the problem with gospel music


Back when I was a wee lad in my 99.9% black Baptist church and living in a 67.6% white neighborhood, I lived a simple albeit semi-sheltered life. I can tell you that my range of musical tastes pales in comparison to what I listen to now. If it wasn’t made by Disney or Michael Jackson, I wasn’t having it. But there was also the church music I grew up listening to and obligated to sing in the children’s choir at my church. Songs that bring back nostalgia… as I’m skipping down memory lane now. Excuse my disgruntled face, I just can’t believe I was into windbreakers back then.

I don’t have a problem with gospel music in it’s entirety, but back when I was a child, the genre wasn’t what it is today. Not that that’s a problem, but I grew up listening to John P. Kee or the latest Mississippi Mass Choir CD that my mom bought. Again, nothing wrong with them. And for the record, even her musical tastes have expanded. But having had to listen to this particular brand of traditional gospel choir, that’s all I knew gospel music to be and by my teens and even to this day I’ve grown bored with it. I’m not saying it’s bad, but I’m equating it to hot dogs. I could eat hot dogs all day every day. But now? Maybe one a year. With chili. Again, no offense to the Mississippi Mass Choir. It’s not my brand of gospel I subscribe to.

That is, until, Kirk Franklin came around and made gospel cool and inspired other aspiring spiritual artists that it’s okay to break tradition and make your own sound regardless what olden times say. THIS is a key point I’m making here because before I heard artists like Deitrick Haddon, Kierra Sheard and Lecrae, all I heard (if anything) were imitations of gospel music trying not to sound like gospel. The few songs I heard that were in an attempt to “get the youth” sounded forced, which made it lame for trying too hard to sound like whoever the hottest hip hop artist was at the time. Shout out to the Cross Movement though, they didn’t apply to this scenario. I didn’t know that’s what the problem was then, but it occurred to me today while I was listening to Kierra Sheard’s new album GRACELAND.

This is really just a review of her album which is AMAZING. It passed both my work(out) test and my driving test. I found that I enjoy a majority of the album, mostly the upbeat ones as I need to be moving a lot at work and stay alert while driving. But even the slower ones have a great groove. The semi title track “No Graceland” might be a favorite, but then again, maybe “Go.” Like I said, I really dug most of the album and listened to it on repeat a few times. Like a good movie, it got better with repeat listenings as I found nuances I missed the first few times, understood lyrics a bit better, and just got in a really great mood because of it.

And that’s part of what gospel music is all about, like a wonderful and recommended documentary on gospel music Rejoice and Shout said. Really, check that out someday. Gospel music is supposed to make you feel good. It’s meant to meet you at whatever feeling you’re feeling and bring you higher. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Soul Stirrers or Trip Lee, if you pay attention, life gets a little bit better. But also, get her album.

Again, I’m not saying anything is wrong with John P. Kee. I still like him. He’s doing his thing and I admire and respect him. “Lily in the Valley” and “Stand” will always be my favorite of his songs. Perhaps it’s just a generational thing. Kirk was for my generation, which is why I am still a fan of his music and his style. If the traditional choir sound is what gets you in the spirit then kick off your shoes, slide back your wig and get organ turnt up! I just wanted you to check out Kierra Sheard’s GRACELAND at your earliest convenience. Carry on.

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