Best spiritual songs of 2023, according to you 

Author: Gabriel Wolthuis

“Christian” music often gets a bad rap for always having the same melodies, the same beats, and interchangeable lyrics full of cliches. This is a stereotype that can largely be attributed to Christian radio stations and the huge influence a small number of churches have on corporate worship music, but look just a little harder and you will find that this narrative is incomplete. One simple but often overlooked fact is that people are allowed to incorporate their faith and spirituality in art however they please regardless of the labels applied to their music. Sometimes it merits digging a little deeper into the lyrics of a song beyond whether or not it has specific buzzwords associated with contemporary music that is overtly religious or imagery not typically associated with spirituality. 

Furthermore, if you do want to listen to music that is more overt in its ties to Christian beliefs but want something different from the standard fare being peddled on airwaves, you are in luck. With just a little digging, you can find a lot of great music out there by small, independent artists who are working hard to make great art that doesn’t necessarily follow contemporary standards. Artists like Josh Garrels, John Mark McMillan, Sandra McCracken, The Gray Havens, Young Oceans, Citizens, and Jonathan Ogden have been releasing music without any major marketing, yet continue to make quality art while operating on a fraction of the budget that most bands and artists signed to a label are afforded. 

So, without further ado, here are a few Hope Students and staff who chimed in with their favorite ‘spiritual song’ of the year, along with a brief description of what makes the song click for them. 

Chris Renzema“Hereditary” 

Silas Peterson (‘24) 

“I love how this song accurately paints the wrestling we humans have with sin, in the corporate church, personal wandering, and everywhere in life. It explores the central but oft-overlooked Christian doctrine of original sin, and does so in a hopeful way, ending with ‘would you pull up the roots of my family tree/o Heavenly Father, would you adopt me.’” 

Image credit: Centricity Records

Chris Renzema – “Faith?!” 

Sawyer Winstead (‘25) 

“It was impactful as I worked as a camp counselor for high-schoolers with a schedule that was constantly in flux (a theme in the song). Also, the phrase ‘Faith is like a free-fall sometimes’ allowed me to conquer one of my big fears by going on a zipline, which was nuts!”

Victory – “One Thing” 

Aiden Halfmann (‘24) 

“This song was a breath of fresh air for the Christian music industry for me. I had never listened to worship music with a soul feeling about it, and it definitely drew me in right away. Victory’s vocals are great, and the lyrics make it easy to meditate on the Lord.”

Image credit: Roc Nation Records 

FLAME – “Old Man New Man” 

Brian Ntwali (‘25) 

“This is definitely my favorite song of the year. It’s a cool conversation between a rapper impersonating the sun and another rapper (Flame) responding in a way that clings to God’s promises. Very Lutheran, too.” 

Jon Van Deusen – “Oh Sweetest Name” 

Bruce Benedict (Chaplin of Worship and Arts) 

“Jon gives many of us some space to lament the kamikaze journey of many American Christians in the current political climate.” 

Image credit: Bandcamp

Kings Kaleidoscope – “Alright Kid” 

Andrew Silagi (‘24) 

“This is a good song about new beginnings, it’s ok to mess up in the process of finding out what you believe because you are secure in Christ. There’s a lot in the song about ‘tiptoeing’, and I like the idea of being able to tiptoe around and find beauty in humility because you know Christ.” 

Image credit: Kings Kaleidoscope

JUDAH.* – Be.loved

Kate Kalthoff (‘24) 

“It really challenges the idea that we create our own worth and dives into the ability that God has to love us and make us worth being loved just by who He is. My favorite lyrics are the bridge when he sings, “‘Open my stubborn gates and unlock the doors, I’ll let your love come in.’” 

*the lead singer of Judah & The Lion 

Image credit: LihomieCHANCHO Records 

Jon Bellion, Switchfoot – “Meant to Live (Jon Bellion Version)”

Kate Kalthoff (‘24) 

“An honorable mention since it’s a cover. An incredible remake of a song that was instrumental to my childhood. This song really challenges us to look at the goodness and meaning of a life in Christ. It reminds me to look beyond current situations and know that I am meant for more, meant for a second life with God.” 

Image credit: lowercase people records 

Morgan Wallen – “Don’t Think Jesus” 

Jack Hensley (‘24) 

“This song gives a really powerful call-to-Jesus moment, painting two sides of the phrase ‘I don’t think Jesus does it that way.’ In one half, he says that Jesus wouldn’t be found chasing fame, women, or money. On the other hand, Jesus doesn’t shame, blame, or make us pay for our mistakes when we come to Him. I really like how the song wraps up with a call to action for others to not throw the first stone at others since we all have reasons for why we shouldn’t receive Jesus’ love and mercy, but He still gives it anyway.” 

The Longest Johns – “Ashes”

Greg Lookerse (Assistant Professor of the Arts) 

“The Apostle Paul examined Athens and noticed an altar to an unknown god. From this altar he elicited a sermon. The Longest Johns – which is the best name imaginable for a group that sings mostly Irish drinking songs – have written a song that they thought was about the state of folk music today. But it is an altar to something they do not know. It is about all things that disintegrate into squabbles and infighting where all common unity is lost. It is a song about focusing on the light, the flame, the true fire. It is a song about worshiping God.”

Image credit: Bandcamp

Finally, here are a few songs that I wanted to give due credit to:

Praise Lubangu, IMRSQD – “Candlelight” 

This UK-born chillhop/R & B artist released her debut album this year, and in a tracklist full of great songs, this was the clear standout. This song begins with simple piano chords and great harmonies before a compelling beat switch and rap verse from IMRSQD kicks things into high gear. A wonderful song reverently praising the Lord’s incredible power, creativity and grace. 

Image credit: Youtube

Jon Guerra – “One Thing I Have Asked” 

An epic, intense, and cathartic finale to a vulnerable record. Guerra repeats a simple refrain throughout the song, and each time it builds as his beautiful voice and wonderful orchestral flourishes swell to a feverish crescendo, enveloping you in a wall of sound. 

Former Ruins – “False Infinities” 

With a rich baritone voice and compulsion to deliver excellence in his music, Levi Sikes (AKA Former Ruins) delivers a dense, captivating song about shallow spirituality, using humorous examples and self-critiques to show rather than tell. The attention to detail in this song is staggering, and the dark and brooding atmosphere will hook you in before the lyrics floor you. 

Image credit: Bandcamp

Antoine Bradford – “Carry Me” 

Sometimes the thing you need most is to cry for help. This song couldn’t be more straightforward lyrically, with Bradford calling out to the Lord in a soothing track featuring some of the best singing you will hear this year. 

Image credit: Musicbed

Cardiphonia Music (feat. Bruce Benedict) – “The Lord is King (Psalm 97)” 

An exciting and upbeat rendition of Psalm 97, Bruce Benedict gives anyone who likes indie-pop even a little bit new reasons to be excited to sing such timeless lyrics. This is a bop, and it came from someone who works at Hope College! 

Image credit: Bandcamp


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