Heart to Yours
|Heart to Yours|
|Studio album by Michelle Williams|
|Released||April 16, 2002|
|Michelle Williams chronology|
|Singles from Heart to Yours|
Heart to Yours is the first solo album by American singer Michelle Williams. Released on April 16, 2002 by Sanctuary and Columbia Records, it became the first solo release of any Destiny's Child member. Production of the album began in 2001, with Williams working with an array of producers, including her brother Erron Williams (who produced the title track), HR Crump and Warryn Campbell. Heart to Yours is primarily an urban contemporary gospel album, however it heavily incorporates elements of many other styles and genres such as neo-soul, inspirational, R&B and even rock music. The album's lyrical content and subject matter is also diverse and ranges from songs that glorify and praise God to tributes dedicated to the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, which encourage those suffering in the aftermath of the attacks that the "sun will shine again".
Receiving generally positive reviews from critics, Heart to Yours peaked at number one on the US Billboard Gospel Albums chart after debuting with 17,000 copies sold in one week; eventually becoming 2002's biggest selling album of that genre in the US, selling over 200,000 copies. The album was also a success on another Billboard component chart, the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, where it peaked within the top 20 at number seventeen. However, the album failed to make as big of an impact on the US Billboard 200 as the debuts of Williams' bandmates, peaking at a moderate fifty-seven. The album won Williams an award for "Best Gospel Act" at the 2002 MOBO Awards and its lead single "Heard a Word" was featured on the platinum-certified WOW Gospel 2003 compilation album. Billboard listed Williams as the fifth Top Gospel Artist of 2002.
Background and production
Williams began her singing career as a backing vocalist for R&B singer Monica in 1999 before joining Destiny's Child with Farrah Franklin (who would later leave) alongside original members Beyoncé Knowles and Kelly Rowland, replacing former members LeToya Luckett and LaTavia Roberson to much controversy in 2000.
In late 2000, while recording their third album, Survivor, Destiny's Child revealed that they would produce solo albums to be released "simultaneously" in the "hope" that they would "boost interest in Destiny's Child". Describing the stylistic differences of the albums' directions, Knowles said "We're going to all do different types of music and support each other's album" before saying "hopefully it will broaden our audience, so it will help us all out". The idea of individual releases emanated from the group's manager and Knowles' father, Mathew. After the release of Survivor, the group announced in late 2001 a temporary break-up to focus on solo projects, including working on their own albums. Before undertaking their respective solo projects, the group released a Christmas album, 8 Days of Christmas.
Williams worked in the studio with several musical collaborators, including Scott “Shavoni” Parker, Damon Elliott, Warren Campbell and gospel producer HR Crump. Williams also co-wrote five of the songs whilst her brother Erron Williams, produced numerous tracks.
She revealed in an interview with Gospel Flava that she "received tremendous support" from Music World, saying, "they came to me. There wasn't a question as to what type of music I was going to do. Music World has a Gospel division and I'm the first artist to come out on Music World and in the Gospel division. I'd love to do more and more Gspel projects". She also discussed her Christian upbringing, saying, "I grew up in Rockford, Illinois. St. Paul Church Of God In Christ was and still is my home church". Furthermore, she explained, "I sang my first solo at the age of seven. I directed the choir, I was an usher. I was a straight-up church girl. I did a lot of stuff in the community such as singing in various choirs and at my school." In discussing the musical transition she said, "it wasn't a hard transition at all. This is something that has been in my heart to do, so I had to do it. I thought that it would be a perfect time. Choosing to do this at the height of my career rather than doing it when Destiny's Child is at a downfall, you know? Most people do that. They go Gospel when they don't have anything else to do anymore, you know? I chose to do this while I can reach people."
She echoed this sentiment in speaking with Billboard about the album and its artistic direction, saying: "Some people will do gospel when their career fails, but I chose to do it at the height of the popularity of Destiny's Child. I didn't want to do it because it was a fad. I wanted to do it because it's in me. It's in my heart."
Content and composition
Generally, the album consists of urban contemporary gospel music containing elements of R&B, neo-soul and traditional black gospel music, with inspirational lyrics about building, maintaining and appreciating a relationship with God which also encourage the listener that "everything is going to work out fine". The album's lead single, "Heard a Word", sums up the theme of the album, with its chorus: "I heard a word / Saying girl, you'll be fine / I heard a word that would ease my troubled mind / Took all the hurt away / Warmed me up inside like a summer day / So glad that you'd never break your promises". Other songs are tributes to the victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States; "Better Place", written by Michelle Williams, Damon Elliott and Kayla Parker, is one such example which was inspired by the catastrophic event and is an emotional tribute to those who died in the attack.
The album features guest vocals by various artists, including Williams' Destiny's Child band mates – Kelly Rowland and Beyoncé Knowles – on "Gospel Medley" (originally produced for the group's 2001 album, Survivor) which consists of an interpolation of Kirk Franklin's "Holy is the Lamb", the popular Anna B. Warner hymn "Jesus Loves Me" and concludes with the famous final section of Richard Smallwood's "Total Praise". Other guests include Carl Thomas on a remixed version of the BeBe & CeCe Winans classic, "Heaven", (featured as a bonus track on the album); Men of Standard's Isaac Carree and Lowell C. Pye on "You Care for Me"; Mary Mary on "So Glad"; and Shirley Caesar on "Steal Away to Jesus", which was heralded by most critics as "the album's high point" and was first included on Caesar's 2001 album, Hymns.
