Franklin’s latest musical offering—and 13th studio album—is the aptly titled LONG LIVE LOVE from his RCA-distributed label, Fo Yo Soul Recordings. But even before the album’s May 31st release date, its first single is already laying down some serious groundwork.
“Love Theory” bowed at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Gospel Songs chart and has kept the position on lock for nine weeks. The vibrant track marked the singer’s record-extending seventh No. 1 and his second start atop the chart. With 1 million U.S. streams in its first week per Nielsen Music, “Love Theory” also opened at No. 1 on Gospel Streaming Songs as well as Gospel Digital Song Sales. Its colorful and energetic video has accumulated over 2.5 million YouTube views and counting.
“When people can see themselves as being loved, no matter who or how they are, it gives them more of the ability to love,” says Franklin; which is the inspiration for “Love Theory” and the theme of the video. “It’s my constant story about this message of love, the love of God, and me trying to play my role in that conversation.”
Among the other striking conversation-starters on the 10-track LONG LIVE LOVE are the introspective “Just for Me,” the insightful “Father Knows Best” and the cautionary “Idols.” As the very first song that Franklin wrote for the album, “Idols” is the hinge the album hangs. It addresses the issue of people placing too much emphasis on things like their careers, body image, and money. Or on their service to God; that sometimes becomes more important than the man himself.
“We’re living in an era where so many things compete for the attention of our hearts,” says Franklin. “They don’t all have to be bad, but these things can become what matters to us more than they’re supposed to. “Idols” and every song on the album just bubbled up and out—a tapestry of what I believe, how I feel, what I want, and my struggles. It’s the good, the bad and the ugly.”
After culling through 50 to 60 song ideas, Franklin began collaborating with his fraternity of co-producers, Ron Hill, Shaun Martin, Max Stark, and S1. His last album 2015’s R.E.M. , influenced Losing My Religion (GRAMMY Award winner for Best Gospel Album in 2017). It boasted guest turns by gospel and R&B artists including Kim Burrell, Lalah Hathaway, Tasha Cobbs, and Tamela Mann. Franklin opted to let the music—a flavorful mélange of gospel, R&B, hip-hop, and other influences—play the feature role on LONG LIVE LOVE.
“The process for this album was unique,” says Franklin, “because I literally had all the songs written before I started to record. That’s never happened before. That allowed me to see lyrically and melodically if the music could stand on its own without production. A lot of times I think that popular music can depend too much on production.”
Celebrating his 26th career anniversary this year, the winner of more than 40 Stellar Awards and 16 Dove Awards is also busy pushing the envelope in other endeavors. Franklin brought his total GRAMMY tally to 16 Grammys at the 61st annual ceremony this year during Tori Kelly’s first foray into gospel, the Franklin-produced Hiding Place, won best gospel album. “Never Alone,” the Franklin co-penned single from the album, was named best gospel performance/song.
In 2020, Franklin has his eyes set on another successful Exodus Music &Arts Festival, fantastic additions to the Kirk Franklin Praise channel on SiriusXM, and starting production on his bio-pic with Sony.
“You already know what I’m going to say,” Franklin answers with a hearty laugh when asked about the secret behind his career longevity and indefatigable drive to keep pushing. “It’s because of somebody bigger than me and you. I’m the most non-perfect person in the world. But having an opportunity to be here still and communicate this faith that I believe in … I don’t know what else I could ask for.”