“If I wasn’t an artist, I would still be an activist – out trying to make a difference and giving a voice to those who don’t have one.” – Israel Houghton
Spreading the message of God’s love as manifested through mankind set to a soundtrack of “soul music” at its most profound, internationally acclaimed artist/composer/producer Israel Houghton has done it again. Building on the theme of his Grammy-winning 2009 offering The Power of One, Houghton returned to the studio, this time London’s famed Abbey Road Studios, to record his new masterwork, Love God. Love People., with a little help from his friends. There, holed up in a hallowed space of classic recordings by Rock royalty The Beatles, Houghton and his crack team of co-producers Aaron Lindsey and Tommy Sims, along with guests Fred Hammond, Kirk Franklin, and Take 6‘s Claude V. McKnight, Mark Kibble and Joey Kibble, created a new ode to love in this epic, 12-song cycle.
The result, Love God. Love People. (Integrity Music/Columbia), delivers the musical versatility, profound lyrics and galvanizing displays of vocal and instrumental virtuosity fans have come to expect from the multiple Grammy and Stellar Award winner. And it is the perfect and fitting manner in which to celebrate Israel Houghton’s 20 against-the-grain years of music ministry and over a decade of his group New Breed‘s mission of creating “kingdom music.”
“During my career, a lot of people told me to stop trying to merge styles,” Houghton reflects of his signature blending of pop, rock, Latin and R&B influences. “But the times I feel most true to myself are when I am intentionally creating dialogue through music that allows everybody to get involved in the conversation. I thank God that I stayed the course. Now, people are saying, ‘Wow, your music is fresh!’ Ten years ago, people were saying it was confusing! But when God puts something in your heart, you’ve got to stick with it.”
Over the course of the past two decades, Houghton has traveled the world and seen up close the best and the worst of the human spirit at work. He is heartened to report that, of late, he has witnessed great improvement, which inspired and fortified the overall theme of this dynamic new disc.
“This whole concept of a love revolution – thinking beyond yourself – is the great equalizer to our theology,” Houghton states. “Because of the music we make as New Breed, we get invited into a lot of worlds that otherwise would not co-exist. That’s a huge part of our life’s mission successessay – to be effective in all kinds of streams. Even though we may differ in theologies, we as Christians are still the ‘Love People.’ If we can agree that Jesus is Lord, we can connect on what The Lord said, which is ‘Love The Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your might and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Couple that with Matthew: 25 ‘Love to the least of these,’ and there’s a lot we can do together as Christians instead of focusing on things we don’t believe.
“Love God. Love People. is a simple yet pivotal statement about the essence of what life here on Earth ultimately comes down to.”
And now it’s time to make a change… Life gets better / It just gets better when we / We look around and see all of humanity / Waiting on someone / Someone is you and me
In addition to the obvious Biblical command found in the title song, the heart of the album may lie in the haunting “Others,” penned by Houghton and his wife Meleasa. The song began when the couple came up with separate parts for what they thought would be different songs. But when they sat down at the piano, Houghton began to feel that the lyrics might go well together. Within minutes of opening to this possibility, the song was born.
“Meleasa has a tendency to write strong, raw lyrics like the opening lines of this song: “I see the state of the world and it grieves me. I tend to come with more of the lighter ‘I wanna love like you love, wanna love others the way that you love me.’ That makes for a lot of tension and release in what we write which is what music always needs.”
That innate sense of music chemistry has helped Houghton create a canon of songs that have become favorites in houses of faith and on radio dials across the globe. Having written or co-written 11 CCLI Top 500 favorites, Houghton uses his multi-cultural upbringing as a key reference point in his boundary-defying music, inspiring people of all ages, races and cultures to come together under the banner of Christ. Renowned as a worship leader in Pastor Joel Osteen‘s Lakewood church in Houston, Houghton has also led hundreds of thousands in worship at events, churches and festivals around the world. In 1995, he and Meleasa founded New Breed Ministries, an organization comprised of noted musicians and singers who serve within their respective churches and, together, serve the Church at large. For their efforts, they have been fittingly graced with two Gold-selling albums, three Grammy Awards, six Dove Awards, two Stellar Awards and a Soul Train Award.
Summing up Love God. Love People., and the culmination of his first 20 years in music ministry, Houghton states, “For this season of my life, this is what I’m still passionate about. If I wasn’t an artist, I would still be an activist – out trying to make a difference and giving a voice to those who don’t have one. New Breed could have easily found its end at any time overnight. Not because the music wasn’t good, but because we had failed up to that point to discover our real purpose. It was not to build a platform under myself but to build a platform under others. Once we as a team grasped the understanding that ‘Strength is for service not status’ (Romans: 15), we knew our success was not about winning awards, selling platinum CDs or selling out concert halls. It was about taking whatever momentum we could gather and giving it back in service. That’s what has kept me and New Breed relevant, focused and effective. And I am grateful that God has surrounded me with people who have that same heart.”