Words by Alex Goodwin
In the midst of Christmas festivities as most of us were opening presents, arguing with crazy grandparents about politics, wondering who ate the last slice of chocolate cake, drinking spiked eggnog, and being asked uncomfortable questions about when we’ll find a good woman (or maybe that’s just me and my family, but I doubt I’m alone), the Sunday Service Choir dropped their album Jesus is Born on all streaming services.
At 19 songs in length, its more than an hour of that SANGIN they do at your granny’s church with one working ceiling fan and has a deacon who matches his pastel suits with Now & Later gators. Here are four reasons why Jesus is Born is better than Jesus is King.
4. Jesus is Born came out on time
As Kanye was making the press run for Jesus is King and yet again sounding nuttier than a pile of squirrel boo boo he announced the Sunday Service Choir would be releasing their project on Christmas Day. Now trusting Kanye to deliver an album on time in recent years is like trusting Rick Ross to let go of lemon pepper wings – It AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN. But to my surprise the album was released on time with no shenanigans, no flurry of scatter-brained tweets announcing the album is in the final stages of mixing in mastering, or hurried recording of final songs, which hurts the overall quality of the final product.
3. Jesus is Born was finished when it was released
This is a continuation of reason No. 4. The biggest issue with Kanye’s previous three releases Ye, The Life of Pablo and Jesus is King is that the music simply sounded unfinished, rushed and his vast musical ambitions were bogged down by overall poor execution. On Jesus is King, just as tracks like “Follow God” (which featured soulful production that harkened back to Kanye’s Roc-A-Fella days) were getting going and wetting your musical palate, it ends with less than three minutes of running time without reaching a sonic or musical climax. This lack of musical resolution in most of the tracks results in most of the album being profoundly unmemorable and unworthy of repeated listens. But no such issue was found on Jesus is Born, as director Jason White had ample time to craft arrangements which built perfectly to big payoff moments that really get people in the spirit.
2. A quality mix of the rachet and righteous
If you’ve ever spent any time in the church, then you know the sanctified and the secular go together like peanut butter and jelly. You see it in the pews as parishioners (such as myself) show up on Sunday morning sweating out the communion (better known as Courvoisier and Crown Royal Vanilla) from the night before, or from the pulpit, as the pastor may be sharing his physical anointing with the women of the church. The intertwining of the faithful and foolish extends to the choir stand as there’s a long history of the gospel artists reworking popular songs and vice versa. We’ve seen this as Maurette Brown Clark reworked Love U 4 Life by Jodeci into Sovereign God, someone even turned a track from the Pied Pisser of R&B into a song to give God praise . The Sunday Service Choir continue this tradition as the reimagined songs originally performed by SWV , Ginuwine, Jeremih, and even Kanye himself. The choir also sang some classics from the Clark Sisters, Shirley Ceasar, Walt Whitman and the Soul Children of Chicago, so there was something for seasoned saints and young believers alike on Jesus is Born.
1. The album was all choir, no Kanye
The biggest issue I had with Jesus is King is the presence of Kanye West. Instead of trying to organize a praise party outfitted with the luminaries of the genre, which served Snoop Dogg’s warmly received gospel offering well, Kanye was front and center likening Christ to combo meals from Chick fil-A and trying his best to sing and glorify the Lord. Aside from the paper thin theology and juvenile lyrics, the issue is not only can Kanye not sing, he can’t hold a tune if it was strapped to his back. Vocal ability is the key to being able to enjoy gospel music and let the words resonate in your spirit. For this reason songs like “God Is” and “Hands On” lyrically are fine but would’ve been able to soar with capable vocalists. The Sunday Service choir was present on “Every Hour,” “Selah,” “Everything We Need” and “Water,” but were not given the space to truly shine. Other than churching up “Ultralight Beam,” “Fade” and “Father Stretch My Hands,” there is no hint of Kanye anywhere, allowing those anointed with the skill of singing the ability the breathing room to have the floor and do these songs the proper justice they deserve.
Alex is a 23-year-old from Houston, Texas pursuing a doctoral degree in political science at the University of North Texas. In his spare time, he hosts a sports radio show and blasts T.I. at insane levels at stoplights. Whenever he has to make a tough decision he asks himself “What Would Pimp C Do?” Check him out on twitter @alexgoodwintsm.