Music Review: A Million Lights by Michael W. Smith

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Updated May 16, 2018
Music Review: A Million Lights by Michael W. Smith
Michael W. Smith - A Million Lights

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In January 2017, with a non-stop tour and recording schedule, Michael hit a wall most creative people hit at some point in their careers. “I talked with my team at the beginning of the year and told them I’m not going to do another record unless I can write some stuff that really excites me,” he explains. “I was still grieving over my dad passing in November of 2015 and I thought it might be two or three years before I did any recording at all, if I ever actually did record at all.”

That anticipated break lasted for about two weeks ... all it took was the divisive national sentiment of 2017 and the mean-spirited banter on social media to once again ignite the creative fires. A Million Lights is Michael’s answer to what is happening in the world and his call to tell the world about the awe-inspiring Love of God for us.

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A Million Lights by Michael W. Smith
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Throughout his career Michael W. Smith has reinvented himself time and time again to keep up to date with the latest musical tastes and trends. Of course, Michael has also been known as a worship leader, and the week after this album came out he also released his latest live worship album, Surrounded. With the changes in style that Michael has gone through, it should come as no surprise that the latest sounds have made their way into his latest release "A Million Lights".

It has been a tough season for Michael W. Smith, after the death of his Father he was unsure if he would want to record anymore, or even have anything to say. Yet this album is pretty upbeat in it's outlook from the very start with the idea that God is in His creation as Michael muses on the reflection of the stars in his title track and lead single "A Million Lights". These are the things that despite the pain make Michael feel alive. There is a light and airy feel to this album as it takes in some very modern sounds. There are plenty of synth loops and electronic influences all the way through and you would be hard pushed to imagine that these sounds and songs are from the 60 year old Smith, with the music at times sounding more like something from Justin Bieber.

There are some themes that run through this album. One thing mentioned in the press releases was disgust at some of the things that appear in Social Media, the way that there are so many people who are trying to stir up arguments. So there are a number of songs here calling for getting back to basic human interaction such as "Conversation"which is about building bridges to listen to each other. This sentiment is also offered in the track "Revolution" which is about the fighting and noise around us which suffocates, reminding us that it's love that is needed to bring a new Kingdom. Another track exploring these themes is "Love Always Wins" which tells us that there is power in vulnerability and that ultimately it is love that will win out over all the hatred. It sounds like Michael is trying to reignite his "Love Crusade" from 1990!

Michael is a great one for writing and singing songs which have that ambiguous 'you' in them that could be taken to represent a romantic love interest or God. I think we can infer that often it's God that He's talking about in songs such as "Something In My Heart". This track reminds us that God is, or should be, the reason behind our actions, He's the spark of our creativity and the help to overcome fear if we have to venture into the unknown. It is this idea that forms the song "Footsteps", pushing into the unknown, but knowing that God has gone before us in the situation.

I think it is fair to say that this album is a bit of a risk, but then making music and releasing it into the public domain always is. If you are used to Michael's worship albums and are not aware of his other albums then this may be a shock to the system. If though, you like someone to reinvent their sound over time to stay relevant and fresh, then this album will probably appeal to you. Its quite light and airy, and there are a lot of electronic touches which don't take away from Michael's brilliant songwriting and performance. He knows how to make a song catchy and relevant. For me it has taken a fair while for some of these tracks to grow on me, I still don't think this is an album that I would put into regular rotation or on my playlist, but it has certainly lifted me up at times when I have felt a bit down. There are some misses on this album but there are definitely some strong hits too.

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