Another Top Ten List: Top Ten Worship Artists

Contemporary praise has changed like crazy in the last decade. Simple G-chord progressions with easy-to-sing vocals have been updated with blazing guitar riffs and loud anthem chants. Every new praise song is in a higher key than it should be. There’s a lot less about Jesus’ work on the cross and more about our response to Him. Some of these changes have been great, some not so much. But overall I love the direction that praise is going: more physical, energetic, open to joy, and more in tune with our brokenness. The following is a list of worship artists that continue to shape the church with strong lyrics, great music, and no compromise.

Updated – 4/16/16
Also check out: Kristian Stanfill, Hillsong Young & Free, Jesus Culture, Rend Collective, Anthony Evans, Gungor, Bethel, Kari Jobe, United Pursuit

Phil Wickham

There are a lot of possible runner-ups – Leeland, Aaron Shust, Gateway Worship, even the Newsboys – but Phil Wickham stands out for one reason. His voice is ridiculous, like a heavenly siren ripping through the clouds. He would’ve been higher on the list except he’s a fairly new artist, and his last album was a bit of a directionless mess. I do look forward to his upcoming work and that crazy voice of his.

Best Upbeat Songs:
Desire, Heaven and Earth
Best Slow Songs:
Cannons, True Love, Always Forever
Best Album:

10. Desperation Band (New Life Worship)
Sort of like a Hillsong 2.0, Desperation Band is an incredible team of gifted musicians who just plain make fun music. New Life Church, based in Colorado, has also had their share of tragedies in recent years: from the public humiliation of former head pastor Ted Haggard to the parking lot shooting that left several dead, and then their downsizing due to budget cuts. Their album Everyone Overcome was almost a response to some of their hardships, and the twelve minute song “Overcome” is a soaring 3/4 ballad that will destroy your tear ducts. Frontman Jared Anderson has also released some solo albums and current senior pastor Ross Parsley continues to write some great songs for the church.

Best Upbeat Songs:
Endlessly, Promises, I Am Free, My Savior Lives
Best Slow Songs:
Overcome, Ready Now, Pleasing To You, I’m Coming Your Way
Best Album:
Everyone Overcome

9. Tree63
Just from listening to their albums, you’d mistake this South African trio for a ten-piece band. Led by Jon Ellis, they do a whole lot with an electric guitar, bass, drums, and the occasional keyboard. Though not all of their songs are strictly praise, their music is always God-centered and probably amped on Red Bull. It’s easy to tell their main influence is U2. They cover a lot of Matt Redman songs but their originals are just as good.

Best Upbeat Songs:
King, Joy, Treasure, Sunday, Look What You’ve Done
Best Slow Songs:
I Stand For You, All Because
Best Album:
The Answer To The Question

8. Starfield
Though they could be criticized as a teeny-bopper band complete with the just-woke-up look and the sugary voices, I don’t doubt the sincerity of their worship. With only one misstep in their discography – the depressing Beauty In The Broken – they’ve created a safe worship sound with some loud guitars and nice harmonies. Easy to sing, focused lyrics, and screaming riffs: they’re almost the perfect little praise team at your nearest mid-20s church.

Best Upbeat Songs:
Filled With Your Glory, Tumbling After
Best Slow Songs:
Reign In Us, Son of God, The Saving One
Best Album:
I Will Go

7. Lincoln Brewster
I absolutely love his testimony: having gone on tour with Journey and turned off by the secular music scene, he joined a church and served as the sound tech guy. He’d stay up for hours figuring out how to maximize the team’s sound. That’s some real humility for a guy who can do anything he wants on a guitar. He is without a doubt the greatest guitar player in the Christian music world, and probably one of the best all around. His voice might be an acquired taste (I personally like it) but wow, this guy can shred. From blues to gospel to rock to funk, he plays it all, and all for the Lord.

Best Upbeat Songs:
All To You, Love The Lord, Today Is The Day, Let The Praises Ring
Best Slow Songs:
God You Reign
Best Album:
Today Is The Day

6. Hillsong
Despite my numerous problems with Hillsong Church’s theology, their worship artists have probably been the most influential group of musicians to shape contemporary praise. They’ve also evolved with the times: listen to a song from their 2002 album Blessed and one of their more recent albums, and there has been a massive shift away from trumpets and gospel to what is now mostly rock and roll. It took me a while to come around to their new style but I can appreciate both. They make some great praise that will challenge the musicality of your praise team. Get ready to learn some riffs. And tell your drummer to start exercising.

