James Weaver reports on Grammy-winning FOR KING & COUNTRY's soaring success
When Cross Rhythms last spoke to For King & Country, it was at 2018's Big Church Day Out and their 'Burn The Ships' album was due to be released (on 5th October, to be exact). Considering that Luke and Joel Smallbone's previous album, 2014's 'Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong.', had been released four years previously and been certified Gold, it would have taken a brave man to predict that 'Burn The Ships' was going to be an even more successful release. But in fact, 'Burn The Ships' is now in the process of becoming the dynamic duo's most successful release so far and even in this new age of streaming, the reception from both fans and critics has been phenomenal. The project has been nominated for Top Christian Album at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards, with CCM magazine writing, "With its epic soundscapes and energetic, hopeful songwriting, it's a pop album you won't want to miss."
A song of hope and redemption, "God Only Knows", the second single to be lifted from the acclaimed 'Burn The Ships' and recently crowned 'Song Of The Year' at the K-LOVE Awards, might be mistakenly assumed to be a cover of The Beach Boy's smash hit, but the song demands to be celebrated on its own merits. A deeply evocative and emotional number, the track's mindful approach to the subject matter of suicide and the musicality akin to that of Imagine Dragons makes the song stand strong on its own two feet.
Joel Smallbone told Billboard about "God Only Knows". "The week we were coming up with the video concept both Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade had taken their lives. The song really circles around this idea of statistically we are lonelier than we've ever been, but yet we're more connected by social media than we've ever been. It's almost these faux relationships, these sort of fabricated relationships. In the 1980s in America, 20% of the people claimed to be lonely. In 2017 it's almost 50%. We've more than doubled, but yet in that time period the connectivity of humanity has exponentially heightened. Why is this happening? . . .we follow this pretty young lady [in the music video], through her doing normal things. She hangs out with friends. She goes to a coffee shop and she walks onto a bridge that night and throws herself off. Then it sort of reverses to a pinnacle moment where someone interacts with her. It's a physical interaction. It's not a Facebook message or an Instagram note. Someone ran after her, hugged her, found her and changed her. . ."
As undoubtedly strong as the song and its accompanying music video is, the duo have now breathed fresh life into their chart-topping single. Four remixes have surfaced throughout the year, with some notable personnel helping inject fresh approaches to the already sombre affair. Collaborating with R3HAB, Gattüso and Robin G demonstrated a new side to For King & Country's sound but, most impressively, their collaboration with the world-famous Timbaland (notable for working with pop superstars such as Rihanna, Madonna, OneRepublic and countless others) on the fourth and final remix shows that For King & Country are playing in the big leagues.
It's somewhat intriguing that the band indicate the importance of real-world interactions over digital interactions in both the song itself and its music video when their digital presence is what attracted Timbaland in the first place. 202 million radio impressions and over 25 million streams across all digital platforms are what ultimately attracted the iconic producer to conduct the remix. But, it is not just a famous producer at the helm that makes this particular remix so mouth-watering. The track is sprinkled with a fresh approach in the vocal department as Sydney Sierota of multi-platinum alt-pop trio Echosmith provides her vocal talents to the mix. "When this idea was brought up to me, I immediately said 'I'll sing on that tomorrow, I love the song that much!' 'God Only Knows' is such a special song, and I think we all constantly need the reminder that there's a God who knows and loves us. We aren't doing this alone. There's so much love and meaning in the lyrics, and I'm honoured that I get to be a part of it," shared Sierota in a statement
They may have started as sidemen to their accomplished sister (musician, actress and author Rebecca St James) but over the course of their now 12 year career together, Joel and Luke Smallbone are crafting an impressive name for themselves. "God Only Knows", and its subsequent remixes, is testament to that. With two Grammy Awards already under their collective belts and 'Burn The Ships' on course to becoming For King & Country's most successful release yet, the wind is very much in their sails.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.