Hillsong is a popular Christian rock and worship group operating out of Australia's Hillsong Church, a Pentecostal ministry based in northwest Sydney. Since the early '90s, various groups like Hillsong Worship, Hillsong United, and Hillsong Young & Free have operated under the Hillsong brand, finding widespread global success with an abundance of recordings, many of which have sprung out of the church's annual events like the Hillsong Conference and Encounterfest. Once Hillsong recordings began topping the Australian pop charts in the mid-2000s, the church continued to expand with different locations and satellite groups around the world. By the 2010s, Hillsong had become a major presence in the U.S. with albums like Zion (2013) and Let There Be Light (2016) topping the Billboard Christian charts and performed and earning high placements on the pop charts as well.
Founded in August 1983 by New Zealand natives Brian and Bobbie Houston, Hillsong Church was first known as Hills Christian Life Centre. At its inception, the congregation comprised just 45 members, but grew to 900 within four years. As the church's music ministry evolved, the Houstons founded the Hillsong Conference in 1986, an annual event created to teach and nurture contemporary Christian musicians. A live CD released under the name Hillsong Live (later to be rebranded as Hillsong Worship) titled The Power of Your Love hit retail in 1992, featuring singers/songwriters Geoff Bullock and Darlene Zschech, both mainstays on the myriad Hillsong albums to follow. By the end of the decade, the Hillsong brand was so well-known that in 1999 the Houstons renamed the church Hillsong. Despite several controversies that caused the church to become a lightning rod for their strong political stances, the juggernaut surged forward and in 2004 the live Hillsong Worship release For All You've Done topped the mainstream Australian pop charts. A year later, more than 30,000 people attended July's Hillsong Conference. By early 2006, the Houstons counted more than 19,000 parishioners attending services each week.
While the Hillsong Worship series has become an annual staple, releasing music recorded at the yearly Hillsong Conferences, the church's other primary series, Hillsong United, began as the church's youth ministry band. Originally dubbed United Live, the group was first led by singers/songwriters Reuben Morgan and Marty Sampson. Their 1999 debut Everyday established their creative template: each album was recorded live at the annual October youth conference Encounterfest -- enabling contributions from a variety of church members, friends, and supporters, including the popular Christian folk chanteuse Brooke Fraser -- and released on CD and DVD early the following year. When Morgan left United Live in 2002 to mount a solo career, the Houstons' son Joel took his place, prompting the name change to Hillsong United. In the years to follow their popularity snowballed on both sides of the equator, with 2006's United We Stand emerging as the year's best-selling Christian LP at Canadian retail. All of the Above found similar success in 2007, as did 2009's a_CROSS//the_EARTH: Tear Down the Walls and the accompanying live album Faith + Hope + Love.
Heading into the 2010s, Hillsong's music continued to flourish as the church expanded to other satellite locations across the globe. The church's two major musical brands were intermingled on album covers, appearing simply as Hillsong. Other popular series flying under the Hillsong banner are Hillsong Chapel and Hillsong Young & Free. Consistently popular in Australia, Hillsong also achieved major popularity in the U.S., with albums like 2010's God Is Able, 2013's Zion, 2014's No Other Name, 2015's Open Heaven/River Wild, and 2016's Let There Be Light topping the Billboard Christian charts and usually reaching the upper echelons of the pop charts as well. In 2017, they delivered the six-track EP What a Beautiful Name, featuring the title-track single sung by Brooke Ligertwood, and the Christmas album Christmas: The Peace Project. The following year saw them release There Is More, which was followed by a second compilation, The Very Best of Hillsong, Vol. 2 in early 2019. The album featured material which spanned all of Hillsong's branches, including Young & Free and United. ~ Jason Ankeny & Timothy Monger