Michael W. Smith has long been known as a bricklayer for the foundation of Christian music. After all, he is a multi-platinum artist and best-selling author as well as the founder for youth outreach center Rocketown-what can’t he do? But even someone as successful as Smith has the seldom run-in with writer’s block. At the end of 2016, he found himself searching for his voice. He found it just in time to release A Million Lights, a modern twist on his classic style. The goal of this album? To unite a broken audience.
He successfully finds the common ground in the title track “A Million Lights:” “For You, all the stars are singing / With You, every day I’m feeling alive.” The song is centered around a synth backbeat that is subtle but catchy. Smith recently released a video for the song, illuminated by blue lighting and featuring an outer-space world in which the singer explores the galaxy. He admits to being a big fan of Sci-Fi, so it’s no surprise that he drew inspiration from films like Star Wars and Lost In Space.
My favorite track on the album by far is “Conversation.” As Smith says, “In the age of social media, people have forgotten how to talk with one another, to be civil. If you put these same people in a room together, what was once an agenda becomes a conversation.” The album revisits this theme throughout, and the message stands out boldly in this song. It also focuses on Smith’s new synth-sound, which fits well on this track.
When Smith lost his father in November 2015, he explained to his team that he was not going to write another record unless he found something exciting to write about. His standstill only lasted two weeks or so. The world’s controversy awoke his creativity, and he seems to describe that in his song “Something In My Heart.” He begins the song portraying “endless dreams” and “hesitation,” but ends the verse with a line saying “If not for You I never move / You are the spark.”
Another thing you may notice is that Smith gives us a glimpse into his own personal struggles in certain songs, including “Crashing Waves” and “Your Love,” which describe a time where hope seemed far away. We’ve all had those times where all you can think about is the past or an unbearable tragedy. The great thing about these times is that hope is always near, as Smith sings in these songs–in “Crashing Waves,” he declares “I’ll never be the same, you rolled this stone away.” He stands his ground on triumphant tracks like “Footsteps” and “Love Always Wins,” songs that seem to say “I’m back and better than ever!” while also echoing truth we all need to hear. For anyone struggling right now, these are tracks to remind you where you come from!
You’ll notice that Smith also has a high-profile feature on this album: Jordin Sparks sings along in “Hey Love,” a song that is light but full of palpable joy. It describes the everlasting love Jesus has for us, especially powerful in the chorus with lines like “Hey love it’s me, I want you like I wanted you back then, I want you more today than I did then.” This song stands out, and how could it not with Sparks as a vocal guest?
The Bottom Line: In the end, we should all be grateful that Michael W. Smith found his voice again. A Million Lights is a testament to his ability to write through tough times, whether that be in his family or in the world. A Million Lights is the kind of album you want playing to remind yourself of God’s truths, and it’s an especially great album to loop in your car. If you can’t get enough of this album, more Michael W. Smith is headed your way on February 23rd in the form of a live worship album, Surrounded.
In the end, we should all be grateful that Michael W. Smith found his voice again. A Million Lights is a testament to his ability to write through tough times, whether that be in his family or in the world. A Million Lights is the kind of album you want playing to remind yourself of God's truths, and it's an especially great album to loop in your car. If you can't get enough of this album, more Michael W. Smith is headed your way on February 23rd in the form of a live worship album, Surrounded.