So, when did Tori Kelly become a gospel singer? The recording artist, known for her R&B and pop hits, along with her recent country hit with Chris Lane “Take Back Home Girl,” transported listeners to church on Friday with her new gospel album “Hiding Place.”
This was not just any church, however. It was a hallowed sanctuary wherein Kelly let her guard down to share her love of the Lord with the world. “Hiding Place” has been Kelly’s passion project, and while I am not a gospel listener, I did notice and appreciate Kelly’s passion for her subject matter in every song. In fact, in an Instagram post on Sept. 14, Kelly called the album a “special project that [she] put [her] whole heart into.”
Sure, there are many invocations of God’s name (“God, help us to love,” “God, take my heart forever,” “I need you, Lord”), but this is just part of the genre, and I didn’t mind when I heard Kelly’s soaring vocals. Her voice shines through in this album, mainly because she is truly invested in and enjoys what she is singing about. Her songs have substance behind them; they aren’t simply catchy earworms about generic occurrences.
In fact, Kelly co-wrote the album with the popular gospel singer Kirk Franklin. In an interview with Idolator, Kelly gushes about writing with Franklin and how writing a gospel album was different from writing a pop or R&B album.
“So much of it is really just expression and not holding back, you can’t hold anything back in gospel music, you have to just let it all out,” Kelly said. “And that was a lot of fun — not having to hold back and really just singing.”
In all eight tracks, Kelly unleashes her powerful voice to praise the Lord. The last track, “Soul’s Anthem (It Is Well),” has no instrumentation. It is Kelly’s pure vocals backed by a chorus in a slow, spiritual song.
While the songs focus on traditional gospel subject matter, Kelly infuses soulful R&B style into all of them. “Masterpiece” especially sounds more upbeat and poppy. While a church choir does back Kelly during the chorus of the song, rapper Lecrae has a verse where he expounds on the idea that each individual is a “masterpiece” created by God. I didn’t even know that Christian hip-hop was a thing, but I enjoyed this part of the song. It made the track into something that fans have never heard before.
One thing that I do wish was different about this album is the title. The name “Hiding Place” makes it sound as if the songs will be about darker themes instead of the bright, spiritual feelings that all of the songs truly convey.
I liked hearing about Kelly’s faith in her songs, but her album didn’t make me fall in love with the genre. “Hiding Place” is truly a passion project that focuses more on expressing Kelly’s faith than on creating the popular radio hits that her fans are used to, but in the spirit of creative freedom and following your passions, I’m totally ok with that. I guess you could say that I’m glad she took this leap of faith.
Stephanie Santillo is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.