Marvin Sapp, I Win
To say that much has changed since Marvin Sapp’s last release, Here I Am, would be an understatement. On the surface, Sapp’s 2010 release further propelled his renown, already on a high from the 2007 crossover hit, “Never Would Have Made It.” Here I Am, Sapp’s eighth solo album, made history as the highest-charting gospel album in history, landing at #2 on the Billboard Top 200 and selling roughly 76,000 units its first week. Plus, the project secured for him another crossover single with “The Best In Me.”
But for Marvin Sapp and his three children, the biggest change is one that is much more difficult to take in than any successes he’s experienced. In September of 2010, just months after the release of Here I Am, Sapp’s wife, Dr. MaLinda Sapp, passed after a bout with cancer.
Over a year later, in October of 2011, Marvin Sapp recorded his newest album, I Win, live in Washington, D.C., the first time he’s recorded outside of his hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich. The resulting 10-track project is the culmination of Sapp’s clearly can’t-lose production partners Aaron Lindsey and Myron Butler. The trio, along with Verity A&R Director Joseph Burney, was also at the helm of creative direction of his successful Here I Am and Thirsty albums.
The entire I Win album is an aptly titled declaration of victory despite any circumstances. It opens with the rousing “Teach My Hands to War” before transitioning to the funky “I Belong to You,” with bass slaps that absolutely compel you to bop your head. It soon transitions to the title-track, “I Win,” which Sapp has shared is his favorite on the album. He delivers it as a confident and emboldened “preacher who sings,” unflinchingly soaring to the rafters of his range.
Fans of more traditional gospel will adore the bare, organ-accompanied “Hymns Medley,” on which Sapp tasks his time to reflect on the lyrics of gospel standards like “I Need Thee Every Hour,” “Bless the Lord,” “Can’t Nobody Do Me Like Jesus,” “Oh, The Blood of Jesus” and more. The medley authentically leads into a testimony as it fades out with hand-clapping and foot-stomping.
Another standout on the album is the lead single, “My Testimony,” which entered the Top 10 at radio several weeks ago and is rapidly approaching #1. There’s no denying the power of Sapp’s heart-wrenching lead vocal as he declares “so glad I made it... so glad I made it... I made it through!”
Die-hard fans of Marvin Sapp will not be disappointed with his latest offering. As far as the musical style of I Win, he acknowledges that he adopted an “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” mantra. He sticks to what has been working for him and the vibe of the album sits securely in his wheelhouse.
Still, there is something different here. Perhaps he’s becoming even more seasoned as an artist. Or maybe it’s the handful of songs from new writers that he features, the result of a publicized solicitation for new songs via Twitter and Facebook.
I believe, however, that it’s simply his voice, now packed with a severely tested-and-tried, but decidedly triumphant conviction that no matter what, in Christ, we win.
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