Scouting The 2012 Dove Awards - Part 3
Members of the NRT staff chime in about their picks for the 2012 Dove Awards, as well as who they think will walk away with the awards.

Your March Madness bracket busted in round one, and you're looking for something else to obsess over. What to do? Well, the Dove Awards are a slam-dunk! That's right, the Gospel Music Association's annual honoring of Christian music's best is just around the corner--Thursday, April 19 at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. NRT will have more coverage leading up to the awards including commentary, wrap ups and professional photos as we get ready to report backstage from Christian music's biggest night!


This week, we continue our series of roundtable opinions regarding the various award categories.

NRT Founder Kevin McNeese, Senior Editor Marcus Hathcock, Lead Contributor Kevin Davis and Staff Contributors Sarah Fine and Mary Burklin all weigh in on who should win and who will win in each category.

For Part 3, the roundtable tackles the Album of the Year categories including Rock Album of The YearRock/Contemporary Album of The YearPop/Contemporary Album of The YearInspirational Album Of The YearPraise/Worship Album Of The Year and Recorded Music Packaging

Want more coverage of this year's GMA Dove Awards? Click here for more! 


Who Should Win

Kevin McNeese: Vice Verses by Switchfoot 
If Switchfoot doesn't put this Dove on their mantle, I'll call it the biggest upset of the night.

Marcus Hathcock: Vice Verses by Switchfoot
Is there any question here? Many of my friends (and colleagues here) would say that this is a two-person race between RED and Switchfoot, but I’d have to disagree. Blindside’s With Shivering Hearts We Wait was one of the year’s best kept secrets in rock--an album that, in my personal opinion, was stronger than Until We Have Faces by RED. But in the end, I just see one clear winner in this category, and it’s Switchfoot. Vice Verses is arguably the best project by one of Christian (and mainstream) music’s best acts. If we’re just talking commercial success, well, Switchfoot wins there, too.

Sarah Fine: Until We Have Faces by RED
I was disappointed to see Abandon’s Control in this category. It’s a fantastic album, but fits the Rock/Contemporary ballot more appropriately. I feel it would have had a good chance at winning had it been nominated there. Nevertheless, RED’s latest effort, the incredible Until We Have Faces, goes down as my pick.

Kevin Davis: Until We Have Faces by RED
Great album by RED and my personal favorite of the nominated albums. Very worthy of the award. I’ve recently heard most of these songs performed live, and “Feed The Machine”, “Faceless” and “Not Alone” sounded even better live than I could have imagined. Great list of nominees. These are truly the five best rock albums of the year, and I also enjoy the great rock albums by Abandon, Blindside and Ashes Remain.

Mary Burklin:
Vice Verses by Switchfoot
Although every single nominee on this list is solid, and I really wouldn’t object to Blindside or RED taking this one home, there is no question in my mind that Switchfoot put out the most musically solid and widely successful album on this list. Vice Verses was my personal top album of 2011 in any genre, and it is well deserving of this award.

Who Will Win

Kevin McNeese: Vice Verses by Switchfoot 
While RED's album was fantastic, and has the best chance of taking this away from Switchfoot, Until We Have Faces is well over a year old now and may not be as fresh as Switchfoot's latest. It's that slight edge that will give Switchfoot it's ticket to a Dove in this category.

Marcus Hathcock: Vice Verses by Switchfoot
Again... this is the best project by one of music’s best acts. From “Afterlife” to “Dark Horses” to “Restless” and everything in between, it’s rare to find a project this complete, this near-perfect. The poetry rocks, the music smokes, and Jon Foreman’s vocals continue to soar. Call this one in!

Sarah Fine: Vice Verses by Switchfoot
If I had to boil it down to two obvious competitors in this category, it’s RED vs. Switchfoot. Despite the fact I think RED deserves this win for creating the best album of their career so far, I have a feeling popularity is going to dominate.

Kevin Davis: 
Vice Verses by Switchfoot
Switchfoot is on a roll, and deservedly won in this category two years ago with Hello Hurricane. Hard to deny the momentum Switchfoot is riding  for this award, which would also be a fine selection.