In discussing the collaborations, Williams said it was "no problem" to connect with the featured artists on the album, saying "a phone call was made and we were already cool with one another. It kinda wasn't even a business thing. It was like 'that's my girl', you know, and I personally asked them myself. So that's how that went." She also revealed she was "initially uncertain about boldly referencing Jesus on the project". Whilst discussing the lyrical content she stated, "at first I was like, 'should I say Jesus', but before I knew it, I couldn't help but to [say His name] [...] I wasn't going to let anybody stop me from doing that...not that anybody really was, you know?".
While her musical cohorts were finishing their projects, Williams' management strategically planned a successive release of their albums to avoid "rivalry" on the charts. Over a period of one year, Williams released Heart to Yours on April 16, 2002, in the United States, ahead of Kelly Rowland's 2002 album, Simply Deep and Beyoncé Knowles' 2003 Dangerously in Love – all debut releases. Williams expressed that she wanted "to reach everyone" and hoped "that a small percentage of Destiny's Child's fanbase" would "get it and be reached" and "hear a different message.
Heart to Yours received generally positive reviews from critics. William Ruhlmann of AllMusic complimented the non-hasty production of the album, noting that "there are different producers on nearly every track, and the arrangements for the most part are state-of-the-art urban contemporary efforts". Ruhlmann also described Williams' voice as "warm" and "kittenish" before writing that "by the time Williams is trading lines with Isaac Carree and Lowell Pye of Men of Standard" she "has transformed herself from kitten to tiger, belting out the words with absolute conviction". GospelCity.com also praised "Michelle's delicate vocals" – particularly on "You Care For Me" where Williams' "soulful chops" are said to "shine through brilliantly" – and noted that on "Heard A Word", Williams "demonstrates further versatility in Ella-like fashion", concluding the review by describing Heart to Yours as a "melodically pleasant, lyrically sound gospel project".
Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine also described Williams' voice was "warm", noting that it recalls "the playful wisps of her R&B contemporaries (Jill Scott, Erykah Badu) and the breathy timbre of Diana Ross". Cinquemani then described the album as being "a mix of slick hip-hop-style beats, inspirational themes and catchy, pop-friendly hooks" with "admirable", "largely restrained arrangements", lending particular praise to the "surprisingly eloquent (and non-denominational) sentiment" that is featured within the lyrics of the album's title track ("Heart to Yours"). Tracy Hopkins of Rolling Stone magazine gave the least favorable review however, stating that despite Williams' collaborations with contemporary gospel singers, they "only reinforce the thin-piped vocalist's shortcomings". Hopkins also wrote that although Williams "is in the right place", her vocals are "too quiet" and the production is too "tame to start a real Holy Ghost party". On the contrary, Mike Rimmer of Cross Rhythms gave a very favorable review of the album (10/10), describing "the quality" as being "superb throughout" and "Michelle's soulful laid back vocals" as being "delicious throughout".
Although Heart to Yours failed to dominate the US Billboard 200, it gained success on Billboard's components charts. The album entered the Billboard Top Gospel Albums chart at number one with first week sales of 17,000 copies. Eventually spending a total of forty-six weeks on the chart, Heart to Yours became the best-selling gospel album of the year. On the main album chart in the US, the Billboard 200, the album reached number fifty-seven on May 4, 2002, spending fourteen weeks on the chart and also managed to peak within the top 20 of the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, at number seventeen, where the album spent twenty-four weeks. According to The New York Times, Heart to Yours has sold 203,000 copies in the US. In addition to this, the album was listed at number six on the US Billboard Year-End Top Gospel Albums chart in 2002, making it one of the most successful gospel releases of the year.
|1.||"Heart to Yours"||
|2.||"Heard a Word"||
||Buster & Shavoni||4:56|
|3.||"So Glad" (featuring Mary Mary)||
|4.||"Sun Will Shine Again"||Parker||
|5.||"Better Place (9.11)"||
|6.||"Change the World"||
|8.||"You Care for Me" (featuring Isaac Carree and Lowell Pye of Men of Standard)||HR Crump||HR Crump||5:56|
|9.||"Steal Away to Jesus" (duet with Shirley Caesar)||
|10.||"Rock with Me"||
|11.||"Gospel Medley" (Destiny's Child)||Knowles||3:26|
|12.||"Heaven" (bonus track featuring Carl Thomas)||3:07|
|Japan bonus track|
|13.||"Steal Away to Jesus" (remix) (duet with Shirley Caesar)||Wallace Willis, Shirley Caesar||3:52|
- ^[A] denotes co-producer
- ^[B] denotes additional producer
- "Steal Away to Jesus" is a completely re-worked cover of the Wallace Willis hymn which was arranged by Shirley Caesar (who also features on the track).
- "Rock with Me" contains resung elements from "Cornerstone" by Leon Patillo.
- "Gospel Medley" consists of an interpolation of Kirk Franklin's "Now Behold the Lamb", the Anna Bartlett Warner hymn "Jesus Loves Me" and concludes with the final section of Richard Smallwood's "Total Praise".
Credits are taken from the album's liner notes.
- Performance credits
- Visuals and imagery
- Technical and Production
|US Billboard 200||57|
|US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (Billboard)||17|
|US Top Gospel Albums (Billboard)||1|
|US Christian Albums (Billboard)||1|
|US Top Gospel Albums (Billboard)||6|
|United States||April 16, 2002||Sanctuary, Columbia|
|United Kingdom||May 13, 2002||Sony Music|
|Japan||September 13, 2002|
|Germany||December 2, 2003|
Awards and nominations
|2002||Best Gospel Act||Heart to Yours||Won|
|GMA Dove Awards|
|2002||Traditional Gospel Recorded Song of the Year||"Steal Away to Jesus"||Nominated|
|GMWA Excellence Awards|
|2003||Female Vocalist of the Year – Urban Contemporary||Heart to Yours||Won|
|2003||New Artist of the Year||Heart to Yours||Nominated|
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