Best Upbeat Songs:
Salvation Is Here, Now That You’re Near, One Way, The Time Has Come, My Redeemer Lives, Look To You, Everyday
Best Slow Songs:
Shout To The Lord, I Give You My Heart, Mighty To Save, Still, Til I See You, Savior King, The Stand, From The Inside Out, Came To My Rescue, To The Ends Of The Earth
Best Albums:
Blessed, Look To You, Mighty To Save

5. Brooke Fraser
Hold on: she never had any music lessons? She’s how old? She’s on Hillsong and also releases solo albums? I really think Brooke Fraser is sort of a brilliant, unearthly, Heaven-sent, musical genius. Everything she writes is like eight levels deep and her masterful solo albums are so layered that I feel dumb when I listen to them. Honestly, I think she’s too good for Hillsong. She has openly expressed her discontent with the contemporary praise scene and it’s obvious in her live performances that she’s more Spirit-centered than the rest of them; when she sees beach balls or cameras she gets furious. I also wish she would dump her husband and marry me.

Best Songs:
You’ll Come, Hosanna, His Glory Appears, Shadowfeet, The Desert Song, C.S. Lewis Song
Best Album:
Just get them all.

4. Chris Tomlin
These last four artists will be obvious. I think Chris Tomlin might have the prettiest voice of them but he tends to make some cookie-cutter music, which is often perfect for the church. I don’t always feel his “personality” through his music but it’s not really made for that: he writes corporate praise for a large room full of worshippers. Most of his songs use the plural first person; even his most recent album is titled this way. Having just married, maybe Chris Tomlin will make some more personal music. Until then, his back catalogue is right for the church: simple, straightforward, and sincere.

Best Upbeat Songs:
Not To Us, Our God, Awesome Is The Lord Most High, Sing Sing Sing, Be Glorified, Your Grace Is Enough (Cover)
Best Slow Songs:
How Great Is Our God, Holy Is The Lord, Famous One, Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone), Indescribable (Cover)
Best Album:
Not To Us

3. David Crowder Band
You’ll find at least two of the following onstage at a David Crowder concert: a 1980s keytar synthesizer, a Guitar Hero controller with playable buttons, open laptops with various musical software, bullhorns, and a robot that plays drums. These guys know how to put on a show; they’ve also written some amazing songs of worship. Their last album was an electronic effects experiment that somehow worked: it’s basically one long seventy-seven minute song. While I hesitate on some of their “look-at-me” antics, David Crowder Band has always been about joy and justice. The Remedy Tour, all about raising awareness of hurting people, ended with the sobering acoustic piece, “Surely We Can Change.” They have the strangest sense of humor and the most unique musical personalities (the drummer’s name is B-Whack). And yes, they put on one of the best concerts I have ever seen.

Best Upbeat Songs:
O Praise Him, Here Is Our King, Our Love Is Loud, No One Like You, Foreverandever, Everything Glorious, Undignified (Cover)
Best Slow Songs:
You Alone, Remedy, The Glory Of It All, Never Let Go, How He Loves (Cover)
Best Album:
A Collision

2. Paul Baloche
Knowing his many classic songs, Paul Baloche looked exactly the way I had pictured him when I met him: tall, gentle, rugged, well-spoken, and completely unpretentious. He is probably one of the greatest songwriters alive. At his seminar he explained his songwriting process: alone at church, speakers on and guitar in hand, singing out to God until a song came together. That’s crazy. We know every praise song comes from God, but Paul Baloche actually gets songs from God.

Best Upbeat Songs:
Open The Eyes Of My Heart, All The Earth Will Sing Your Praises, I Will Boast, Our God Saves, Because Of Your Love, Hosanna (Praise Is Rising)
Best Slow Songs:
Above All, Your Name, Greater Song, Offering, What Can I Do
Best Album:
Our God Saves

1. Matt Redman
I had always thought Matt Redman was just a mediocre singer with an average band. His songs don’t have much special about them musically; his voice is adequate but not at all unique. But there’s something inescapably anointed about his songs. When he led worship at the JAMA conference in 2006, he shared his testimony about how he was molested as a child; he wrote the song “I Offer Up My Life” in the same bed he was molested and then he played it right there. In an auditorium of over 3000 people, I was the only one who stood up and sang with him. That night God called me to be a pastor; I must have cried about ten pounds of my own body weight in tears. Later I managed to catch him outside the bathroom and I got a picture with him. Maybe putting him as my Top Worship Artist is a bit sentimental, but look no further than his repertoire and you’ll see he’s written the best worship songs of all time.

