Prime Cuts: The Pain You Let Me Feel, So Help Me God, Not Even Once
Overall Grade: 2/5
With legal cases mounting against the church, key leaders being fired or resigned for extra-marital affairs, alcohol and drug addictions, and rape, revenue dropping by almost 20%, and the church band being pulled out from a major world tour, it's safe to say Hillsong Church is in dire straits. Before the mother ship finally sinks, many leaders are securing solo recording deals for themselves. Brooke Ligertwood released her solo worship record earlier this year, now it's Benjamin Hastings' turn. A few months later, Hannah Hobbs will follow suit. It will be interesting to see who among this cohort would be able to carve a solo career in longevity.
For fans of Hillsong, Benjamin Hastings is by no means a novice. He is the voice and co-writer behind UNITED's mega-hit "So Will I (100 Billion X)." Outside of the Australian-based mega church, Hastings has had written for Brandon Lake ("Gratitude") and Cory Asbury ("The Father's House"). Naturally, Hastings has had a hand in co-writing each of these 25 tracks here with an impressive team of scribes including Joel Houston, Aodhan King, Blessing Offor, David Leonard, Hank Bentley, Jeremy Lutito, and Josh Grimmett.
In the song "Message to My Wife," Hastings confesses that this album (of 25 tracks) is "indulgingly long." This is most telling: if you can't even convince yourself that this album is so compelling that even at 25 tracks it is a must-hear, how can you convince your listeners? Frankly, the album is all over the map. There are songs that feel more like "musical memes" ("Jesus What You Think" and "Who's Eden?") , Americana-leaning self-narratives ("Message to My Wife" and "Giveth") and some jazzy interludes ("Hold On to Your Hats"). These songs do show potential, but they feel like demos ready to be worked on rather than ready to be released products.
As for the more developed songs, none of them registers. Don't expect classics such as "O Praise the Name" or "So Will I (100 Billion X)," the songs here are nebulous melodically and most of them sound similar to each other. Hastings also has a tendency to murmur making it hard to decipher what he is singing, especially in the moving "A Father's Blessing." Granted that he tries to be honest with his own struggles ("Cathedrals of the Nelder Grove" and "So Help Me God"), Hastings is often let down by the sloppy melodic constructions. 25 songs, as Hastings himself admits, is too indulgent. It would have been so much better if he limits the album to 10 cuts and cut off the dross.