by Lindsay Williams
Platinum-selling group Hillsong UNITED has a lot to celebrate this month as they release a new album, EMPIRES (Hillsong Music/Capitol CMG) May 26, and a highly-anticipated film, Hillsong — Let Hope Rise (Relativity Studios) on September 30. Of the new record, lead worship leader Joel Houston explains, “EMPIRES is the story of two worlds. We wanted to create songs that first seek to listen, then speak the good news of Jesus and His grace into the dichotomy, tension and hopeful-collision of this broken and fragile world… Our desire has been to simply create the most honest project we could.”
As fans await the highly-anticipated release of EMPIRES, here are 10 things you might not know about Hillsong UNITED:
1. Releasing their first album in 1999, UNITED rose out of the youth ministry of Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia, and has toured six continents and more than 40 nations since 2006.
2. “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” became UNITED’s first No. 1 at radio, cracking the longest reign on Billboard’s airplay/sales/streaming-based Hot Christian Songs chart when it stayed at No. 1 for an astounding 45 weeks. The song has gone on to become an RIAA Platinum-selling single.
3. In 2010, secular singing work led Taya Smith—the voice behind mega-hit “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)”—to move to Sydney, where she became a part of Hillsong Church as a volunteer. She recorded “Oceans” in nearly one take. Taya is also the featured vocalist on UNITED’s latest single, “Touch The Sky,” which the group performed live on “The Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda” making their national television debut April 2, 2015. (Watch their performance here.)
4. UNITED first revealed the black and white striped cover art for EMPIRES 95,000 feet from space, presenting the artwork literally from the stratosphere on their website and social media channels.
5. UNITED was awarded five GMA Dove Awards in 2014, including Song of the Year, Contemporary Christian Performance of the Year, Worship Song of the Year and Pop Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year for “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail),” as well as the coveted Artist of the Year award.
6. 2013’s ZION is the group’s most successful and fastest-selling album to date, debuting at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 chart (their highest debut so far) and peaking at No. 1 on the overall iTunes chart in the U.S. and seven other countries.
7. UNITED was the first Christian act to ever sell out Los Angeles’ Staples Center and has sold out additional notable venues, including Seattle’s ShoWare Center, New York’s Radio City Music Hall, Chicago’s Sears Centre Arena, Denver’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl.
8. UNITED was included in 10 of Billboard’s 2014 year-end charts, topping five of them, including Top Christian Artists, Hot Christian Songs, Hot Christian Songs Artists, Christian Airplay Artists and Christian Digital Songs.
9. UNITED is part of Hillsong Church, one of the world’s fastest-growing ministries with a 100,000-plus strong congregation throughout campuses in Australia, London, New York City, Los Angeles, Paris, Stockholm, Moscow, Kiev, Barcelona, Germany, South Africa and Copenhagen.
10. The band’s brand-new documentary, Hillsong — Let Hope Rise, goes behind the scenes of the making of EMPIRES and chronicles the 30-year journey of Hillsong Church, from its humble beginnings in the suburbs of Sydney to its current, vibrant international ministry.
For more information, visit www.hillsongunited.com.
Lindsay Williams is a freelance writer and editor in Nashville, Tenn. She contributes to a variety of print publications and websites, including HomeLife, ParentLife, Nashville Lifestyles, and UPTV.com, among others. She also blogs about Christian music regularly at www.TheSoundOpinion.com.