Idol Chatter

tobymacpic.jpgWho would get your Grammy for best rock song: L’il Wayne, Springsteen, Beck, Brad Paisley or Mary J. Blige? What, you say these artists have nothing to do with one another in terms of genre, audience, or even sales? Why would the Grammy voters have to choose among them? Yet there were some heartbreaking losses this year in the Christian music Grammy competition that can be chalked up to the illogical way Christian artists are pigeonholed.
Consider the category of Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album. The mainstream Grammys have long since split rap and rock, but in the Christian world, a light, pop-oriented rapper like tobyMac faces off against a pure guitar band like After Edmund as if they were after the same ears. Casting Crowns, a powerhouse Christian Contemporary band of the last decade, went up against R&B inflected “Mary, Mary” for best gospel song.

True, the Grammy for Album of the Year pits some pretty disparate company against one another: this year Coldplay, Radiohead, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss and L’ill Wayne all vied for the honor. But each of these artists had plenty of other chances to win in their own subdivisions.
The solution is to give Christian artists more categories, including “alternative”–last year, tobyMac, a 15-year, multi-platinum industry veteran who runs his own record label, lost to Ashley Cleveland, an indie phenom who had sold fewer than 15,000 CDs. “Best New Artist” might spotlight an artist who is turning heads and changing expectations for Christian music, and even be worthy of a slot on the telecast. Then listeners might understand that these Christians should be rated on the basis of how they sing, not what they sing about.
Beliefnet’s Gospel Soundcheck blogger Joanne Brokaw also addresses this issue in her post Christian Music Artists’ Grammy Nominations.

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