Michelle Williams’ ‘Journey To Freedom’: Album Review

Michelle Williams has always walked the line between mainstream R&B (the genre she conquered with Destiny’s Child) and gospel (her calling) with both grace and a certain amount of caution. On her fourth LP, however, both worlds collide. Journey To Freedom is an ambitious attempt at extending the scope of faith-based music by conveying the diva’s inspirational message through non-traditional means.

The starting point for most listeners will be “Say Yes” — the wig-whipping internet phenomenon that reunited Michelle with Beyonce and Kelly Rowland. Based on a Nigerian hymn, the turbo-charged floorfiller is equally appropriate for church or the club. The content is distinctly religious but the furious beat and slick production make it accessible to all-comers. It’s a nifty trick that the 34-year-old pulls off with astounding consistency on her best album to date.

I didn’t think it would be possible to top the aforementioned collaboration but the social media star does just that with “Yes”. A pretty mid-tempo ballad that explodes into a demented EDM adventure, the audacious anthem is breathtakingly original and distinctly non-preachy. Your iPod needs this. “In The Morning” is similarly disarming with its unexpected pop/rock production and soaring chorus.

Other highlights include the pure-pop anthem “Just Like You” and pretty synth-ballad “Everything”, which could just as easily be about a lover or family member as a religious figure. Not that Michelle is somehow hiding her agenda. “Beautiful” is the most traditional gospel ballad on Journey To Freedom, while the Lecrae-featuring “Fall” is a slick dose of Christian hip-hop. The gorgeously-produced “Need Your Help” is equally direct with its message but those bouncy synths broaden its appeal.

As for soul? The thinking man’s Destiny’s Child diva delivers with singles “If We Had Your Eyes” and “Fire” as well as the smooth mid-tempo track “Free”. In many ways, Journey To Freedom is the perfect bridge between the singer’s gospel and secular output. By focusing on universal themes (love, hope and inner strength) and exploring new genres, Michelle has created something both inclusive and joyously experimental.

Possible Future Singles: “Yes” is the most exciting and commercial track on the album but “Everything” is undeniably touching.

Best Listened To: When you need a lift.

Idolator Score: 4/5

Mike Wass