I have not always been a big Mary Mary fan — at least not compared to people I know who go rabid at the sound of sisters Erica Atkins-Campbell’s and Tina Atkins-Campbell’s voices. But a close friend had been pumping me up for weeks about their fourth studio album, The Sound. Prior to purchasing the album the other day, I hadn’t heard as much as a single cut. Still, I was hopeful that this would be a sound that would minister to me.
Within the first few tracks on the album, listeners are introduced to what seems like a new sound. Or is it? Personally, I wouldn’t call it a new sound; I’d call it a repurposing of average secular music. “God in Me” sounds like a cross between The Dream and T-Pain, and “Superfriend” reminds me of Dirty South music — and features one of the South’s “dirty” rappers, David Banner. Now let me take a moment for this one, because I fear that eyebrows will raise.
When I saw the scrolling text on my iPod display that the song features David Banner, I gasped. I couldn’t understand why Mary Mary would collaborate with a man who still thinks that exploiting women in his videos is the norm. But, before I turned it off, I decided to hear him out. Much to my surprise, Banner’s rap interlude was thoughtful, transparent, and spoke clearly of the Banner we know now while hinting that there may be a new iteration to come. Besides, aren’t we all just a work in progress? I’ll certainly be praying for the brother.
Banner cameos and secular influences aside, the album does return to the traditional Mary Mary sound by the sixth track. Songs like “Boom” and “Dirt” are reminiscent in tone and lyrical quality to their third album’s hit single, “Heaven,” while “I Worship You” and “I Trust You” usher in a spirit of worship by helping listeners connect their everyday problems with their ability to trust in God. My personal favorites are “God in Me,” “Get Up,” and “I Trust You.”
The Sound reminds me of the apostle Paul’s words in I Corinthians 9:22: “I have become all things to all people that I might by all means save some” (NRSV). This album has something for everyone, from the lover of hip-hop to those with more traditional gospel tastes. Mary Mary has created a melting pot dedicated to their love of the Father. And despite some of my early misgivings, it actually works.