Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

Tori Kelly ft. Kirk Franklin – Never Alone

The comfort that a feature credit affords…


Thomas Inskeep: Tori Kelly until now: mostly a pop singer, strong voice, NARAS dream (think Joss Stone, only American and not as annoying), mediocre-at-best-material. Enter gospel king Kirk Franklin. Tori Kelly now: second full-length is gospel, voice sounds more confident, gotta think she’s still a NARAS dream, and the material’s improved drastically. Credit Franklin a lot, as he co-wrote and co-produced every one of the eight songs on Hiding Place, Kelly’s sophomore effort. Not only does it sound like he coaxed more nimble performances out of her, but much like Amy Grant, she clearly believes this gospel material more. If you’re looking for inspiration — the essence of gospel music — then you’re gonna find it here. “Never Alone” is seemingly made for TV performances (just think of the moment when the backdrop parts and the choir’s revealed, let alone Franklin popping out for his four bars), and that’s not a bad thing in this case (cf. Dolly Parton’s 1990 CMA performance of “He’s Alive” — and no, I’m not saying this matches that). Is this great? Not quite. (I wish the choir came in at least one chorus earlier.) Do I love it? Yeah, pretty much.

Alfred Soto: With the help of Kirk Franklin, Tori Kelly sells her conviction, not her gospel chops. 

John Seroff: Sounds more like an audition (for Saint Peter’s coloratura choir maybe?) than a single.

Stephen Eisermann: Nobody should be desperate enough for a hit that they resort to Christian power pop, but Tori Kelly did just that. Kirk is serviceable at best, but there is nothing more depressing than knowing that Tori lowered herself to this just to make what I’m sure was a quick buck. Boring Christian pop ain’t worth it, boo.

Alex Clifton: I don’t know how to approach songs of faith these days. The message of this song is that you’re “never alone,” presumably through God, but I have no idea how to accept this message with the daily barrage of bad news. It’s not even that I feel alone. It’s that so much bad keeps happening that I find the concept of a god watching over the world and looking out for people difficult to swallow. I think a good faith-based song makes you feel overjoyed to be alive, where everyone’s clearly having a fun time singing along; in those moments, I understand faith. And I think Kelly believes her message here. She’s got a choir singing along, which adds a sense of needed community. But I can’t buy it, not right now.

Ian Mathers: I’m having particularly severe problems with theodicy these days, but I also think one of the biggest mistakes nonbelievers (or just believers in something different) can make is to think that the faithful haven’t, y’know… considered that issue. Which basically boils down to me either reading the joy here as naive and empty or aware and empowering and, fuck, today I’ll take the latter.

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