Released: July 12, 2011
It’s not an exaggeration to say that 10,000 Reasons is Matt Redman’s best album to date. Despite how popularity polls would re-arrange the pecking order, Redman stands at the top of the heap among the well-known modern worship songwriters (Tomlin, Hughes, Fee, Hall, Maher, etc.). His two previous releases, We Shall Not Be Shaken (2010), and Beautiful News (2006), were decent albums, but they missed that extra “spark.” They did not yield songs of the same notoriety as “Better is One Day” (from The Friendship and the Fear in 1998) or “Blessed Be Your Name” (from Where Angels Fear to Tread in 2002). I do not know whether the great songs from 10,000 Reasons will receive the same widespread acceptance and usage, because a song’s rise to popularity usually happens for reasons other than quality. Compared to the last few albums, the production on 10,000 Reasons seems a bit more refined, and the songwriting has achieved a new depth, no doubt due to Matt Redman’s ever-deepening love of Scripture.
One of the chief questions I ask when reviewing a worship album is, “Does it move me?” Subjective as it sounds, it is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for a great worship record. 10,000 Reasons moves me. It stirs up, in Puritan terms, “the seat of my affections.” Several of these songs even bring me to tears when I think of the people of God singing them and imbibing these truths in the context of corporate worship. I would describe many of the songs on 10,000 Reasons in the same way Kevin Twit (founder of Indelible Grace) describes historic hymns: they are “theology on fire.”
10,000 Reasons is a live recording with a lot of post-recording polishing and additions. It is well-engineered and flows smoothly from top to bottom. There is a beautiful balance of slow-, medium-, and fast-tempo songs, but I would characterize 10,000 Reasons, as a whole, as an upbeat album. Textually, the album has a God-ward trajectory and is gospel-saturated; I only have a few nit-picky questions for some of the choices in phraseology.
In a typical modern worship album, there are one or two songs I may consider introducing to our church. I often stretch to name a third. 10,000 Reasons contains six songs I heartily recommend that every worship leader consider incorporating into their repertoire. Most of the reasons why I’ve chosen these songs are outlined in the “Theological Content” section of this review, below. In album order, the songs I recommend are: “Holy,” “10,000 Reasons,” “Never Once,” “Where Would We Be,” “Magnificent,” and “Endless Hallelujah.” If I had to pare it down, it would be the first three mentioned.
Overall, 10,000 Reasons is a well-oiled “arena worship” album—big guitars, ethereal keys, bombastic drums, and layered voices. There are a few out-of-the-ordinary moments, such as the mandolin strumming and doubling interlude melodies in “10,000 Reasons,” but this album is otherwise a clean pop-rock record, varied and creative enough that it doesn’t tire the ear.
There has always been a simplicity and accessibility to Redman’s melody-writing, and it only seems to be getting better over time. His music (with the necessary adjusting of keys downward) is singable and engaging. For instance, the verse melody in “Never Once” is straight and easy, building anticipation for the chorus whose syncopation in “You are faithful, God You are faithful” helps to highlight the pinnacle of the text’s contour. My favorite melody on the album is the refrain to “10,000 Reasons,” with its higher range peaking at the subtonic (the 7 of the major scale) on the third “O my soul,” richly painting the psalm-like yearning and crying out.
The whole idea behind the album’s title, as Redman shares, is that the greatness of God demands a great response—there are (even much more than) ten thousand reasons to worship Him. 10,000 Reasons is a vertically-oriented album.
“Holy” highlights this upward focus well. Here are the first verse and the chorus:
What heart could hold the weight of Your love
And know the heights of Your great worth
What eyes could look on Your glorious face
Shining like the sun
You are holy, holy, holy
God most high and God most worthy
You are holy, holy, holy
Jesus, You are; Jesus, You are
The opening line betrays Redman’s time in the woodshed of Scripture-study. “The weight of Your love” isn’t a concocted metaphor. “Weight” is a biblical word, from the Hebrew kavod, which means “glory, weightiness, heaviness.” It is not merely that God’s holiness is glorious. His love is, too. It is a heavy, rich, dense love. But God’s holiness is not without earthly consequence. Redman reminds us, quoting the eschatology of the Apostles’ Creed:
And You will come again in Glory
To judge the living and the dead
All eyes will look on Your glorious face
Shining like the sun
“Magnificent” is an equally lofty song, revealing God’s glory through juxtapositions of transcendence and immanence:
You show your majesty in every star that shines
And every time we breathe
Your glory God revealed from distant galaxies
To here beneath our skin
You are higher than we could ever imagine
And closer than our eyes could ever see
You are magnificent
You alone are holy
No one else as glorious as you
Jesus, You are worthy
Who can shine as brightly as You do
If, in the past, contemporary and modern worship were accused of a truncated, purely immanent, “me-and-Jesus” theology, we can now consider those criticisms heard and heeded. “Magnificent” shows the balance of passages like Psalm 95—a beautiful expression of theology in music.
However, it is the album’s title track which deserves the honor of best song on the album. “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” is the complete package. It is filled with great theology, overflowing heart, insightful parallelism, and even a nod to a well-known hymn. Echoing the opening lines of Psalm 103, the song’s chorus opens the anthem:
Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name
“10,000 Reasons” is an “all-seasons” song, encouraging worship in any and every circumstance. Verse 1 says:
The sun comes up
It’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass
And whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes
At the end of verses 2 and 3, the dance between theology and poetry takes place. Verse 2 (pay attention to the last line):
You’re rich in love and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find
And then verse 3:
And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore
The “ten thousand reasons” for being able to praise God is matched with “ten thousand years” of endless praise. This lyric is, furthermore, an allusion to the final verse to “Amazing Grace” (not in Newton’s original), which says, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years…,” etc. Also notice another theme that hasn’t been prevalent in modern worship: death. Several have noted that good worship prepares us for death. The first step in this preparation is acknowledgement of our mortality, from which Western culture tends to shy away. Thank God that this gap is being bridged.
