Marvin Sapp – Close
Marvin Sapp – Close
When a public figure confronts tragedy, loss or controversy, we realize that fame doesn’t insulate them from the travails that are common to all of humanity. Being well-known means that the world sees and comments on – and often feels entitled to witness and remark on – struggles that normally take place outside of public view.
Being a gospel artist and a pastor places a public figure such as Marvin Sapp under a different type of scrutiny. Sapp could grieve the loss of his wife, partner and mother of his children, and could be aggrieved to have rumor and innuendo attached to his name. However, believers and non-believers alike looked on to see if Sapp maintained his joy.
In a sense, whatever crises Sapp faced never seemed to be reflected in his music, which finds him leading a gospel choir that combines praise and worship anthem with a funk, R&B and hip-hop infused sound that has been a Sapp constant since his days with Commissioned.
Still, listeners cannot listen to a Sapp project, such as Close – his latest – without acknowledging that here is at least one artist who we know needed God to heal him from the kind of unbearable pain that he sings about in the mid-tempo G-funk number “Carried Me.” “Carried Me,” like many of the cuts on Close, feature the elements that make the artist’s songs suitable for praise and worship congregational singing and for choirs – hooks that carry a message that resonates and are quickly remembered by congregates, and call and response that allow a lead singer to engage in a conversation with a choir.
Sapp rarely strays from what appears to be his mission and comfort zone to exhort people to carry on and fight on to a positive outcome that – with God’s help – may be nearer than we believe. That comes through the title track, which is one of several cuts that will likely continue the artist’s penchant for crafting numbers that appeal to praise and worship teams, as well as gospel and R&B radio. “Close” begins with Sapp’s raspy baritone paired with a piano as he sings the song’s, which that reminds people that it’s often darkest right before the dawn. The vocalist is then joined by the full band and his harmonically tight choir.
This is a rangy project that encompasses cuts like “Kind God” and “Light the Way.” The former begins with Sapp adding his vocal to a sparse arrangement featuring piano and acoustic guitar on a song that reminds us that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is an act of kindness. He layers on keyboards, percussion and backing vocals as “Kind God” reaches a crescendo. The bouncy, percussive funk of “Light the Way” has a 1980s-synthesized infused funk vibe and a message to depend on God to provide light in those dark times, and R&B styled backing vocals that will put Commissioned fans in a sentimental mood.
Consistent is a word that can be used to describe Marvin Sapp. He’s continued to release music since his self-titled debut, and on Close he continues to encourage listeners to look to the hills for their help. Recommended.
By Howard Dukes