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Finding Our Love Language: Can Christian Artists Bring Love Back To R&B?

In a conversation at GRAMMY Headquarters, Mali Music similarly emphasizes the importance of writing about love, regardless of whether he crosses boundaries between what is seen as “sacred or “secular” music. He shares that “love is the heart” and “love is the key” to what he does and that “loves heals it all and once everybody recognizes that I think it’ll be the thing that cause songs that I write and the songs of people who write songs like me to ring on forever.” His major label release Mali Is... debuted in June and delivered to the R&B/pop/hip-hop genres substantive tracks like “Heavy Love,” which looks at a broad spectrum of love relationships ranging from that “great granddaddy and grandmamma love” to spiritual love. It also contains the poignant and powerful “Johnny and Donna,” which details the story of one couple moving from the early stages of attraction to the reality of falling out of an emotional connection with someone. With Mali Is... debuting at the #1 slot on both the iTunes R&B/Soul and Amazon R&B MP3 charts and at # 2 on the R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart, there’s a clear sense that Mali’s approach to talking about love is finding an audience.

Lecrae departs from the perspective of many popular hip-hop artists, writing a song dedicated to just one woman, his real-life wife, in the R&B infused “All I Need is You.” Rather than assuming the persona of a single player, constantly analogizing himself as a pimp or invoking Ike Turner references on a song with his wife, he rhymes with true vulnerability about what his wife means to him. In it he highlights the beauty of writing about your personal life from a realistic place rather than emphasizing hip-hop fantasies that the artist (or the label) believes their audience wants to hear. With his album Anomaly conquering the Billboard 200 at #1 the week of its release, it appears that people are taking notice.

Recently, I was sent a cover version of the love ballad "If Only For One Night" by a Korean artist, which prompted a question from my friend: “If that Luther Vandross classic came out today, would it be successful? I'm not sure if our society believes in romance and love like that anymore." While I’m not sure if the Luther song would see the same level of success today, if Morton, Mali or Lecrae’s success are a sign, I’d say there’s certainly folks out there who still need to hear about love, and perhaps they wouldn’t mind hearing about it from someone who represents the gospel.

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