The Girl Who Sings “Oceans” by Hillsong United

Ever since I posted a revamped Hillsong United countdown, some of the most popular Google searches leading to my blog go like this:

who sings oceans hillsong

what girl sings oceans hillsong united

who is the lady singer oceans hillsong

So, to answer the question that myriads have been asking the Internet: her name is Taya Smith.

She is known around the world as the girl who sings the Hillsong United mega-hit, “Oceans.” The song recently made history by becoming Billboard’s first “Hot Christian” song to break into the more encompassing, more illustrious Hot 100.

It’s become one of my favorite songs of all-time, Hillsong-inspired or otherwise. Indeed, “Oceans” has exploded around the world. And yet people still wonder:

Who’s the girl who sings it?

Taya Smith Hillsong United "Oceans"

The first time I heard “Oceans,” I thought she was Brooke Fraser (“Hosanna,” “Lead Me to the Cross”). Indeed, I spent a solid month in ignorance of the singer’s true identity.

As far as I know, Taya Smith was never on a previous Hillsong album before debuting with Zion‘s “Oceans.” She has since gone on to sing several tracks for Hillsong Young & Free’s “Kidz Bop”-esque album, We Are Young & Free.

I’ve watched several interviews with Taya Smith, and she’s such an obvious introvert. In watching her short answers and shy demeanor, I can’t help wondering what she really feels about all this “Oceans” insanity.

I’m sure one part of her is blessed and overwhelmed by the success of the song. People just love it so much.

And yet with the “good kind” of overwhelmed undoubtedly comes the “other kind.” I’ve often wondered what it’s like for pop artists or, in this case, worship leaders to sing the same song over and over and over for audiences and worshipers around the world. How do you maintain the same energy and passion, night in and night out?

On the one hand, Taya Smith has inspired millions with her ethereal voice.

On the other, this has become her immutable legacy: the girl who sings “Oceans.”

As I continue writing and stepping beyond publication, I wonder how I will be known someday. Will I be known as the one who wrote Struggle Central? Will I be the messy guy? The gay Christian? The tad too vulnerable writer?

What will be my legacy? How will people grow to identify me — as a writer, as a Christian, or as something else entirely?

Of course, I long for success as a writer. But success is scary. Success terrifies me.

I look at Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber and the “Kony 2012” guy and even the Flappy Bird developer, and I wonder: do I really want such widespread success? I do, but I don’t.

I’d love to impact millions, sure. What writer wouldn’t? I want my life to matter to others, be it as a writer or simply a struggling human.

Despite some recent gains and victories, I’ve been more used to failure and struggle; popularity and success still seem like such foreign concepts. I know how easily I can get overwhelmed; without solid people in my life, mammoth success could quite easily cripple me.

I’ve often wondered what people might Google about me someday:

who wrote struggle central

struggle central tmz author

yellow fish with a hobo stick writer guy

Whether I ever hit the New York Times bestsellers or ride long into Amazon ambiguity, I want my life to point Upward. I’m assuming Taya Smith is looking at her own life the same way.

Who cares if many people still don’t know who she is? “Oceans” is bringing people closer to Jesus. That’s a legacy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve parked my car after a long day and leaned my seat back and closed my eyes and let the opening cello carry me to heaven.

“Oceans” — what a legacy, indeed.

Thank you, Hillsong United; thank you, Taya Smith.

Have you listened to “Oceans”? Did you know who sung it before reading this post? What’s your favorite Hillsong United song?

  • Ashley

    The song is great. Had no idea who sung it, but I generally don’t pay attention to that… I’m partial to that song that I’m for some reason only remembering the name of in Spanish at the moment. “Mi Dios Puede Salvar”. Um. Oh! Mighty to Save. But I really like it in Spanish. It’s good in English too, but…yeah. 🙂

    I really think I fear success too. And failure. And a lot of things… How do we move past that? Maybe we don’t. Maybe we just have courage IN SPITE of fear. I heard that in a sermon, I think, once and I liked it. Courage is doing something in spite of fear. What about success? I think you are (and Jon Acuff) are right – we need people to help us. And a plan.

    • Jon’s definitely given me a lot to think about, as he’s written about the downside of the success many times. It’s true that we have so much to say about failure but very little about success. I want to be well-grounded and prepared if/when that kind of success ever befalls me.

  • Louis Tavarez

    I’m in love with her. Her voice is ridiculously beautiful. Beyond words : )

    • Angie

      Today i finally had a chance to run a google search about ‘the femake lead singer of hillsongs-Oceans” and gosh i’m i so pleaded snd in shock that this blog cane up!! Sp hsppy someone answered this question thought i was being ridiculous to search for her. Many thanks Mark for this blog piece. Tara wow…her voice is as pure and as clear as a clean cut diamond. Never heard a voice so distinct n pute and capturibf like hets. She’s my inspuration as a worship n i thank God for the writer of “Oceans”! This song carried me through my tough pregnancy untill the birth of my beautiful now 7mth baby girl but it always had to be inly Tara’s version simply because her voice sounds so pure n drives me straight to the Lord n in spiritual heavenly worship realm. I have since looked for all the songs she leads and can’t get enough of “Even when it hurts” what an amazing soul capturing song. God has inspired me to create a worship dance to this song which with His grace I’ll perform at my local church.
      Thanks Tara and Hillsongs and Mark. God bless you all.

  • Rebecka

    It it such a beautiful song. I love the lyrics. I had absolutely no idea who sung it though.

