“My whole journey has not been pursuing to be successful, but rather, pursuing to be faithful.”
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Victory is the finest example of the age-old saying from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Since the release of her major label debut album, The Broken Instrument, in 2018, the 28-year-old, God-fearing songstress has conquered mountains that not many in the industry could ever dream of climbing. But, when speaking retrospectively, she asserts that her accomplishments could never outweigh the lessons she learned along the way.
Her sophomore LP, Glory Hour, is less than 24 hours away, and throughout its 18-song track list, she demonstrates how impactful her new songwriting technique truly is. Dubbed “freedom writing,” Victory employed this special method to craft every song on the project. However, it does not require a pen, paper, or even a semblance of a song idea.
“Freedom writing is when I just sit down at the piano or at the guitar, and I just flow in the freedom of the spirit,” Victory tells American Songwriter. “I don’t have any preconceived notion of what I’m supposed to sound like. Whatever comes out, sometimes it doesn’t make sense, sometimes it’s just a melody, sometimes it’s a groan.”
The idea for freedom writing came from working with Kanye West for his 2019 studio album, JESUS IS KING, the first full-length effort in his catalog that explicitly delivers non-secular, Christian music. Earning songwriting credits on four of the LP’s 11 tracks—”Water,” “Closed on Sunday,” “God Is,” and “Hands On”—Victory explains that she gained just as much from West’s unorthodox approach to making music as he did from her songwriting assistance.
“He didn’t need to have all the ideas, he just facilitated bringing brilliant people together, that are all in the same wavelength, all in the same spirit,” she says. “He put out the raw substance and it needed to not be hindered by the brain. Then afterward you come in with the brain and you weigh what fits better, what flows better, what is the storyline.”
But, when West would acknowledge and praise Victory’s efforts as part of the JIK team, she was never awestruck. Already signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label, there aren’t any encounters that surprise her or build up her ego, because she already knows how special of an artist she is.
“When Jay-Z validates my penmanship, when Kanye validates my penmanship, they are more so just coming along to agree with what I already know,” she says. “But they’re not telling me as if it’s a revelation like I don’t already know that I’m great.”
Eventually, Victory would earn a Grammy award for her contributions to JESUS IS KING, as it took home the Best Contemporary Christian Music Album trophy in 2021. By this time, she was already hard at work on Glory Hour, which is named for the moment in time every day when she would do her freedom writing.
Raised in Detroit, Victory and her family moved to New York when she was a teenager to hone in on their music. At first, they would set up at bustling NYC areas like the Metropolitan Museum of Art or Central Park and play gospel songs for pedestrians passing by. Earning CD sales and tips daily, these IRL singing sessions would eventually manifest in studio albums.
Comprised of Victory and her siblings Abraham, Angel, Israel, and MoMo, the band Infinity Song put out Mad Love and its subsequent deluxe in 2020 and 2021. While still living in New York and having a studio to herself, which had two large windows that overlooked the NYC skyline, Victory would use her mornings alone to bask in the “Glory Hour,” which took place from 7-8 a.m. when the sun rose.
“That was the appointed time for darkness to be swallowed up in the glory of the Sun,” she says. “It happened every day without fail at the appointed time.”
For “Glory Hour,” Victory would either sit at her baby grand piano or have a guitar in hand to let the joy of sunrise influence her freedom writing. She liked to call this area her secret place, which she took from a Bible verse in Psalms 91: 1-16—”He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”
“The secret place is a place where it’s just you and God, anything that comes out of the secret place is just a byproduct of this relationship that you have and you’re just safe, and you’re just full of love,” she says. “So, that was the whole vision of the secret place.”
However, after conditions worsened in New York around that time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Victory decided to move down to Dallas, Texas. After getting the most out of the secret place in New York to build Glory Hour‘s track list, she was ready to start releasing singles for the album. Her first promotional release came in the form of “El Shaddai” on Jan. 27.
Meaning “God Almighty” in Hebrew, “El Shaddai” is a song that sees Victory call out for God’s protection in times of darkness. Sandwiching the harmoniously sung We need you on our side El Shaddai chorus, her verses see her “rebuke suicide.”
For the song’s visuals, she visited Dallas’ neighboring town Fort Worth to film at the abandoned Echo Lake incinerator, where a woman was reported to have committed suicide in the 1990s. This decision stemmed from her desire to conquer darkness with God’s love.
“We’re just like taking the territory, taking the atmosphere and facing the darkness and cutting it off,” she says.
In fact, the reason she used “El Shaddai” as her lead single for Glory Hour was because of its bleak themes. Foreshadowing the uplifting subject matter on the album, Victory’s rollout method mirrors the times she spent in the secret place where the light of the sun would overcome darkness.
“When you hear the album, you’re gonna see that there are a lot of awesome songs on there,” she said. “It was hard, but I felt like ‘El Shaddai’ had kind of like a dark tone, and I feel like darkness precedes glory. So the glorious songs are going to come on the album.”
Another way West influenced Victory between albums was her picking up attributes of R&B and rap in her production and singing. Adapting hip-hoppy drums for “El Shaddai” and her second single “Just Like In Heaven” (April 7), she took comfort in knowing that she can be successful with any approach.
“As I grew older, I started to see the importance of leaning into R&B,” she says. “The reason being is because I’m signed to an urban label, and they’re going to put me in those categories regardless… (But) I can hold my own in any space.”
Glory Hour, packed with a few surprises and new developments, is more of an accumulation than a stepping stone. On this album, she brings together every skill, concept, and ideology she’s resonated with, not only since The Broken Instrument but throughout her entire musical career.
“I grew a lot as an artist because of the projects I got to serve,” she said. “So now, this project is a culmination of everything I was back when I did Broken Instrument, plus everything I learned working with Kanye, working with my family, and then also everything I learned through the pandemic.”
Releasing at midnight ET on May 5, Victory’s new LP is produced by Kaleb Moten. Check out the full track list below.
- El Shaddai
- Just Line In Heaven
- i. Glory Hour
- I Don’t Have To Pretend
- His Eye Is On The Sparrow
- I Know It Was The Blood
- ii. Glory Hour
- One Thing
- David’s Brothers
- The Secret Place
- iii. Glory Hour
- Glory To God
- Great Is Thy Faithfulness
- Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled
Photos by Shervin Lainez