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Kirk Franklin: Sacred and Secular

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Kirk Franklin: Sacred and Secular

In this paper we explore the works of Kirk Franklin and how he uses secular music to describe his faith to his religion. Kirk Franklin has been scrutinized for how he expresses his faith through the type of music he plays. Most listeners of Gospel Music believe that Kirk Franklin has gone completely secular based on his recent move of opening a music label under Sony’s RCA Corporation. Most may feel as if this move showcases what many seem to believe him moving away from sacred “Church Music” to secular music. Secular is described as everything and anything non-religious or relating to God or religion. Secular is used to describe music that is Jazz, Hip-Hop, Blues and other non-gospel music. Sacred is defined as religious or music that is being expressed towards a certain religion and describes ones devotion to that certain religion. Profane is all against religion as Sacred is but profane is everything and anything that even can be connected with the religion.

Kirk Franklin identifies his self as part as the Baptist Church and is Christian. His belief and testimony as described in this article says, "My message is simple and plain," Kirk Franklin insisted in the Los Angeles Times. "I'm trying to change the way people look at gospel music. It's not corny, and it's not hokey. We're not just running around here with some choir robes on, yelling and screaming. It's not about that anymore, kid." (Pendergast, 2005). Basically Kirk Franklin explained the fact that the old gospel is out and the new is in. He wants to bring Gospel past its traditional waves into a new wave that brings out more secular things. The sacred is the choir robes and the secular would be the yelling and screaming. He wants to bring a new thing to the table that wasn’t offered by all Gospel music before. He addresses that the old Gospel is old and basically out and the new should be brought in. Kirk Franklin’s testimony deals with his past ways and what he was involved in before his salvation. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey he opened up about his battle with pornography, and how he overcame that battle with the grace of God and how he has been struggling with is since the age of 9. When he was younger he tried to get help from his pastor, but in the end it only fueled him even more. Also as said in the article some of his songs including “Let it Go” deal with his abandonment as a child and his sexual promiscuity. He still shows how he is an ongoing piece of work and that his religious faith is sometimes tested and that he still has times when he is brought back down emotionally by things in his past.

Kirk Franklin’s pornography problem would be used as a profane in this paper, based on the content of what Kirk Franklin talked about. Also how he has had a problem since the age of 9 would also show the profane in this. Growing up, he felt as if he had to rely on this based on what he had experienced. He was adopted at the age of 4 and had no mother or father around. A woman adopted him in her 60s, which I would imagine that she wasn’t that mobile and couldn’t take him many places that he may have wanted to go, except for the church. (Rimmer, 2006) This source of abandonment could also contribute to his problems that he experienced. Also this shows how his past may have had a greater influence on his music and testimony. His past triumphs gives a better story or his songs. His redemption proves this.

When looking at how Kirk Franklin identifies his own self and how he describes where he stands in terms of sacred and secular music and mixing the two, it seems that he really wants to just make gospel music more popular to kids so they will be more interested. A quote from Franklin, which was talked about earlier in the paper says, "I'm trying to change the way people look at gospel music. It's not corny, and it's not hokey. We're not just running around here with some choir robes on, yelling and screaming. It's not about that anymore, kid" (Pendergast, 2005). Within this statement, Kirk Franklin relates to his controversy of being on the border of sacred and secular and crossing the borders, by saying that he will do whatever it takes for people to hear the messages and word of God, while trying to not make it corny or hokey. In order to do this, he has to make it relate to the type of music that is in style and what his intended audience enjoys, which is hip-hip. As we know from the descriptions earlier, hip-hop would be considered secular and profane, which is not acceptable in gospel. Kirk Franklin sees this as just a way to get more people to enjoy gospel and to hear the word of God, but many people speculate the use of secular styles into sacred gospel. As shown in his song, “I smile”, there is a direct correlation to this song and “Smile” by Tupac and Scarface, which is religiously intended, but secular indeed. Kirk Franklin still thinks that it is all right to be doing these kinds of things, because it is what God told him to do and God just wants him to deliver the message and does not have to “pretty up God’s word” (Jessie, 2012). This means that he feels it does not matter in which musical setting, sacred or secular, he is using, as long as God’s words are being delivered to the people. However, if Kirk Franklin is just doing this to please the people, then he is wrong and should be trying to please God and only use sacred context.

One critique I found of Kirk Franklin’s music was very positive, and gives a different view on his way of reaching people. In The Gospel Blog, the critic Cliff claims, “Hello Fear” is a very good album produced by Kirk Franklin, and states, “It seems to me that he does not just create music that he thinks people want to hear. He creates music that people need to hear. He could easily follow all of the musical trends and release Gospel music that sound and feel like what other genres are doing”. (Cliff, 2010) I found this to be interesting and used this critique for this reason because I have not found many critics who are entirely O.K with Kirk Franklin using his “unique” style to add to gospel and using this as music people “need” to hear. The critic continues to say that you do not even need to be a follower of Christ to listen to and enjoy this album, because it is personal and speaks about problems that everyone faces and “you get to experience the feelings of the artist while being challenged to look introspectively and explore your own feelings” (Cliff, 2010). I think this raises red flags by itself, because gospel music is intended for Christians and is supposed to be sacred and speaking the words of God, and now this critic is saying that everyone is able to listen to him, even if they do not follow Christ.



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