If you’re not a rabid follower of the current music scene, then the WOW music compilations are a great way to enjoy some of the best new tunes as well as collections of the best classic hits. The compilations are designed for the casual music fan who simply wants to put a CD in the player and let it run non-stop.

Let’s take a look at three recent releases to see how they stack up:

WOW Christmas 2014

The WOW Christmas CDs have been released every year since 1995, and one of the reasons they are so popular is that each year’s release reflects what is being played on Christian music stations across the U.S. But the selection process for which songs appear on this compilation has always been a bit clunky, with the songs being limited to those released by three major Christian labels (Capitol Christian Distribution, Provident Distribution and Word Label Group). So even in the best year, there are some obvious songs that aren’t on the release, as well as a few that probably don’t deserve to be included.

The 2014 two-disc set is a vast improvement over the 2013 collection. There are certainly a lot of songs you’ve heard on the radio and the overall collection is upbeat and filled with the Christmas spirit. If there’s a flaw, it’s that some of the tunes date back to 2012 and even 2011, making it less of a reflection of the best of this year. That having been said, with artists ranging from The Newsboys and Amy Grant to Building 429 and TobyMac, this collection will be a set you’ll be playing throughout the holidays.

WOW Gospel Hits 2013

Like its more contemporary music-oriented sibling, this annual collection seeks to assemble the best gospel tunes of 2013 into one two-CD package. The 30 tracks do a good job of including the most popular artists of the year, ranging from Byron Cage and Jessica Reedy to Andrea Crouch.

The only complaint about the collection (and it’s a small one) is that while the selection of artists is spectacular, it’s sometimes a bit hard to figure why a particular track was chosen. You could make a pretty good argument that Tamela Mann’s “Take Me To The King” would be a better choice than the included track “Stretch.” It’s the same case for replacing John P. Kees “My Worship” with “Life and Favor.” But that’s a very mild criticism and it’s worth noting that all the tunes included on the set are uniformly excellent.

So if you’re looking a collection that includes the best of 2013 Gospel music hits, there’s not a better choice than this one.

WOW Hits 2014

The WOW music compilation series is gospel music’s answer to the very popular mainstream music series NOW Hits. This year’s package promises to include “36 of the biggest hits in Christian music,” and it certainly delivers on that promise. The two-CD set includes 15 No. 1 hits from 2013 as well as another 15 that made it into the Top 5 of the Christian music charts. Highlights include tunes from Casting Crowns, Steven Curtis Chapman, Francesca Battistelli, Mandisa, Matthew West and Big Daddy Weave. This WOW release sounds like your favorite Christian music station, only without all the commercial breaks.

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