“Ooooo – Ooooo”

Phil Wickham

Working at CCLI, we see a LOT of new worship songs come in. And it’s pretty easy to spot the two current trends in worship songwriting.

First is the “octave jump,” and that one probably deserves its own separate article. Second is the “Ooo – Ooo” factor. A surprising ratio of new worship songs these days include “ooo’s” or “ohhh’s” as a significant portion of the lyrics. Leaving me to wonder… is this the new “thing” … like skinny jeans or goatees that eventually became full (i.e., very full) beards?

With an appreciation for well-crafted lyrics, my somewhat-elitist view of songwriting immediately kicked in. In general, this “Ooo-Ooo” trend seemed really kitschy to me. Amateurish. Campfire-ish. A sign of lazy songwriting. That highbrow perspective seemed pretty accurate, and being rather proud of it, I hung onto it for quite awhile.

Then I came across a couple “Ooo-Ooo” songs that I liked. Really liked. And I had to begrudgingly admit that the “Ooo’s” were powerful elements of the songs—basically the driving force. Time after time, I watched from the stage on Sunday mornings as these songs drew people into worship in powerful ways.

The first was Hillsong’s “With Everything.” The song naturally builds and cresendos to the “Ooo’s,” which is clearly the signature section of the song. Case in point—in this video of the live version, the audience seems to hijack the song (at 3:30) and start the “Ooo’s” on their own.

The second one struck me even more powerfully. In Phil Wickham’s “Beautiful” the “Ooo” line is woven throughout the song and perhaps even more “signature.”

So what’s the purpose of “Ooo – Ooo” anyway…especially in these two songs? Seems to me like it’s the affirmation, the “Amen,” the exclamation point, if you will, of the surrounding context. Basically, it’s a “shout for joy,” which is encouraged, yes, even commanded throughout the Psalms. Hmmm. OK. So much for my elitist view of songwriting.

But last Sunday morning, I was struck by the “Ooo’s” in an even deeper way. Clearly, in both of these examples, the “Ooo” sections feature a strong musical hook. They sound good. They’re fun to sing. But what struck me last weekend as we sang “Beautiful” was watching our fairly sizable group of hearing-impaired people sing-signing the “Ooo’s” and reveling in them just as much as the lyrics surrounding them, and just as much, if not more, than our crowd with full hearing. There’s something very powerful here. Anointed.

Dare I say, much more so than skinny jeans.

As a songwriter, worship leader and a member of the marketing team, Paul is connected to CCLI in every possible way. Paul serves as CCLI’s Content Creator in the U.S. Service Center in Vancouver, Washington. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from George Fox University and has served as a marketing/communications specialist and a worship leader for a number of churches and ministries.


  1. The song highlighted by Hillsong, no, the ooo’s are not a copout. They are a pause, even a moment of reflection where words would break that opportunity.

    In the Wickham song, it is an element of the underlying harmonic structure and not detracting.

    Where ooo’s would be distracting and foolish is if they were integral as part of the lyrical content.

    What is troubling is that when one artist does something, like the ooo’s thing, then suddenly everybody starts following and doing the same thing. At that point, I don’t care if it is done properly… the subsequent writers are following a trend to be part of something, to take advantage of that trend… which leads one to believe they wrote the song less for the worship and more for the income it will generate.


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