The opening song, “We Are the Free,” is an exciting, driving anthem about freedom in God through the gospel. One question I have pertains to the chorus:
We are the free, the freedom generation
Singing of mercy
You are the One who set us all in motion
Yours is the glory…
The notion of “generations” is certainly biblical. God’s law speaks about generations in relation to sin and obedience (e.g. the second commandment in Exodus 20 and Deut. 5). Those who understand God’s covenantal dealings with humanity realize that God works his providence through generations. Nevertheless, as I hear the term “generation” being used in modern worship songs, it can tend toward the glorification of youth culture. Understandably, the Passion movement (of which Matt Redman is a part) is focused on older youth, college-age, and young adults as their primary field of ministry. But issues arise when that parachurch entity celebrates this emerging adult generation in their music (cf., e.g., Tomlin’s “Chosen Generation” on Hello Love) and then produces their music for the broader Church to use in their context. There is certainly room in worship to inspire various generations to be sold out for Christ, but I would caution much use or acknowledgement of it. The Church fights against enough division already. If I were to incorporate this song into worship, I’d be inclined to change the lyric from,
We are the free, the freedom generation
Singing of mercy
We are the free, Your chosen, holy nation
Singing of mercy
This would be in keeping with the poetry, but, using the language of 1 Peter 2, highlight the nature of the Church as a whole rather than one individual generational segment within it. I want to acknowledge that my mild criticism here may be far from Redman’s intent, but I also want to point out that this language keeps cropping up in the Passion-oriented repertoire and that one read on this language could tend to alienate a big segment of the church (i.e. the elderly, the middle-aged, and children).
Finally, the end of the chorus sings,
There’s a fire in our hearts and it burns for You
It’s never going to fade away
It is not that such statements are wrong. There is a place in biblical expression for more triumphal statements and vow-like proclamation. God desires commitment and allegiance. The problem arises, however, when we sing like this too much of the time. And as I’ve noted before, modern worship is full of these kinds of expressions: “I’m living for you,” or “I’m never going to stop loving you.” When we’re honest, our faith vacillates. We want unbroken allegiance to be said of us, but the truth is, it can’t be. We need someone else to live that life for us. There was only One of whom it can truly be said that an unfading fire for God burned in His heart—Jesus Christ. It’s is Christ’s triumph, not ours, which deserves regular expression and praise in our worship. If we too much highlight our own abilities or our own (fleeting) passions and desires, we will begin to question the authenticity of our faith and the sincerity of our belief. In worship, we must be filling ourselves up with the work of Christ.
However, these thoughts should not take away from what is one of the best modern worship albums to come out in the last five years. If we incorporated many of the songs from 10,000 Reasons, our “spiritual diet” in worship would be more nutritious and faith-growing. Thank God for the songs of Matt Redman.
thanks for the review, Zac. always helpful breakdown on strengths and context of the album.
Thanks for the review. I'll admit I have not found many of Redman's recent songs practical in my current context, but it seems like the new record puts an end to that. Redman has taken some flack about feminine orientation in many of his songs, as in, it may be hard for some men to sing about being in love with and wanting to be held by another man (Jesus). But the lyrics you quote seem to lean away from feminine orientation not by trying to be manly, but by focusing more Christ and his goodness. Here's hoping for some more enduring hymns like "Blessed Be Your Name" from this collection.
I heard your song recently…I liked it, but I'm confused about something. It says "Ten thousand years and then forever more." When I heard this, I immediately thought of Revelation 20 where it says that Jesus will reign one thousand years…and then forever more.
Where are you getting ten thousand years from? Is it from something else?
Jeff, just to be clear (not sure you're saying this, but), it's Matt Redman's song, not mine. I'm just reviewing the album. His reference is poetic. In fact, it's an hommage-like allusion to Newton's "Amazing Grace," as I noted. In its poetic context, I believe Redman is using "10,000" as a euphemism–a big number…like saying "for ever, and ever, and ever, and ever." It has nothing to do with the millennial reign of Christ in Rev 20. Hope that helps! Again, I'm just a third-hand interpreter. I can't claim to know what was in Redman's mind. I can only try to interpret his poetry, and I happen to think it's pretty wonderful.
Matt Redman is the worship leader for Athens Vineyard in GA. When I visit my parents, who are members there, I get a good dose of this. In fact every time I get into my car and turn on my Christian radio station, it plays, at some point, before I finish my drive. My daughter and I are truly getting a kick out of THAT…it's almost uncanny, were it not for the knowledge that the station is trying to "push" a lot of the new songs to reach the various audiences that tune in at all times of day/night. My only issue with this song in particular is the allusion to a strange accent applied to one single word, "pass" in the first stanza. It comes across as "POSS", and it drives me to distraction. I can't just flow with the song because of that speed bump (sic), then afterwards it's smooth sailing. I don't know Redman well enough to critique his choice to pronounce the word that way. In fact it just baffles me, because from personal observation of him in his element, you'd never think he was pretentious. I pray the dimensions of his worship songs will continue to increase and soar to heights non-describable.