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The Worship Project

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The Worship Project
Mercyme theworshipproject.jpg
Studio album by MercyMe
Released October 14, 1999[1]
Genre Alternative rock, pop, rock, worship
Label Independent
Producer MercyMe
MercyMe chronology
The Need
(1999)
The Worship Project
(1999)
Look
(2000)

The Worship Project is the fifth independent album by American Christian rock band MercyMe. Produced by the band and recorded by Jim Bryson (the band's keyboardist), the album was released on October 14, 1999. In contrast to the band's previous efforts, which were influenced by grunge music, The Worship Project is a worship album. MercyMe wrote songs for the album using a basic verse–chorus style so as to be easy to learn and sing along to and to easily fit on a PowerPoint screen. The album incorporates alternative, rock, and pop musical styles, as well as "rootsy" elements like organs and violins.

Like most independent albums, The Worship Project did not appear on any record charts after its release and received little attention from music critics, with the exception of a review in the UK Christian music magazine Cross Rhythms. However, the album was much more successful than the band's previous efforts, selling over 60,000 copies within a year. The band would release one more independent album before signing with INO Records and releasing their first major studio album, Almost There (2001). Several songs from The Worship Project were included on the album, including "I Can Only Imagine", which became the band's breakthrough single and the first Christian song to receive a double platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Background and composition[edit]

MercyMe formed in 1994 by vocalist Bart Millard, guitarist Mike Scheuchzer, and keyboardist Jim Bryson.[3] The band later brought on drummer Robby Shaffer and bassist Nathan Cochran.[4] Prior to the release of The Worship Project, MercyMe had independently released four Christian alternative rock albums, drawing influence from the grunge style popular at the time.[5] While playing live, however, the band realized that their original songs from these albums failed to connect with their audiences. In contrast, their covers of popular worship songs received a greater reception among live audience, leading the band to write and produce a whole album of original worship songs.[6]

The Worship Project was MercyMe's first attempt at producing corporate worship songs.[7] With the exception of "Beautiful", which was written solely by Cochran, the lyrics on the album were written by Millard, while the music was composed by the entire band.[4] The band utilized a simple verse–chorus format when writing songs the album, with the songs being designed to easily fit on a PowerPoint screen.[7][8] The only song on the album not to utilize this format, "I Can Only Imagine", was included at the last minute,[7] and only because it was important to Millard, who wrote the song reminiscing about his dad's death.[8] The album was recorded at The Pig Sty in Fort Worth, Texas. It was produced by the band, engineered and mixed by Bryson, and mastered by Eric Wolf at Wolf Mastering in Nashville.[4]

The Worship Project has been described as being a worship album,[7] drawing influences from rock,[7][9] pop, and alternative music.[9] Mike Rimmer of Cross Rhythms noted the album occasionally features "rootsy" elements as well as "Hammond–style organs" and "faint violins".[9] The album's opening song, "Here With Us", had been described as a rock song.[9] In the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music, Mark Allan Powell considered "Happy Little Love Song" as being a "Pearl Jam–type anthem fit for arenas".[2] Powell also described "Hearts Sing Louder" as being influenced by Smash Mouth, and felt "It's My Joy" had a "bluesy rhythm" with "70s organs"; the song also samples "Joyful, Joyful We Adore You".[2]

Release, reception, and impact[edit]

The Worship Project was released on October 14, 1999.[1] The band also issued The Worship Project Kit, which included the album as well a devotional and the words and chords to the songs.[10] The album was sold through the Internet as well as bookstore signings.[11] Copes of the album were produced by the band in their garage.[12] Like most independent albums, The Worship Project did not appear on any record charts and met with limited fanfare.[8] In the October 1, 2000 edition of Cross Rhythms, Mike Rimmer gave the album seven out of ten stars. Rimmer praised the album as being far superior to most major–label worship albums, but felt that "it all sounds curiously familiar without being distinctive... whilst this is a good effort, it falls short of being amazing".[9] Sales for The Worship Project far exceeded sales of the band's previous independent records – according to Millard, whereas their previous albums would be lucky to sell 1,000 copies in a year, The Worship Project sold over 60,000 copies within a year. Millard estimated the album's overall sales at 100,000[12] – other sources peg the album's sales as of 2006 at 60,000[13] or 65,000 copies.[11]

