Here's the deal, everyone. I'm one of those people who doesn't think he likes gospel. But the truth is, when I really think about it, I don't necessarily vibe with every artist in the genres I normally frequent. I just have to find the ones that resonate in my soul.
I challenged myself recently to find 10 songs that are good gateways for somebody who loves mainline Christian music, but hasn't quite clicked when it comes to Gospel. I found 11. And I'm sure I could've found more. The truth is, there's a lot of great gospel music out there, and plenty of artists are making music that will appeal to fans of CCM; there's a lot of common ground, more than many (myself included) realize.
So if you're someone who "doesn't like" gospel music, do yourself a favor and check out these songs on the new playlist I've made (at the bottom of this article), and learn a little something about each one of these. Get outside your box and be surprised by how God is moving in places you've never experienced! It floored and humbled me!
"See the Light" - Travis Greene
When Natalie Grant hosted the #TogetherForTexas online concert
, raising more than a quarter million dollars for those affected by Hurricane Harvey, she said on the air that she was particularly excited--and fangirling--for one artist performing that night. That artist was Travis Greene
, and the song he played during the fundraiser was "See the Light," from his new live record, Crossover
. Greene has a raspy, unique voice, and the syncopated song is easygoing and hopeful as he sings about how in tough times, Jesus is the light at the end of the tunnel, and a present hope. It's the perfect interplay between Greene leading worship and his backing choir supporting the melody. I love the congregational bridge: "Shine your light, your light on us / Shine your light Jesus!
"Stay High" - Jonathan McReynolds feat. Derek Minor
' stratospheric voice is mesmerizing, and as he sings about maintaining a mountaintop experience with the Lord, you get the sense of a guy that's truly in love with Jesus. This is a delicate mid-tempo number from Life Music: Stage 2
that delivers an emotional, lyrical and vocal punch. The 16-bars delivered by Derek Minor bolster the overall theme about how it's important to stay in a place of intimacy with God to overcome life's challenges. He raps: "When they hate more, I'll pray more.
" Honorable mention goes to "All Things Well"--McReynolds' collab with Israel Houghton, which is definitely more along the lines of traditional gospel, but infused with double the powerhouse vocals and energy with these two worshippers!
"My Life" - The Walls Group
This is a bombastic, in-your-face R&B/pop assault
against the negativity that comes against us all throughout life: "He made me great, so let me be great!" From people's critical comments to "what you see on the Gram" (Instagram, that is), The Walls Group
sings a message of being bold representatives of Christ over funky, Michael Jackson Thriller-era bass and synth strings. The family band sings a lot in powerful unison, fulfilling the choir vibe without the choir sound. It's an urban music fan's excellent introduction to Gospel.
"Trust In You" - Anthony Brown & group therAPy
This is a straight up Psalm of praise and declaration to God: "You did not create me to worry / You did not create me to fear / You created me to worship daily / So Imma leave it all right here.
" This ambling song about how worship is the one thing for which we were made makes great use of the backing choir--Group TherAPy--and the uplifting message is one that easily would minister to people who are bogged down by worry, fear, complaining, dissatisfaction or other pulls away from Jesus. It is an easily singable, congregational number--a great introduction to the more choir-based gospel tunes.
"Bigger Than Me" - Le'Andria Johnson
Funky Motown-type brass and bass drives Le'Andria
's soulful, upbeat anthem about stepping into your God-given calling: "Don't let anybody hold you back / You were made for something special now that's a fact / So when they talk about you / Don't you even overreact / Tell 'em it's bigger than me.
" Fans of soulful singers like Meghan Trainor, Joss Stone, Corinne Bailey Rae, Angie Stone and Duffy will be way happy with this song.
"123 Victory" - Kirk Franklin
is like the Lecrae of Gospel music; most people in mainstream CCM get to know Gospel music through him, probably due to--like Lecrae--his prolific collaborations. On this song from Losing My Religion
, hip-hop beat drives this declaration of Isaiah 54:17: "No weapon they throw at me / You know it won't prosper, nah!
" A mostly drum and bass instrumentation accompanies the choir and Franklin's trademark interjections and "woo" sounds. It addresses the difficulties of life, declaring that we will ultimately win through Jesus. Yes!
"Fireworks" - Deitrick Haddon
One of the leads of the reality TV series Preachers of L.A.
opens his Deitrick Haddon & Hill City Worship Camp
project with a high-energy, funky explanation of how the Holy Spirit shows up when God's people get together to worship Him: "When we get together, it's like BOOM!
"Press" - Tamela Mann
Near the end of Tamela
's 2016 album, One Way
, "Press" is a piano ballad encouraging people that they'll make it despite their circumstances: "You're gonna live past the moment, you're gonna make it
." This R&B/pop gospel song features conservative use of a backing choir, to the degree that R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" does. Fans of that song would definitely enjoy this one, as well as fans of Laura Story's "Blessings." In my opinion, this song is tucked in somewhere between those two tunes. Honorable mention goes to her driving, head-nodding collaboration with powerhouse producer, Timbaland, "Through It All."
"I'm Getting Ready" - Tasha Cobbs Leonard feat. Nicki Minaj
This song has had a lot of controversy regarding its collaborator, mainstream shock rapper Nicki Minaj, and for good reason. This song almost didn't make it on this list, not because of her inclusion, but because of her theological statements in her rap. It's a little iffy, but it's such a minor part of the track. The general theme of this driving, guitar strumming song is already about anticipating and awaiting the goodness of God: "I'm getting ready to see something I've never seen.
" It's a beefy song--8 1/2 minutes long!--but Tasha Cobbs Leonard
makes full use of the real estate by building the song into a glorious crescendo, finding a number of ways to declare blessing over her listeners: "Get ready for overflow... God's about to blow my mind.
" I can sing to that, even if I don't agree that my devotion will lead me to personal financial blessing! This list is all about finding Gospel gateways--and this is that.
"What You Don't Realize" - Bri (Briana Babineaux) feat. Chandler Moore
Acoustic guitar and piano set the tone for this ballad, which carries elements of R&B and pop. Bri's voice is light and airy, yet has tremendous vocal agility, putting her sounds up there with top pop singers of the day. "The hope inside of you can only be filled with Him," Bri and Chandler sing. It's a powerful duet that kindly shares how Jesus is the missing piece from people's lives. It's a chilled out, peaceful, relaxing number, devoid of a choir.
"I Want More" - Tye Tribbett
This mysterious song from the upcoming record The Bloody Win
has a melodic place between "Earth Song" by Michael Jackson and "Only A Shadow" by Misty Edwards. The unnamed vocalist on this track has a Lady Gaga quality to her voice, particularly in her lower register, but the comparisons end there. The build of this song, and the constant revisiting of the refrain "I want more" liken this tune to something Misty and the OneThing Live crew would present. Tye Tribbett
offers a cinematic, worshipful song that deploys the choir well to propel the song to its feverish heights. Honorable mention goes to other recently released The Bloody Win singles "Live!" (hello "Uptown Funk" by Bruno Mars, anyone?) and "Already Won."
Check out the playlist (which includes the honorable mentions, too):