Due to its consistently best-selling status, the WOW series has become synonymous with cutting-edge hit gospel and Christian music. WOW GOSPEL 2004 is no different, and opens appropriately enough with "Brighter Day," a gloriously booty-shaking live track from Kirk Franklin, the man perhaps most responsible for bringing contemporary gospel to mainstream R&B audiences. Many other definitive modern acts are also here, including Hezekiah Walker, who turns in the stirring and anthemic ballad "I Need You to Survive," and the Reverend John P. Kee, who gets back to basics with the foot-stomping "I Won't Let Go." One of the best performances on the set, however, comes from relative newcomer Smokie Norful, who sounds at times like that other great flammably sobriqueted soul man, Smokey Robinson. Unlike some forms of religious music, the tracks here are marked by a level of energy and excitement equal to, or greater than, anything in the secular world. Those wishing to sample some of the most exciting and passionate gospel music of 2004 need look no further than the heavenly sounds of this WOW GOSPEL edition.