Prime Cuts: Say Yes (with Beyonce & Kelly Rowland), Need Your Help, If We Had Your Eyes (with Fantasia)
In matters with regards to her faith, Michelle Williams is not one to soft pedal around. For many a lesser artist, they would have gallop on the opportunity to sing with Williams' former Destiny Child's band mates Beyonce and Kelly Rowland by recording a tailored for radio ear candy with guaranteed crossover success. Rather, "Say Yes," the much anticipated single that features the voices of Beyonce, Williams and Rowland together, is a straight ahead Gospel tune with a fiercely Jesus-centered lyrics. Never one to reference Jesus under the generic "he" and never one to pass a Christian song under the guise of a sanctified love song, Michelle Williams states her intentions up, close and personal when she sings on "Say Yes:" "I'm not worried about a thing. 'Cause I know you're guiding me. Where you lead me Lord, I'll go." Based on the testimony of just one song, Williams already commands integrity, respect and admiration.
As a whole "Journey to Freedom," Williams' fourth solo album since the demise of Destiny's Child, similarly doesn't disappoint. This is by no means a fluffy, calorie-heavy, and sugar-coated record that is bound for indigestion. Rather, it's a theological meaty album with doses of spiritual muscle-inducing supplements derived directly from Scripture. Laying bear her own helplessness where she has had a serious bout with depression in the hands of God is the soul-bearing "Need Your Help." It simply takes a soul surrendered to be able for Williams to seek the Lord with such earnestness as on this track. With producer Harmony Samuels on the helm, he certainly lets his Nigerian roots surface to the fore on the mid-tempo "Fall." The song, an invocation for God's glory to fall upon us, is made ultra special with flavored African beats and chants.
Being a high profile artist both in Gospel music and in secular pop certainly has its perks. Joining Williams on "If We Had Your Eyes" is American Idol champ Fantasia who is sounding more and more like Patti LaBelle especially when she hits the higher octaves. Nevertheless, pay close attention to the lyrics of "If We Had Your Eyes:" this song is essentially a prayer to God to make us more sensitive towards the hurts and needs of others. In our self-centered world, this song certainly resounds a clarion call. "Fire," on the other hand, is a creative art in itself. Weaving in some seed thoughts from 1 Peter, the Hebrew narrative of Daniel's friends in the furnace, and her own autobiography, "Fire" is a "must-hear."
Yet, if the album is by no means perfect. Tempo-wise, the record is far too slanted towards having far too many mid-pacers. Songs such as "Free," "Just Like You" and "Everything" basically utilizes the same urban template effortlessly without having much time invested in developing stronger hooks making them more memorable. "Believe in Me," a smooth Diane Warren-styled R&B beat ballad, is redemptive in terms of breaking up the tempo. Nevertheless, despite the quibbles, "Journey to Freedom" is still one of this year's important releases. Williams could have chosen to journey the safe and money grabbing route by compromising her beliefs and Christian stance. But here she chooses to be true to her faith, her calling and her Lord; and the rewards are eternal.
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