Surviving A Social Media Storm

social media storm
Kim Burrell

Many may not know that when I’m planning a post for Weekly Music Commentary, I begin two to three months in advance of the publication date. That means I must look at possible new releases, tour dates and news items before making a decision about featuring a particular artist. Sometimes, there may be one story angle in the planning stages, and another more intriguing story develops. This week is the perfect example as you will see. A social media storm moved the planned post in another direction. Yes, this week I chose to feature gospel singer and minister Kim Burrell.

As I looked forward to featuring Kim Burrell, I was well aware of her accomplishments musically. Of note was that she was working on music for the soundtrack of the film Hidden Figures. The film received great critical acclaim and notoriety, therefore the music would be thrust into major limelight. By the time this post would publish, Kim Burrell would have very hot music on the market. Along the way another video became viral, and very quickly Kim Burrell was in the middle of a social media storm.

Burrell came under fire for comments she made about homosexuality, while preaching a sermon at the Love & Liberty Fellowship Church, which were seen on a video. In that sermon, she called people who engage in homosexual acts “perverted” and said they had been deceived by the “homosexual spirit.” She also stated that “if you play with [homosexual sin] in 2017, you’ll die from it.” Burrell commented, in response to the criticism, that she makes “no excuses or apologies” for the sermon. Very soon her words started to negatively affect her musical career.  The Ellen DeGeneres Show cancelled Burrell’s scheduled appearance, as did the BMI Trailblazers of Gospel Music event, where she was removed as an honoree. Her radio talk show, Bridging the Gap with Kim Burrell, was cancelled by Texas Southern University.

I want to make it clear that I will not express my opinion about what Kim Burrell said. However, this post will discuss the aftermath of the video, and if there has been irreparable damage to her career. Before we start to look at where we are today, it might be good to look at Kim Burrell’s career accomplishments before the social media storm.

Kimberly Burrell, born August 26, 1972 is the daughter of a pastor in the Church of God in Christ (COGIC). Burrell began her gospel career performing with Reverend James Cleveland’s GMWA Youth Mass Choir (also known as Rev. James Cleveland’s Kids), Trinity Temple Full Gospel Mass Choir of Dallas and The Inspirational Sounds Mass Choir of Houston. In 1996, she appeared on Ricky Dillard & New G’s “Worked It Out” album, as the feature on the reprise of “Jesus Paid It All”. Her first independent album, Try Me Again, was released on the Texas-based boutique label Pearl Records in 1995. This led to her being signed to Tommy Boy Gospel and releasing another album, Everlasting Life (1999), produced by Asaph Alexander Ward. Burrell has been also featured on B.E.T.’s Celebration of Gospel, Lift Every Voice, as well as the Bobby Jones Gospel Show. She has appeared at Lincoln Center, Radio City Music Hall, Rock & Roll Music Hall of Fame and other notable venues and ministries around the world.

Kim Burrell has worked with a variety of musicians of different genres, and has earned great respect for her musical abilities. Chaka Khan deemed Kim Burrell “one of the most interesting voices I’ve heard in a long while.” In an interview on XM Satellite Radio, Harry Connick, Jr. said of Burrell, “if she’s not the greatest musical mind I’ve ever been around, she’s certainly up at the top of the list.” Burrell also made an appearance on funk pioneer George Clinton’s original song called “Mathematics of Love” from Clinton’s 2008 album of covers entitled George Clinton and Some Gangsters of Love.

On May 17, 2011, she released The Love Album on Shanachie Records. In its first week after being released, it was #5 on the Billboard Gospel Albums chart, #166 on the Billboard 200 chart, and was the #2 most downloaded Gospel album on iTunes. The Love Album was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Gospel Album and two Stellar Awards for Contemporary Female of the Year.

Over the past weeks I listened to her most recent album A Different Place. If you are not familiar with Burrell’s music, you might want to download the album. It demonstrates what Chaka Khan and Harry Connick Jr said about Burrell’s musical talent.

Right about the time that the Hidden Figures soundtrack was released, Burrell was interviewed by Tom Joyner on the TJMS radio show. She spoke about working with Pharrell Williams as a wonderful experience. About a week later I heard Pharrell speak about how much he enjoyed working with Burrell. The song, “I see a victory” was going to be a success on several levels. Then the video leaked and the social media storm ensued.

I am not saying anything against social media in this post. In fact, in earlier posts I have written about the positive effects social media has had on the music industry. Social Media is basically another mode of communication. A lightning fast mode of communication. With the aid of social media platforms we have seen musicians become international superstars overnight. We have also seem reputations ruined in a matter of hours.

As I stated earlier, this post is not meant to condemn nor exonerate Kim Burrell. Can she continue to enjoy what was a good gospel music career before her social media storm? I don’t believe it will ever be the same, but I’m sure she still has many fans. One thing about the social media storm is that like literal storms, they do pass over us. However, the stronger the storm, the more damage left in the aftermath. Only time will tell when it comes to Kim Burrell.

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