but they sound tired. The lyrics are (mainly) orthodox yet they sound recycled and trite.
Before we get to expound on this album's major criticism, let's talk about what works first. "Welcome the Healer" and "Lift Jesus Up" are great openers for worship sets. They waste no notes in bringing the cynosure to various aspects of Jesus' life and ministry. Pumped with verve, Kristian Stanfill sings the title cut "Follow You Anywhere" with believability and conviction. In a milieu where arduous task of discipleship has often been bypassed, the title cut is worth repeated listenings. The team's sole female vocalist Melodie Malone (what happened to Christy Nockels?) handles two power ballads: "Fade Away" and "It's Finished." The latter, by the way, is co-written by Hillsongs' Brooke Ligertwood.
Crowder, as expected, tackles the more folkish entries, namely "Yet Will I Praise You" and "100 Miles." Crowder, incidentally, is the most creative writer in the team, often including musical inflections that are quite unique and fetching. But why he must scream through parts of the song is just behooving. This also brings us to the main problem of the record: the songs are disappointingly cliche. Sure, it's important to write about the Cross, but how original are these lines from "It is Finished"? It is done, it is finished/Christ has won, He is risen/Grace is here, love has triumphed over death Forever. And to have Brooke Ligertwood as the co-writer of this song is simply unforgivable.
Things don't get better with Stanfill's "Behold the Lamb:" The story of redemption written on His hands/Jesus you will reign forevermore, the victory is Yours/We sing Your praise/ Endless hallelujahs to Your holy name . Excuse me, but aren't these words made up of bringing together popular lines drawn from various worship songs? Moreover, worship songs need to be theologically pristine and true, rather than vague and erring. Sean Curran's "Bigger than I Thought" showcases a miff of such theological mist when the song pleads for more faith to come out of us. But is faith really a gift in response to the glory of Christ or it is latent in humans?
"Follow You Anywhere" sounds like a rush job in many ways. The team have garnered together some great themes to expound on, but they just lack the time and the muse to explore these topics backed with careful exegesis and creative expressions. The songs seemed to be treading on the same mill over and over again. They just need to break these templates, and write something that means something to their hearts first.