#1: Losing My Religion-Kirk Franklin
***for those who love gospel, soul, rap, R&B, hip-hop, inspirational music***
///Quick disclaimer: this review will be the longest of the five, so read at your own risk. \\\
I discovered the musical talent of Kirk Franklin in 2015, and I did so just in time for his astounding 11th LP, “Losing my Religion”. I think this album should have been nominated for best gospel album of 2016 in addition to its already nominated single “Wanna Be Happy?”; it’s this good.
Lyrically, the album follows the title’s theme: a boycott of rule-centered religion to truly embrace God. The first track of the LP is crucial in understanding the rest of the album lyrically, so the following is an exegesis of the title track. Right away, Franklin establishes he has not lost faith in God, but in man-made religion, stating “I’m losing my religion/Thank God/I prayed about my decision/how odd,”. Franklin then explains why religion is failing its members.
“How do I begin to try to paint this sin, of rules? /That divides God’s people in two./ In the beginning, religion created a mask…I don’t tell/you don’t ask/so we created a lie/And for generations, church was where we went to go hide/or we no longer tried/because rules read, our relationship was empty inside/leaves you bitter, dry/swift to cut you like a razor/swift to call you a traitor… Now the man in the mirror never gets race right/He’ll never be Christ-like/Never receive good pay/So your faith never rises above minimum wage… you don’t know what to say/to your brother that you love when tells you he’s gay/do you push him away?/judge him down till he leaves?… Religion is a prison, but the truth sets us free/… The preacher isn’t God/religion’s first mistake/ serving stewards, shepherds, not kings/[he]has to die to his flesh everyday like me/one VIP/all the other seats in church are free/we’re just groupies/God’s the celebrity..”
In short, Franklin dislikes the side effects of focusing too much on following religion’s rules. God established certain rules to help humans see what is right from wrong and to reveal God’s character; they were never meant to replace God as the main character. However, as a result, people fake being holy for acceptance in the rule-centered church. Ironically, this leaves people still hurting from past experiences when they turned to religion for healing. Additionally, people feel hollow because following rules does not necessarily bring hope and purpose into life. Paramount to the other travesties, rule following does not teach people how to love rule-breakers, those whom may not even know those rules exist! But, rule following looks at people in black and white; you are holy if you obey, or you are scum because you disobeyed the rule(s). This lifestyle cannot see people as worthy, as people made in God’s image, and as people full of life. Rule-centered religion is therefore a “prison”, condemning people while creating fake people who want to avoid damnation. With all this in mind, Franklin rejects man-made religion, centered on following rules, and exhorts the listener to follow a different lifestyle. The following lyrics from the title track summarize Franklin’s alternative approach to life.
“Give him a gospel he hears or a gospel he sees?/Love wrapped in truth is the Gospel he needs!/There’s room at the cross for everyone/even me/Well my sins are now clean/the loss now redeemed/ religion is a prison but truth sets us free/helps us believe/that the world we’re in now is not the world that will be… before the death on the tree/ before the fall of man was a picture of me/ nailed to His heart/right before the last three/words He would speak/”it is finished”/could you believe?/IM losing my religion/Thank God/helping you lose yours is my job.”
In layman’s terms, life should be centered on following God, Jesus Christ, who unconditionally loves every human being. Because God’s laws are meant to reveal who He is, it also shows people they fall short of meeting His standard. Everyone is born into ungodliness because of the evil of our ancestors, and everyone commits ungodliness at some point or another. All of humanity has fallen short (Romans 3:23). If it was not for Jesus Christ, this would leave us humans in a place of despair because those who break the law must be punished with death for two reasons. The first is because God is a fair and just Judge of good & evil, and He cannot let ungodliness go without punishment. The second is because, in ancient history, there cannot be forgiveness without the shedding of blood for most law breaking acts-this includes ungodliness. That is why Jesus Christ, God of everything, donned human flesh while still being God and shed his blood almost 2000 years ago to be the eternal appeasement for the punishment humans deserved. This is what Kirk means with the phrase “before the death on the tree”. Christ represented every single human being who has ever lived and for every human being who will ever live. Jesus willingly sacrificed His human flesh for oneself on the cross for all of these people. Additionally, Jesus came back from the dead because His essence-God of the Universe-could never die, and this means He defeated the death every human being deserved. This is what Kirk means with the phrase “It is finished”. This is grace, a get-out-of-death free card; it allows those who believe that Jesus did all this to not die but live forever with Him in Heaven (John 3:16). This card is given to everyone who not only believes/declares Jesus is God but also everyone who takes and cherishes the card forever. This is what Kirk Franklin means when he says “Love wrapped in truth is the Gospel he needs”; this is the Gospel-the good news- God gives humanity.
