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Albums of 2023 - Gospel Edition

In the ever-evolving landscape of music, the Christian music scene continues to be a source of inspiration, comfort, and spiritual growth for believers around the world. This year this scene expanded. While defining what 'Christian music' is has proven to be challenging, establishing certain categorical boundaries is helpful. For us, these boundaries revolve around the intention to worship: Is the music birthed from a sincere desire to exalt Christ and a genuine, unreserved love for God's Word? Does it serve a devotional purpose? Does the music make the listener fall deeper in love with Jesus? Is there an appreciation for His sacrificial love on the cross, and an understanding of its impact on our lives? If the answer is 'yes', then we can rightfully categorize it as Christian music.

As we step into the year 2023, let's take a moment to reflect on some Christian albums that left a mark on our hearts in the year 2023.

5-times GRAMMY Award-winner, Minister Brandon Lake, released his a 16-track album, "Coat of Many Colors," and of course it made the list. Known for his remarkable voice and profound lyrics, Lake explores themes of faith, dreams, and God's transformative power in this project. The album includes previously released tracks like "Praise You Anywhere" and "Tear Off the Roof," featuring scenes from the TV show The Chosen. Lake's explanation of the album's title reflects a message of being wrapped in the Father's love, drawing parallels to the story of Joseph from a pit to a palace. Designed by Greg Lauren, the album cover itself is a representation of Lake's own coat of colors. Recognized as ASCAP's Songwriter of the Year and having toured with Lauren Daigle, Lake's "Coat of Many Colors" stands out for its diverse worship styles and powerful storytelling, making it a must-listen and deserving of its place among the top albums of 2023.

Grammy-winning Gospel artist Jonathan McReynolds unveiled his impactful album "My Truth" on February 17, 2023, featuring twelve compelling songs. Jonathan shared the profound meaning behind the album, emphasizing that "My Truth" reflects one's identity as a child and son of God, rooted in divine love and approval rather than worldly achievements. This insight not only shapes the album but underscores the importance of prioritizing faith and love over materialistic pursuits like money or social recognition. Jonathan advocates for staying true to oneself and remaining on the righteous path, resisting deviations as he navigates his evolving career. He emphasizes the need to return to the basics and avoid being pulled away from God by external pressures. Since his debut album, "Life Music," Jonathan has maintained authenticity, rejecting the pressure to conform to stereotypes and advocating for artists to embrace their values. He envisions a space where the Black church community encourages creative autonomy, fostering expression that is both relatable and inspirational to listeners. "My Truth" emerges as a top album of 2023 for its powerful messages, authenticity, and Jonathan McReynolds' unwavering commitment to staying true to his values and identity.

Phil Wickham's highly anticipated ninth studio album, "I Believe," presents a collection of fourteen awe-inspiring Spirit-inspired songs. Phil Wickham expressed that this album represents not just a year of work but feels like a lifetime of knowing Jesus. With songs like "Lift Up," "I Believe," "This is Our God," and "I Choose the Jesus Way," Wickham draws listeners closer to the divine, emphasizing themes of faith, worship, and the unwavering belief in Jesus as our rock and shield. The profound spiritual depth and thematic resonance of "I Believe" contribute to its recognition as a top album of 2023, offering a musical journey that inspires and uplifts the soul.

In the realm of contemporary Christian music, CAIN emerges as a trio of sibling artists with some of the freshest voices on the charts. Their live album "Honest Offering," solidifies their position as top artists in 2023. While comprising only six songs, each track is infused with the musical richness and distinct aesthetic that characterizes this family band. Standout moments include the infectious energy of "Praise Opens Prison Doors," where CAIN's unique sound, blending Fleetwood Mac and Cory Asbury influences, creates an engrossing praise that suggests singing all day long. Collaborating with Mitch Wong, "Shine On Us" exudes joy and marching sounds, conveying the belief in God's goodness radiating into our lives. The title track, "Honest Offering / I Surrender All," introduces a new worship sound for CAIN, incorporating elements of gospel, modern worship, and country. The trio declares that God values every aspect of a genuine offering, emphasizing the transformative power of God's love. This album showcases a different facet of CAIN.

Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, VICTORY showcases her distinct vocals in this 18-track collection that seamlessly blends gospel, blues, folk, pop, and soul musical styles. Produced by Kaleb Moten, the album represents VICTORY's bold venture into gospel music, featuring singles like "Just Like In Heaven" and "El Shaddai." Recorded at her studio, The Secret Place, "Glory Hour" is a deeply felt and earnest assortment of songs, with VICTORY playing multiple instruments and incorporating classic hymns like "His Eye is On The Sparrow." The album is a testament to VICTORY's five-year journey, reflecting her resilience and the grace of God through every test and trial. "Glory Hour" earns its place as a top album of 2023, offering a powerful message of hope and inspiration to listeners.

Five-time GRAMMY Award-winning music collective Maverick City Music, along with Chandler Moore and Naomi Raine, dropped their latest album, 'The Maverick Way Complete,' via Insignia & TRIBL Records. The 22-track project includes songs from the previously released 'The Maverick Way' EP, which soared to number one on Billboard's Top Gospel Album. Collaborations with artists like Tasha Cobbs Leonard, Noah Schnacky, Bobbi Storm, Travis Greene, Cody Carnes, and Wande add diverse and dynamic elements to the album. Notable singles like "Good News" featuring Todd Galberth and the rapidly growing "In the Room" featuring Tasha Cobbs Leonard showcase the emotionally charged records and passionate performances for which the group is known. Merging gospel, R&B, pop, and contemporary worship, 'The Maverick Way Complete' offers an exceptional worship experience, resonating with listeners seeking a transformative and complete connection. The album's tour, featuring performances from Maverick City Music and other talented artists, further solidified its status as a must-listen, and with the group describing it as their best yet, it stands out as a top album of the year.

