GOSPEL SENSATION ERICA CAMPBELL. (PHOTO BY GAIL MANKER/FILE)
by Nicole Jeanine Johnson, For The Chicago Defender
Award-winning singer and songwriter Erica Campbell has released her third studio album, “I Love You.” This album is an open invitation to a world that could use a little bit more love.
Campbell used the pandemic to create something beautiful.
“I chose to focus on something else,” said Campbell. “Positive was the first song written during the pandemic when ‘positive’ was a scary word.”
Since its release, “Positive” has spent four consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Gospel charts and earned a 2023 Grammy nomination for Best Gospel Song. It also won the 2023 NAACP Image Award for “Outstanding Gospel Christian Song.” In its entirety, the album has been certified as one of the most anticipated studio albums of the year. It debuted at No. 1 on the Amazon Gospel Charts, No. 3 on the iTunes Gospel charts, and is currently sitting at No. 10 on the Billboard Gospel charts.
As a gospel singer, music has been Erica’s vehicle to “join the conversation” as a Christian. Throughout this album, she exemplifies a legacy of faith-based leaders who do not turn a blind eye to the world’s pain and share in carrying that burden. These are people who live in communities that need more light. She shares that “we’ve all seen the same tragedy, [but] the difference with me is I’m carrying the light of Jesus, and there should be an answer and a solution, a help and a hope in what I do.”
Sharing the Love
Throughout her career, Erica seamlessly weaved the elegant sounds of the church with the rhythm of R&B and Hip Hop, and this album is no different. “I Love You” features collaborations with singer, songwriter, and producer PJ Morton and harmonica harmonies by the legendary Stevie Wonder. The album is an opportunity to meet listeners where they are.
Erica added, “I wanted to reach the people who say, ‘God’s not really for me.’ I’m going to be smart and savvy and a great songwriter that allows me to give you a message to go, ‘Huh, let me consider God.’”
“I Love You” is a love letter to the same God Erica has always known. The only difference now is that her faith has been fortified. It has allowed her to grow legs, moving her to a space that God has opened for her to be who she is.
Early in her solo career, the industry didn’t know who she was beyond Mary Mary, the group she formed with her sister Tina Campbell. This album is a culmination of how her receptivity has evolved across her productions.
“It’s okay to introduce yourself even though you know yourself well and you think everybody else should know you. They didn’t. Of course, it’s since changed. And there are some [who stayed the same] because they love Mary Mary so much, they’ll always love that. That’ll never change, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t have a place.”
Erica’s hope for the album is that it moves society forward in the global reset in the wake of the pandemic.
“I reset my thinking of the possibility. My hope got real big during that time, and it was in Christ.”
Through “I Love You,” she shares a message in a world looking for answers when things go wrong.
She said, “A life of faith doesn’t mean trouble-free. [It] doesn’t mean that you won’t go through anything. I think a lot of times, people are looking for ‘How I go wrong. How did I get here?’ Sometimes you got there because that’s just life.”
Through her work, she’s clear on her place in the world.
“That’s all I need is to plant a seed. That’s my job to be a seed planter and as many diverse places as I can possibly take it. A seed of love, a seed of confidence, a seed of power. A seed of the divine, and He’ll water it.”