Contemporary gospel artist Kierra “KiKi” Sheard returns following a three-year hiatus with her latest studio album Graceland. Throughout Graceland, the production matches the sound of modern pop, including cues from contemporary R&B, hip-hop, and electronic. Why stylistically the youthful Sheard is progressive, vocally, she retains the description of a powerhouse vocalist, suited for gospel by all means. Honestly, who would expect anything less from a member of the legendary Clark family?
“Intro: Spoken Word” is the first hint that Graceland is firmly invested in progressing gospel into a more modern setting. The ‘gospel’ is perceptible, but contemporary production and gimmickry aim for the new generation who love their hip-hop and R&B. Single “2nd Win” is better rounded, delivering an inspired, easy-to-follow message. Essentially, “2nd Win” is a message of claiming the victory because God is “already working it out.” The urban and gospel worlds merge brilliantly on this brief, but deep standout.
In addition to “2nd Win,” numerous other tracks shine brightly. “Save Me” not only benefits from its gargantuan, anchoring drums, but also a truly complete vocal performance from Sheard. Again, truly prudent messaging helps to shape “Save Me” as a ‘high-flying record.’ “Save Me” has emotion to truly move listeners. “Flaws” which directly follows, possesses uplifting thoughts everyone can benefit from – God loves everyone, regardless of shortcomings and imperfections. “Flaws” also seems to have a message of accepting such imperfections and working to become better.
Both “Save Me” and “Flaws” appeal to a wide range of listeners. Similarly, the power of Graceland continues on “Kill The Dragon,” which is an anthemic pop-gospel number. Thought a bit on the long side in regards to duration, “Kill The Dragon” grows in epic, spiritual fashion, igniting genuine fire within the soul.
On the surprising “Repin My God,” Sheard reignites her mission to appeal to the youth. While older listeners may be off-put by this particular song, the audience it’s aimed to minister to will likely ‘eat it up.’ How ‘radical’ is “Repin” – clapping synthetic snares, lower pitch-shifted vocals, and of course gimmicky repetition. Oh, and there’s that Canton Jones rap verse too. Liken “Repin My God” as an updated version of “I’m A Soldier In the Army of the Lord.” Title track “No Graceland” isn’t shabby either; Sheard flexes those magnificent, powerful pipes.
Not every track shines as much as the aforementioned, but that by no means ‘kills the vibe’ of Graceland in the least. Even briefer moments such as the energetic “Balm” or the “You Don’t Like What You See” (think of examining “the man in the mirror”) have something worthwhile to offer, even if not apparent initially. Ultimately, Graceland is enjoyable and succeeds at keeping gospel music cutting edge and accessible to a new generation of listeners. ~
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