Idol Chatter

arethafranklinpicsmall.jpgThis Sunday night, February 10th, the music industry will hand out top honors when CBS airs the 50th annual Grammy Awards.
I don’t watch award shows, but this is the 50th anniversary of the Grammys, after all. There’s plenty of hoopla scheduled to (maybe) make it worth spending almost four hours in front of the television, including a special gospel segment featuring Aretha Franklin, Trini-I-Tee 5:7, The Madison Bumblebees, and multiple Grammy nominees Mary J. Blige, The Clark Sisters, and Israel and New Breed.
I love the fact that gospel music gets a huge primetime spotlight during an event that focuses on the best of the best. But it’s too bad that the few artists outside of either traditional gospel or southern gospel who are lumped into that category get lost in the shuffle.
For example, hard rockers Pillar and Skillet, urban artists Da’ T.R.U.T.H. and Cross Movement, and female rocker Ashley Cleveland are all competing against each other for Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album.

I admit that I don’t know what criteria the Recording Industry Association of America uses to determine why those artists should compete against each other, and in this category for that matter. But it does seem odd to me. Sure their lyrics are faith-focused, either overtly or slightly veiled, but why should that relegate them to a religious category? They didn’t put U2 in the Jesus box when their songs explored faith. (Some Episcopal churches have a U2 Eucharist service where only U2’s music is played; how much more religious can you get?)
Can you compare chick rock to hip hop to hard rock and call it gospel? If so, then shouldn’t Skillet perform during the special gospel segment? (I think it would actually be cool to see John Cooper kicking it out with Aretha Franklin.)
I think Ashley Cleveland could compete for a Grammy with the likes of Melissa Etheridge, and tobyMac, whose “Portable Sounds” is up for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album, could certainly give Justin Timberlake a run for his money. Maybe someday that will happen and put to rest any doubts about whether a Christian artist can compete in the mainstream.
For now, viewers will get a rare treat during the gospel segment of the show. I just hope music fans outside of the Christian industry notice who takes home the awards.
–written by Joanne Brokaw

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