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I’ve never heard the phrase “hope-pop” before, but that is the label given to Tori Kelly’s latest project by singer/songwriter and producer Kirk Franklin.
As writer/co-writer and producer of Kelly’s “Hiding Place,” Franklin is in a position to identify the music.
Kelly, who first came to public attention during the 2014 American Idol season, has recently released “Hiding Place” from Schoolboy Records and Capitol Records. The eight-track project is the artist’s second full-length album and definitely has a strong R&B influence. Kelly’s rich vocals are a perfect fit for this style, and the titles on the project are beautifully performed.
“Hiding Place” opens with ‘Masterpiece’, featuring Lecrae. Franklin’s influence is strongly felt here with the choral backdrop and a hint of organ in the accompaniment. The prayer to “Make me a Masterpiece” is supported by the spoken word of Lecrae: “You acting totally different/ you got a whole new position/ you are the….whole new edition….a master artist take a mess and make a masterpiece/ and look at you, you been a gem.”
“Help Us to Love” features the Hamiltons and uses a gentle jazz-swing to emphasize Kelly’s plea, “God, help us to love the way that You love me.” “Sunday” is an introspective tune that should be thought-provoking to all of us: “I’m so far from where they think I am/ but when I raise my hands/ I’m reaching out for life….so don’t, don’t let Sunday fool ya/ Here’s my hallelujah/ every single day I’m running to Your grace.”
Jonathan McReynolds is featured on “Just As Sure”. The smooth melody caresses listeners’ ears and reminds us of the assurance of God’s love. “Just as sure as trials come to pull me close to You/ in Your presence now I see a God I never knew.” “Questions” has overtones of lament, reminding listeners that faith is not always easy and that we often have questions about life’s circumstances to which there are no easy answers.
42” revisits the familiar phrase, “As the deer pants for the water/ so my soul needs You, Lord.” Franklin is featured on “‘Never Alone”, and the album concludes with “Soul’s Anthem (It Is Well)”, one of my favourite tracks on this project.
Says Kelly of “Hiding Place”: “One of the things I want for this album is for people to feel uplifted and encouraged when they listen…...I want them to know that, no matter what they’re going through, there’s a God who loves them so much and so unconditionally, and there’s always a reason to feel hope. That’s what I really believe in, and I want everyone out there to hear my heart.”
I can say honestly that, with this project, Kelly has achieved her goal. I don’t know if I would agree with Franklin’s ‘hope-pop’ descriptor – the R&B influence is strong throughout – but I will absolutely say that this a beautiful, hope-filled album.
Tracey Evison, a musician and educator on P.E.I., writes this column for The Guardian every second Saturday. She can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.