Critics have had a field day throwing pot shots at the movie “I’m in Love with a Church Girl.” Based on the life story of writer and producer Galley Molina, the story revolves around Miles Montego (played by rapper Jeff “Ja Rule” Atkins) who is a high-profile kingpin deeply entrenched in the gangsta milieu of drug trafficking and street violence. One day, Montego meets Vanessa Leon (pop star Adrienne Bailon) through his Jesus-loving stockbroker Nicholas Halston (Vincent Pastore) and is absolutely transfixed by her winning combination of grating perkiness and relentless sermonizing. And through her influence this tattered-up torso of a crime-centered cad finally turns around and gives his life to Christ. Nevertheless, the road of salvation has not been smooth; plagued by the trials of Job, first it is the death of Montego’s mother who on her death bed pleads for her son to accept Christ. Second, Montego finally reaches his vexing brim when he breaks down in anger questioning God in church one day.
The problem many critics have had with the movie is that many thought that the narrative plot has the sophistication of an evangelising pamphlet. Many are still scratching their heads as to how a man who used to surround himself with a harem of promiscuous women can out of a sudden enter into a sex-free relationship with a Godly woman who can’t stop speaking about God. Indeed such a plot sounds innately like a fairy tale if one doesn’t believe in the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. Israel Houghton, who serves as the soundtrack’s executive producer and producer, understands that this movie on a deeper level is not about Miles Montego. Rather, it is the unfolding of the story of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of individuals. Therefore, you can sense the presence of the Spirit right through the soundtrack. Out of the 14 cuts, Houghton co-writes 9 of them, 4 of which are newly written with the rest collected from various released CDs.
While some movie soundtracks consists of ad hoc songs randomly put together, the songs here are carefully lined up to give musical expressions to the twist and turns of the story line. Of the 4 newly Houghton co-writes lead single “Sunday Kinda Love” is a brilliant synopsis of the movie. The song captures the dovetail themes of the movie succinctly as “Sunday Kinda Love” on one level is a celebration of the romantic love between Miles and Vanessa. Yet, the verses are so structured that they borrow the words of classic Gospel songs. Just as “Sunday Kinda Love” captures the narrative of the movie, “I Surrender” is anchored on one of the story’s most piquant moments. “I Surrender” articulates for Miles through words and music of that moment when Miles finally gives his life to Jesus Christ. While Houghton joins Lalah Hathaway on the romantic string-laden love theme for the movie “Providence.” Together with Nikki Ross, Anointed and the New Breed, “Worthy of Praise” is an upbeat brass heavy celebration of the Holy Spirit’s work.
Of all of Houghton’s guests that has been invited to contribute vocals to the various 14 cuts is Sheila E. Sheila E, once a protégé of rocker Prince, had her share of Top 40 hits in the 80s before disappearing from the public’s eye. Now she is back with Lucia Parker on the reggae titled “Your Love is Better.” And speaking of Prince, the Gap Brothers’ “Burn Rubber” sounds like a jam session lifted from the Purple Highness’ “Sign of the Times” days. Ja Rule does flaunt his rapping muscles on “Pray for the Day” with Leah Siegal singing the chorus. The soundtrack of “I’m in Love with a Church Girl” is more than just an infomercial for this movie. Rather, thanks to Houghton, this soundtrack tells of a much loftier story of the Holy Spirit and his awesome works.