In Rotation: Kirk Franklin’s ‘Hello Fear’
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Kirk Franklin has become the biggest selling contemporary gospel musician in the world for a reason, one that explains why his latest outing reached the Top 5 of the national pop album sales chart its first week out: The singer, songwriter and producer’s inclusive approach to spiritual matters blends gospel tradition with up-to-the-minute R&B textures in songs that won’t send secular listeners running for cover.
The title track neatly treats fear as a romantic partner who hasn’t worked out, Franklin crooning a moody breakup tune to a destructive emotion for which he no longer has time. He follows up with the a cappella gospel rap “The Story of Fear.”
He doesn’t shy from specifics of Christian theology, notably in “But the Blood,” but seeks out experiences that unite rather than zeroing in on those that create unnecessary divisions. “Everyone Hurts” empathizes with anyone who’s in pain, the message gorgeously dressed up in the gossamer harmonies of the small-scale choir that’s prominent on most of the 15 tracks.
Music hardly gets more chipper than the pop-soul bounce he brings to “I Smile,” or more inspirational than the extended old-school revival-tent workout Franklin and his cohorts serve up in “The Altar” and his cheer-worthy, Katy Perry-with-substance number “Today.” Say amen, somebody.