Best Upbeat Songs:
Blessed Be Your Name, Let Everything That Has Breath, Undignified, Dancing Generation, Sing Like The Saved
Best Slow Songs:
Heart Of Worship, Once Again, Let My Words Be Few, Better Is One Day, Nothing But The Blood, Facedown, I Will Offer Up My Life
Best Album:
Blessed Be Your Name

22 thoughts on “Another Top Ten List: Top Ten Worship Artists

  1. Hi – thank you for this thoughtful post. I enjoyed reading through it. However – I am quite surprised by some of the names. Although I agree they are all good artists. It seems that you are also Spirit centered and appreciate that type of worship. There area a few names I would put high up on the list.

    Have you heard of the worship leader Jeremy Riddle…amazing talent. What about Misty Edwards!?
    She is incredible. And then ofcourse Jason Upton.


    1. Thank you for reading through this and sorry for my late reply. I probably gave more of a primer list than anything. I know I missed some great Gospel singers like the Winans and Israel Houghton, and also left off much of the older CCM groups like Avalon, Michael W. Smith, and Steven Curtis Chapman.

      I think Jeremy Riddle is mostly good. Misty Edwards is great but in smaller doses; she is sometimes too powerful (lol). I’ll check out Jason Upton. Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Rend Collective are amazing – when my teenage daughter was diagnosed with cancer in 2013 one of her biggest worries was that she wouldn’t be able to attend the Rend Collective concert she had tickets for but thankfully she got there and had a fantastic time. In January 2014 her coffin was carried out of the church while a local band played the Rend song “My Lighthouse” and everyone sang along. Her high school have created “The Lighthouse Memorial Award” in her memory. That song and 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman are the two songs that hundreds of people associate with my daughter.


      1. I found Rend Collective completely by “chance,” just like most other bands. And thank you for sharing about your daughter. I’m very sorry about what happened. There are so many songs which I associated with similar memories. It may be late, but you and your family have my prayers today.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. since it’s been four years when you last compiled that list of artists, i guess you need to update it. i personally wouldn’t have put Brooke Fraser on there. Brooke is such a great song writer but her personnal albums arenot necessarily God-centered. Let’s just leave it at that


  3. This is hard to say, but your last comment about Brooke Fraser was out of place considering who we are – the Body of Christ.
    Brooke is very popular here in New Zealand even in secular circles, as her albums are not blatantly Christian. Sometimes I hear her songs (even her more spiritual ones) in supermarkets and other places, which is always refreshing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m really glad that you put Matt Redman in first place – his music reaches the parts that other songs don’t reach. My favourite songs are 10,000 Reasons, You Never Let Go, Never Once, and Abide With Me. I refer to his songs frequently in my blog posts and some of my friends and colleagues have become fans of Matt Redman through reading my blog:

    Throughout my teenage daughter’s nine months from diagnosis to death, she and I listened to worship music. For the two and a half weeks that she lay dying in ICU, praise and worship music filled the air. She couldn’t speak because she was on a ventilator but she played “One Thing Remains” by Jesus Culture on her iPad and indicated for me to read the words:

    “In death, In life, I’m confident and
    covered by the power of Your great love
    My debt is paid, there’s nothing that can
    separate my heart from Your great love…”

    As Leah drew her last breath the song that I heard playing from her Spotify playlist was “A Beautiful Life” by Mikeschair:

    A beautiful life is unfolding before my eyes
    Just like the sun will rise to fill the empty sky, so shine
    Oh, your beautiful, oh, your beautiful, oh, your beautiful life

    I want you to see that you’re the one I love
    And I will complete the work that I’ve begun
    Oh, could you believe that the best is yet to come?
    And I can’t wait for you to hold what I already know

    Oh, your beautiful, oh, your beautiful, oh, your beautiful life

    If you could see what I see, you were made to rise
    If you could see what I see, you were made to shine


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