Various Artists

WOW Hits 2004

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Much like the Now That's What I Call Music! series, Wow Hits uses the far-reaching power of a multi-imprint major label (in this case, EMI Christian Music Group) to secure hits that span every genre of CCM. Over two discs and 30 songs (plus three bonus tracks), Wow Hits 2004 highlights everything from alternative and dance-pop to tasteful adult contemporary and straight-up worship music. While fans will already have most of the material here, the collection is rife with hit singles like Newsboys' "He Reigns" and ZOEgirl's "You Get Me," so it should be a fun look back at a year of witness. The set also illustrates the continued CCM trend toward placing Christian music's traditional positivism and preaching in a pop context conscious of current sounds. In other words, it's getting harder and harder to pick out Christian rock while scanning the left-of-dial radio stations on a road trip. FFH's "You Found Me" is an effervescent, AAA-style number that isn't far from the sculpted pop of a guy like Jason Mraz, while the arrangement for Jaci Velasquez' "You're My God" is truly inspired, featuring piano, programmed drums, an enormous chorus, and an even better bridge. Wow Hits 2004's second disc continues the modernization trend, kicking off with a live version of Third Day's "Nothing Compares" and moving through the punk-pop of Relient K, Stacie Orrico's ultramodern "Stuck" (which might mark the first use of the phrase "I ain't trippin'" in Christian music), and "Phenomenon," which features dc Talk's Toby McKeehan doing a Garth Brooks/Chris Gaines and getting his squeaky clean rap-rock on as Tobymac. Later, Out of Eden steals the show with the hard-edged neo-soul/gospel hybrid "Love, Peace & Happiness," but the pep rally dance-pop of Jump5's "Why Do I Do" is pretty hard to deny, too. Wow Hits 2004 will certainly be enjoyable for CCM fans. But its strongest moments have the capacity to be ambassadors to the secular music community.

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