For King & Country’s fifth album, What Are We Waiting For?, explores a wide variety of themes over the course of its 13 songs. Chief among these messages is its emphasis on perseverance through trial and affliction. That’s definitely an appropriate focus, given this album’s release in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, economic trials and international conflict.
For King & Country is comprised of brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone. While the group is classified as Christian pop, some King & Country songs on past releases have found an audience among the secular crowd as well, and these tracks’ faith-based messages may be less apparent. The band’s popular 2018 track “Burn the Ships,” for instance, addresses overcoming an addiction to prescription medication.
Fans can expect a similar thematic experience on What Are We Waiting For? Some songs directly deal with religious themes, while others deal with redemptive topics such as family, unity and dealing with suffering.
“For God Is With Us” and “Benediction” invite a deep dive into Christian belief. The former walks through the work of Jesus Christ as He is born, crucified and resurrected. We hear the Good News that changes the world forever (“Can you feel the hope that’s rushing in/ … This is where love truly begins”). In “Benediction,” For King & Country reminds us that if God has done such great things, we could never be too big a problem for Him (“If You can hold the universe/Then You can hold me, too”).
Other references to Christian ideas are a bit more vague, such as standing strong through the pain and suffering we endure in the world (“Unity,” “Hold on Pain Ends,” “Shy” and “Cheering You On”). But in each case, For King & Country consistently reminds us that our suffering is temporary, and we will be loved even in the moments when we fail (“If you bend/If you break/You’ll be loved anyway”). This theme is expounded upon in “Love Me Like I Am,” in which the band explores God’s love for man in spite of his sin: “It’s amazing that you can/Love me like I am.”
Additionally, “Hold on Pain Ends” seems to echo aspects of Psalm 62. Here, though David struggles with suffering due to enemies, he is not shaken because he knows his salvation rests in the Mighty Rock, God (Psalm 62:6-7). This becomes more apparent in For King & Country’s song in certain areas of their song as well: “The ones that he trusted/Became enemies/His whole world was shaken/He dropped to his knees/… When it’s more than you can stand/You can hold on to me then”.
Humanity’s inherent wickedness is another prevalent theme here. And though we can often act righteous, For King & Country reminds us that we are all sinners and in need of a Savior. In “Broken Halos,” the Smallbone brothers warn against being so prideful that we become reliant on ourselves instead of the Lord: “For Heaven’s sake/We’re missing hope/Been saving face/And throwing stones/ … ’Cause don’t we all wear those broken halos”.
And in song such as “RELATE” and “Harmony,” we see similar calls to learn from one another by being slow to speak (“I don’t know what it’s like to be you/You don’t know what it’s like to be me/But by the grace of God/We’ll see each other’s heart”).
Finally, a couple tracks remind listeners of how family and friends can shape us and provide us a safe place. For instance, “Unsung Hero” tells the beautiful story of a mother who has spent her life loving her children as they grow up (“Words fall short/But I am sure/There’ll never be/Anyone like you”). This theme is also prominent in “Cheering You On,” which tells the story of an unidentified person who comes alongside you in life’s darkest moments: “And when you’re questioning the why of it/Rise up in the light of it/I’ll be by your side in it all/I’m cheering you on.”
As noted above, songs are more likely to allude to God than to directly reference Him. Ambiguous uses of “you” could be referring to Jesus or a really supportive girlfriend.
For King & Country’s What Are We Waiting For? provides a deep look into how we can deal with the reality of human suffering and fallibility—and its lyrics stay clean throughout. The songs on the album explore various means of coping with pain, whether that be through family and friends, unity and growth or trust in the faithfulness of God.
Though Christ isn’t always explicitly present in For King & Country’s songs, Christian themes are subtly alluded to and will be picked up on by the seasoned ear—though many of those references are subtle indeed. When the Smallbone brothers sing about not backing down “in the name of Love” in the song “Shy,” for instance, Christians will likely think about Jesus while non-Christians will likely think about love in a more general sense.
But perhaps mixing mildly ambiguous songs with intentionally Christian ones can provide a steppingstone to help people better understand the Christian faith that these brothers embrace.
Though he was born in Kansas, Kennedy Unthank betrayed his roots by leaving the wheat behind to study journalism at the University of Missouri. He knew he wanted to write for a living when he won a contest for “best fantasy story” while in the 4th grade. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that he was the only person to submit a story. Regardless, the seed was planted. Kennedy collects and plays board games in his free time, and he loves to talk about biblical apologetics and hermeneutics.