The difficulty of selling the album directly, in addition to having to book and manage for themselves, led the band to pursue a contract with a record label.[12] The band would release one more independent album, 2000's Look, before signing with INO Records and releasing their 2001 album Almost There.[14] Two songs from The Worship Project were re–recorded and included on Almost There – "I Can Only Imagine" and "Cannot Say Enough".[15] "I Can Only Imagine" was released as the album's second single and became the band's breakthrough hit, topping the US Christian radio charts and receiving a GMA Dove Award for "Song of the Year" before becoming a hit on US mainstream radio as well.[13] It became the first Christian song to be certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), signifying sales of over 2 million digital copies of the song.[16] Another song from The Worship Project, "Hearts Sing Louder", was included on the band's 2011 Family Christian Stores–exclusive album The Worship Sessions.[17]

Personnel[edit]

(Credits from the album liner notes)[4]

Track listing[edit]

(Credits and track list from the album liner notes)[4]

Track list
No. Title Lyrics Music Length
1. "Here For You" Millard MercyMe 3:54
2. "Happy Little Love Song" Millard MercyMe 4:41
3. "It's My Joy" Millard MercyMe 3:38
4. "Say Amen" Millard MercyMe 5:09
5. "I Can Only Imagine" Millard MercyMe 4:09
6. "Cannot Say Enough" Millard MercyMe 4:19
7. "Hearts Sing Louder" Millard MercyMe 4:19
8. "Psalm 104" Millard MercyMe 3:02
9. "Jesus Come Quickly" Millard MercyMe 4:07
10. "Beautiful" Cochran Cochran 10:19

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "WisdomWorks Resources". WisdomWorks. October 7, 1999. Archived from the original on October 7, 1999. Retrieved March 17, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c Powell, Mark Allan (June 1, 2002). Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music (1st ed.). Hendrickson Publisher. p. 587. ISBN 1565636791. 
  3. ^ Narrator (November 22, 2008). Faith & Fame: MercyMe (Television production). Gospel Music Channel. Event occurs at 7:35. By 1994, friends Bart Millard and Mike Scheuchzer made up their minds to pursue music wholeheartedly, and with the help of Jim Bryson, they packed their bags and moved to Oklahoma to form MercyMe. 
  4. ^ a b c d e The Worship Project (Media notes). MercyMe. Independent. 1999. 
  5. ^ Narrator (November 22, 2008). Faith & Fame: MercyMe (Television production). Gospel Music Channel. Event occurs at 10:27. The band was also able to record several independent albums during those years, which reflected their taste for the grunge music so popular in the mid–90s. But it was their skill in leading worship that kept them working, not their original offerings of alternative Christian rock. 
  6. ^ Millard (interviewee) (November 22, 2008). Faith & Fame: MercyMe (Television production). Gospel Music Channel. Event occurs at 11:01. We'd play our own songs we wrote that never got any kind of pulse, then we'd lead worship and it was great. And it was so funny because you lose track of what you're called to do, and it was right there to realize that when we lead worship, something happens... we started thinking, well, OK, maybe we should try writing worship songs. One verse, one chorus, it'll fit on PowerPoint screen, it'll be fine, real simple to learn. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Hambrick, Melissa (June 23, 2004). "Song Story: "Word of God Speak" by Mercy Me". Crosswalk.com. Retrieved March 29, 2016. 
  8. ^ a b c Jones, Kim (February 26, 2009). "MercyMe – Celebrating 10 Years Since "I Can Only Imagine"". About.com. Retrieved November 13, 2011. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Rimmer, Mike (October 1, 2000). "MercyMe – The Worship Project". Cross Rhythms. Retrieved November 13, 2011. 
  10. ^ "MercyMe Discography". MercyMe. November 27, 1999. Retrieved March 28, 2016. 
  11. ^ a b Di Nunzio, Miriam (February 20, 2004). "MercyMe finally getting their big–time due". Chicago Sun–Times  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). Retrieved March 18, 2016. 
  12. ^ a b c Bart Millard (August 29, 2006). "Interview with Bart, Pt. 3". Almost There (Platinum Edition) (CD). INO Records. 
  13. ^ a b Jenison, David (May 4, 2004). "A Severe Mercy" (PDF). CCM Magazine. 26 (11). Salem Publishing. p. 34. Retrieved March 26, 2016. 
  14. ^ "Meet MercyMe". ChristianBook.com. Archived from the original on April 9, 2016. Retrieved March 26, 2016. 
  15. ^ Bart Millard (August 29, 2006). "Song By Song". Almost There (CD). INO Records. Event occurs at 5:41. This is 'Cannot Say Enough', which is another song off of one of our previous records. I believe this one is on The Worship Project, which 'I Can Only Imagine' was also on. 
  16. ^ "April 16: MercyMe at The Bob". UDaily. University of Delaware. March 4, 2016. Retrieved March 29, 2016. 
  17. ^ McCollum, Alastair (March 9, 2013). "MercyMe – The Worship Sessions". Cross Rhythms. Retrieved March 26, 2016.