With all that in mind, Kirk Franklin uses the rest of his album as a demonstration of what this lifestyle might include. On “Miracles”, Franklin explains God can do miracles for those who follow Him, but Franklin also reminds the listener the greatest miracle is the Gospel. “1,2,3 Victory” & “Road Trip”- the soulful, hip-hop, one-two punch- explains following God does not mean the end of suffering and pain, but the end of feeling like one will never win. Also, it promises the beginning of a life safe in the beneficial plans of God. “Pray for Me” is a plea for listeners to pray for Franklin, who reveals his flaws. Honesty is refreshing, and this song is just that. The single “Wanna Be Happy?” is a surprising message: a follower of God SHOULD be happy, a feeling not usually found with those whose main purpose is to follow rules. “It’s Time” feels like it wants to happy; it praises God for the work He does in people’s lives (esp. Franklin’s own life). “True Story” and “Over” tell a story of followers of God who feel brokenhearted but who will find restoration in God’s promises. The song “When” is about the feelings of God’s creation. Creation cannot wait for God to come back to earth and deal with all the evil in the world. “My World Needs You” and “Intercession” go hand in hand; the former is a cry to God while the latter praises Jesus for answering. “No Sleep Tonight” is an anthem, motivating followers of God to tell others about the freedom in following God instead of rule-centered, lifeless religions. I believe Kirk Franklin does an exceptional job of summarizing the Gospel and explaining the intricacy of a believer’s life in thirteen, beautifully written tracks. This is one of the biggest reasons why this album is my favorite from 2015. However, even if you are not a believer, you could still enjoy this album because the lyrics of these songs are incredibly inspirational (peep “Over”, “Pray for Me”, “Wanna Be Happy”, and “No Sleep Tonight”).
Sonically, “Losing my Religion” could be Kirk Franklin’s best. Franklin cut some of the best R&B songs of his career, including but not limited to “Wanna Be Happy”, “Road Trip”, & “No Sleep Tonight”. Franklin says he is not a rapper, but the title track and the banger “Over” lead me to think he could crossover into the rap game with ease. The Gospel genre is where Kirk Franklin shines, and this album is no exception; “Pray for Me”, “My World Needs You”, and “Intercession” give me goosebumps. As DJ Wade-O said in his review of the album, Kirk Franklin’s signature sound is the “full band, large production, female singers starting the song off in the verse…” It is this “Kirk Sound”, as DJ Wade-O calls it, which makes the Gospel tracks excel and the soulful tracks an injection of soul into your…heart! Speaking of soulful, “It’s Time”, “Miracles”, and “1,2,3 Victory” bring the inspiration as good or even better than the songs found on past Kirk Franklin albums. Just when you think Franklin’s musical mastermind cannot get any better, he produces what DJ Wade-O describes as a soul meets jazz track-“When”. I marvel at the entire album’s musical production.
What makes this album even better is its versatility: one can either pick out a couple singles for vibing or one can listen to each track perfectly flow into the next from start to finish. What surprised me the most is discovering Kirk Franklin composed each and every track on the album. Most artists collaborate with other music geniuses to compose a masterpiece, but Kirk Franklin is one of the few who manages to compose an entire album with little to no help. If you are into rap, hiphop, R&B, soul, inspirational, or Gospel music, you will love this LP.
The only downside to “Losing my Religion” is the song “When”. I am not a jazz fan, but I understand its importance to Kirk’s story lyrically, so this is a minor dislike holistically. Another minute point is the end of the song “Intercession”, which briefly includes Kirk’s son freestyling on the drums. This made me smile the first time I heard it, as it references a past interlude on Kirk’s album “Hero”, but it becomes corny after a while. Nevertheless, all I have to do is skip the last thirty seconds of the second; flaw fixed! I have listened to this album multiple times (even twice today), but I still can’t find anything else to criticize. Therefore, “Losing my Religion” is nearly flawless, and it definitely deserves the number one spot on my top five countdown.
Overall, Kirk Franklin’s Losing my Religion is a breathtaking album, one to be enjoyed by both followers of Jesus and non-believers alike.
Check out DJ Wade-O’s review of Franklin’s project here: http://wadeoradio.com/album-review-kirk-franklin-losing-my…/
& Cop Franklin’s 11th full length LP here!https://itunes.apple.com/…/…/losing-my-religion/id1047205866