In the various styles and formats Deitrick Haddon has tackled in the name of Christian music, he has usually set a high creative bar while taken many risks along the way. When the Detroit-based mega-gifted vocalist and pastor entered the industry two decades ago, he nearly turned the urban gospel market upside down with his blazing brand of gospel soul both as a soloist and with Voices of Unity (V.O.U.) featuring members from his local church (Unity Cathedral of Faith). Haddon’s uncanny ability to merge praise and worship with funk, soul and R&B definitely upped the ante for progressive gospel ensembles and choirs like Kirk Franklin & God’s Property and Tye Tribbett & G.A. But while Franklin and Tribbett's ministries have stirred many souls for Christ, Haddon has often explored other avenues to expand the gospel kingdom.
Haddon, who always had a flair for acting since touring in high school plays, took the plunge to the silver screen in 2010 with his debut, Blessed & Cursed The Movie, distributed by gospel company Tyscot Records. The plot centered on Haddon's character as a worship leader caught up in sin and was primarily used as a teaching tool for the church community about Christian leaders dealing with temptations in the world. Just like his boundary breaking music, Haddon’s was equally fervent in his approach towards filmmaking to bring a real world situation into focus, minus the fluff.
Though Blessed & Cursed was met with mixed reviews from critics and ministers, an undeterred Haddon releases his sophomore full-length movie, A Beautiful Soul, once again focusing on the tortured soul theme. This time, Haddon plays a highly egotistical R&B star who thrives on his career and all the thrills behind it without any thought of spiritual consequences. The companion soundtrack to A Beautiful Soul perfectly suits the storyline with a primarily futuristic tone (very similar to Haddon’s 2011 release, Church on the Moon). And in addition to V.O.U., Haddon brings other veteran and fresh gospel talent along for the ride.
R&B songstress Faith Evans joins Haddon for the debut single, "No Betta," a contagious mix of modern day bounce and 80s new jack soul (think Blackstreet’s "No Diggity"). "Marching Orders," which showcases Kierra 'Kiki' Sheard slightly out of her normal comfort zone, is flanked by staccato beats and fierce lyricism from Haddon, PGame and Jai: "I've got my war clothes on/ You don't want to mess with me/Cause right now I'm in the zone/You can't catch up with my speed." The tribal driven "Go to Church," featuring Ram & Jabreal, sends an important message that the church doors are open to everyone. Regula sprinkles plenty of matter-of-fact analogies throughout “Running to You,” on pursuing our own will instead of God’s:” “I’m on a treadmill/Want to make it happen fast/But it seems slow.” “Love Did It” delivers a bit of a Mary J. Blige-like attitude, thanks to former God’s Property vocalist Candy West. “This Church” effectively guides straight ahead praise and worship into the futuristic zone, accented by Charles Laster, Jr’s rich and commanding tenor lead.
A Beautiful Soul misfires a bit on the heavily auto-tuned “The More I Praise,” and Adia's work on “Incomplete” and a duet with Joint Heirs, “Your Love Holds Me Down,” do not quite make the higher vocal grades compared to the other guest appearances. But long time Haddon loyalists will find great pleasure in two particular tracks: "Never Hurt Again" thrives on the power trio of Haddon, V.O.U. veteran Sean Hardin and Jor’el Quinn soaking in that gospel soul vibe. And then Haddon's poignant, expressive tenor takes the solo reins on the title track: “I know it hurts/I don’t have the words to say to comfort you/But what I can take is I can relate to what you are going through.”
A Beautiful Soul is another worthy addition to Deitrick Haddon’s strong discography. This is an impressive collective that again shows how Haddon’s intense, risk-taking ministry continues to speak volumes for this generation. Recommended.
By Peggy Oliver