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  • John Shue

    She is simply amazing and a true channel for Jesus’ spirit. I cry every time I hear this song. Truly a wonderous annointing upon her.

  • Richwell

    Taya is such a kind soul… I wish you knew her. She’s not quite as you assume- not that we’re besties or anything, but I’m blessed to call her a friend. If there’s a person with a kinder, more sincere heart in leadership at our church, I’d like to meet them. She has a great pastor’s heart, and she’s an outstandingly gifted worship leader. She won’t simply be known as “the girl who sang Oceans,” because I believe there will be greater songs and greater opportunities in her future.

    Don’t know how I happened upon your site, but just thought I’d share a bit of a personal testimonial about Taya…

    • How awesome that you would leave a comment on my blog, knowing Taya as a personal friend. One of my favorite comments I’ve ever read! Just awesome. Can’t wait to see what’s to come in Taya’s future.

    • Jonathan Rudamas

      Wow if I knew Taya Smith and was able to call her a friend, even from far away, that would mean the world to me!

  • raul.dano

    im just simply carried over everytime i sing this song. . . . God Bless you Tanya . . .

  • Amanda Jean

    I loved this post and so glad it crossed my path on the interwebs !!! Blessings and always keep writing !!

  • Becky

    I left church four and a half years ago, but I bought this song the minute I heard it. Amazing voice.

  • Solomon Karem

    Tanya God bless you. This song was just outstanding. It touched my heart from the inside.I wish you all the love and Gods grance as you continue to lead millions across the world leading people to Lord and savior Jesus Christ. Its a blessing to hear the failth filled and spirited worship song.

  • Jonathan Rudamas

    I knew it wasn’t Brook at first. I was so curious to know who was singing it. I thought it was someone brought back from the previous albums or I thought she maybe was in a previous album, forgotten, then brought back. Like the girl who sang like an avalanche. No one really knows her. Anyways Taya Smith has inspired me to keep on my goal towards becoming a worship leader. I can relate to her introvertness, and still be kind of extrovert with my friends. I wish I knew her in person. I know one day I will 🙂

  • Bryon

    There’s a worship ministry near me in Colorado Springs called Worship Mob. Have you heard their version? I heard their version first, and I think most people like the version they year first, the best. I like the instrumentation on this one, but Taya’s voice is so powerful. They use special software that allows each person across the country to play simultaneously and then they piece the video’s to together later.

    • Wow, Bryon, thanks so much for sharing that cover. Had never heard it before, and it’s beautiful. Will be looking more into Worship Mob!

  • greeen29

    wow she has a great and awesome voice i could listen to this song over and over and keep amaze with the great perfomance of this girl how deep emotion she put to it great!! taya awesoem voice.. God bless u Always…

  • Dennisdlky

    Broken Vessel ( Amazing Grace) is also sung by Taya Smith. I had to find out as soon as the song plays.

  • Marlon

    i keep listening to this song over and over again…….i just feel that my heart longed for it…
    God bless you Taya

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  • Suely

    She sings at the Hillsong United tour. I saw her with them in Tampa just after Oceans came out.

  • Matheus Dalmaso

    Alguem sabe sobre a historia dela?
    Que dia ela nasceu?

  • Shaina Pearl

    hey there! ^_^ . when is Taya’s birthday?? haha! just wanna know :).. and how old is she??

    • Shaina Pearl

      please answer my question anyone .. thanksss! God bless! :*

  • Leslie

    I’ve been a big fan of Hillsong United’s music for a long time but never really followed the individual band members. We were at OutCry last night and were meeting with Nick Hall after the concert and were fortunate enough to meet with and talk with Taya for a few minutes. She is stunning…inside and out. You can tell that just from a few minutes spent with her. Her heart and passion for Jesus and His image bearers are breathtaking! I “googled” her this morning and stumbled upon your post. It’s great. I really appreciated reading it. A book I feel led to encourage you to read is Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years if you haven’t already. Life-changing book (especially good if you listen to it through Audible because it’s read by the author!) that I think you’d really connect with. Best wishes and warmest regards!!

    • What a cool story! Thanks so much for sharing, Leslie. I have indeed read A Million Miles. One of my all-time faves. Totally changed how I viewed my life and helped me forecast a more exciting future.

  • Vicki Eve Roblin

    Every now and then a Christian song comes out that has the power to reach millions… to touch the hearts of those longing to be with Christ and to create such a tremendous longing to worship. This is one of the songs. I hear this song and want only to see His face… to touch His cheek… to be with Him forever.

  • Lorna

    I really wish I could play this on loud speaker across Paris right now.

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  • Jason

    I want to meet her ^^ so bad her voice is so beautiful i listen to this song on repeat I love this song and the sound of her voice singing this song its beautiful..

  • Erminio Zarcone

    Thank you first of all of sharing this. Lately I’ve been listening her songs every day, and I believe that I need to be close to this pure energy of God’s love. And I am blessed to listen this beautiful song, cuz is full fill me with love.

  • Joan Jackson

    When I first heard Ocean it was a video on JUCE and it was not Taya ,It was a lady with braids and she had the most haunted voice it just capture you

  • Jerry Christ Born Nkini

    I fell in love with Hillsong several years back say a decade. but since then none has been as breath taking as this girl.. Taya.
    God bless her and her beautiful voice.
    may God bless this church and its vision.
    more Taya’s more Darlene Schech’s and more Brooke frasers