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HERO (2005)
Hero - Click to view! Recently I was ill with what I can only describe as one honkin'-huge allergy infection. Daytime television was worse than bad and I was at my wits' end keeping misery at bay. Then hope arrived. More accurately, Hero, the new project from Kirk Franklin arrived. I couldn't rip off the cellophane fast enough. I popped the CD in my ibook and had church sitting up in bed at 3:45 in the afternoon.

It's hard to label Hero as "urban" or "worship." It's both. Lyrically, he addresses very real struggles from his own life, while fusing old school soul with more recent conventions of R&B.

Yet, as a worship leader, he ministers. He says he doesn't want to introduce us to a religion but to a relationship.

I was in the offices of a well-known urban record label a few weeks ago meeting with an artist marketing executive. As I looked over his list of clients, I couldn't help but be saddened by the thought that these people were known as "artists." There's more to art than rhyming. My business partner, an accomplished gospel singer and songwriter himself, made a comment after our meeting that it was too bad urban music in its current state had no depth to offer.

As I listened to Hero, I recounted that conversation and realized this was a perfect example of how Franklin got it right. Hero is soulful. It's inspiring. It's real. Musically, it's rich. Spiritually, it's off the charts! True talent is revealed in the contrast and complexity of his music. His lyrics are both genuine and anointed as he shares with his listeners how with God he has been able to overcome and work through his struggles. The title track says,
"My soul had no song and my debt I couldn't pay
When I needed a hero You came and You saved the day
...Even though men deny, You're the only sacrifice that loved us enough
You loved us so much Lord that You gave Your life
See You saved my life"
Who better to be considered a Hero than the One who gave His son so that we may have life?

My personal favorite is "Could've Been".
"It could've been me with no clothes, no shoes and no food to eat
It could've been me, without Your love
Lord tell me where would I be
It could've been Me in the cold with everything gone
No house, no job outside all alone
Sitting trying to figure out where I went wrong
...So I gotta be careful 'cause it could've been me
See that's the reason I just can't thank You enough"
The message resonates with me. No matter what my circumstances, I "Count it all Joy" because God is always faithful and in Him I rejoice and give thanks because it "could've been me" if not for His grace and mercy.

"Without You" is in contrast to Franklin's other tracks. Its acoustic melody speaks both quietly and powerfully to my spirit while the bit of funk and disco in "Looking for You" inspires a little arm-raising display of joy. "Let it Go" is a real surprise I won't ruin other than to say "check it out!" This song has the most buzz at present because it speaks to Franklin's struggle with pornography.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the vocal powerhouse Franklin built throughout Hero with guest appearances made by Stevie Wonder, Yolanda Adams, Dorinda Clark-Cole, J Moss and Tye Tribbett, and Marvin L. Winans. Franklin's producer talents shine as he uses these incredible artists to complement his arrangements which purposefully communicate his heart.

If the goal was to influence an audience and make a difference, he did it. I consider it an outreach project of an unprecedented nature. He is reaching out to Christians and non-Christians, offering an urban alternative which provides positive lyrics and subtle examples of how to live life as a real person walking out your faith, rediscovering your faith, or finding faith.
- Pamela Velderrain
December 2005
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