The 16-track record showcases Blessing's authenticity, storytelling skill, and virtuoso musicianship and builds on the themes introduced in his prior EP, "Brighter Days." The album serves as a genuine reflection of Blessing's unique life journey, spanning from his Nigerian roots to his exploration of Music City and beyond. "My Tribe" effortlessly weaves together soul, pop, R&B, and African music, infusing Blessing's cultural heritage with a distinctive touch. The album, marked by expert musicianship and stellar vocal performances, reflects Blessing's deep love for his roots. Tracks like "My Tribe" and "Your Love" demonstrate Blessing's dynamic range, offering both percussive, danceable moments and heartfelt expressions. The two-part track "What A World (Akwa Uwa)" provides a direct link to Blessing's homeland, offering listeners a glimpse into the Igbo philosophy that continues to shape his worldview. In summary, "My Tribe" earns its status as a top album of 2023 by delivering a rich tapestry of musical diversity, authentic storytelling, and a celebration of cultural heritage.

Jesus Changed My Life - Katy Nichole

"Jesus Changed My Life" marks Katy Nichole's highly anticipated and full-length debut in the music scene. This 11-track musical journey showcases the raw honesty and vocal clarity that have propelled the 22-year-old artist to become one of Christian music's most rapidly rising stars. Included in this album are standout tracks such as the title anthem, "Jesus Changed My Life," as well as chart-toppers like "In Jesus Name (God of Possible)" and "God Is In This Story." Her debut single, "In Jesus Name (God Of Possible)," serves as the opening track and holds a special significance. Inspired by words drawn from Katy Nichole's prayer journal during the global health crisis, this song has transcended its origins to become an anthem for many around the world.

What makes "Jesus Changed My Life" a top album of 2023 is not only its musical prowess but also the artist's ability to infuse her personal experiences and unwavering faith into every note. Katy Nichole's debut resonates with listeners, offering a captivating blend of sincerity and musical excellence, making it a must-listen for those seeking an authentic and uplifting musical experience in the year ahead.

This year, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Lauren Daigle unveiled her highly anticipated self-titled album, "Lauren Daigle," featuring a comprehensive 23 tracks via Atlantic Records/Centricity Music. Produced by Grammy-winning producer Mike Elizondo and featuring collaborations with award-winning songwriters and artists like Jon Batiste, Natalie Hemby, and Gary Clark Jr., the album showcases Daigle's powerful voice, compelling storytelling, and remarkable musicality. The diverse offering spans various genres, blending gospel, pop, and contemporary worship. Embarking on "The Kaleidoscope Tour," Daigle demonstrated her commitment to inclusivity by partnering with KultureCity to create sensory rooms at tour venues, offering a secure and quieter environment for individuals with sensory needs. The album's success is underscored by its single, "Thank God I Do," which topped all six Christian song charts simultaneously. With a track record of over a billion streams and chart-topping achievements, Lauren Daigle continues to solidify her position as a vocal powerhouse with a global fanbase. Beyond her musical success, Daigle remains dedicated to philanthropy, contributing over $2.5 million to 42 nonprofits worldwide through The Price Fund, further elevating her impact and making "Lauren Daigle" a top album of 2023.

Jon Guerra's album, "Ordinary Ways," stands out as a top album of 2023, providing a profound window into the artist's relationship with God. The album delves into themes of faith, doubt, yearning, and suffering, embodying a universe that spans the inner space of one's heart and reaches outward toward God. Guerra's lyrics navigate the complexities of a mature and enduring relationship between humanity and God, capturing the essence of an earnest, reverent, and vulnerable love. The album reflects a marriage-like bond that has weathered trials and evolved into something more beautiful and durable. Guerra's songwriting is marked by intimate familiarity, covering the spectrum of emotions and experiences found in any authentic relationship. The album invites listeners to pray honestly, releasing their hearts to engage in a dialogue full of doubt, frustration, wonder, and soaring faith. Like a parent singing love into a child's heart, Guerra's album encourages listeners to embrace a miraculously ordinary faith and sing their souls more deeply into the immense wonder of God.

Manna, Pt.1 - Chris Renzema

Chris Renzema is quietly establishing himself as one of the most exceptional songwriters of our time, with his latest release, "Manna Pt. 1," contributing to his impressive body of work. "Manna Pt. 1" consists of seven tracks that blur the lines between album and EP, featuring primarily acoustic arrangements with occasional electric-led moments. Standout track "Faith?!" combines a wailing organ, piano, and muscular electric guitar groove, delivering some of the most compelling and refreshingly honest lyrics of the year. Other highlights, including "Hereditary," featuring Jess Ray, and tracks like "God & Prozac" and "Manna (After All These Years)," showcase Renzema's ability to explore deep themes with profound introspection. This album is a testament to Renzema's hopeful trust in God's goodness amid life's uncertainties, making it a top-notch release deserving of attention and commendation.

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