Mary Burklin:
 Vice Verses by Switchfoot 
There are a few major players on this list with stand-out releases, but Switchfoot has historically had the biggest impact. With an album as widely beloved and enthusiastically received as Vice Verses, it’s hard to see anyone else claiming this one.


Who Should Win

Kevin McNeese: The Reckoning by NEEDTOBREATHE
For me, this category is the exact opposite of the popular kids game, "Which one doesn't belong." The choice is so obvious to me, not much thought is needed and there is a clear winner with NEEDTOBREATHE.

Marcus Hathcock: The Reckoning by NEEDTOBREATHE
While there are some great competitors here, none stands up to the level of musicianship, artistry and jaw-dropping awesomeness that emerged from NEEDTOBREATHE’s latest. This looks to me like another one-band race, and the industry-leading The Reckoning has set the bar, not just for Christian artists, but for mainstream ones, too.

Sarah Fine: Crazy Love by Hawk Nelson
Who knew back when this album released in February of 2011 that it would be their last with Jason Dunn on lead vocals? It’s safe to say no one did. While Crazy Love will go down as a monumental project in that regard, it will also go down as one of the bands most substantial albums to date. While the future still looks uncertain for Hawk Nelson, I think winning this award would not only be well deserved and give the group the momentum they need to ride into 2013, but it would also be the official closing of a prolific 12-year chapter in the band’s career.

Kevin Davis: The Reckoning by NEEDTOBREATHE
My all-time favorite album is The Reckoning. Easily the best choice in this category. Although I enjoy the albums by Abandon Kansas, Kristian Stanfill, Luminate and Hawk Nelson, they are up against an incredible album.

Mary Burklin:
 The Reckoning by NEEDTOBREATHE
NEEDTOBREATHE’s fanbase has been steadily growing for years, but this album really pulled them into the spotlight and made their music more accessible to a wider fanbase than ever before (propelled in part also by a spot on tour with pop/country music icon Taylor Swift). This was one of the most talked-about albums of last year, and with good reason.

Who Will Win

Kevin McNeese: The Reckoning by NEEDTOBREATHE 
One of the best albums of 2011 is a no-brainer choice in this category. It's relevant, creative and stands in a complete class of its own. It should easily win in this category.

Marcus Hathcock: The Reckoning by NEEDTOBREATHE
When a Christian group of this caliber produces this level of artistry, it has to be rewarded. That’s how you encourage more innovation--by lauding the innovators. The GMA will do just that.

Sarah Fine: Mountains Move by Kristian Stanfill
Even though it’s another album I felt was placed in the wrong category (it should have been nominated for Praise/Worship Album of the Year) I think the GMA will surprise us with an upset by rising male vocalist, Kristian Stanfill.

Kevin Davis: The Reckoning by NEEDTOBREATHE
NEEDTOBREATHE has won this award before with The Outsiders and they are the back to back Group of the Year. If you haven’t jumped on the NEEDTOBREATHE bandwagon yet, "wake on up from your slumber, baby open up your eyes."

Mary Burklin: The Reckoning by NEEDTOBREATHE
Although the other nominees can all hold their own, none of them have quite the pull or range of influence as NEEDTOBREATHE. The Reckoning is a truly unforgettable album that will probably garner some recognition.


Who Should Win

Kevin McNeese: What If We Were Real by Mandisa
Mandisa is on her third album, which is something many new artists in our industry just don't reach. And her growth is evident on her best album yet. An American Idol has yet to really take hold in this industry as an A-level artist, but if there one that can reach that level, Mandisa is it. She's worthy of the nomination, but may be just short of a win.

Marcus Hathcock: Hundred More Years by Francesca Battistelli
This is the quintessential pop/contemporary album, and easily the most loved of 2011. I could see Jamie Grace as a dark horse for this award, but Franny’s Jesus-loving hit machine rolls on--almost unstoppably.

Sarah Fine: Hundred More Years by Francesca Battistelli
I wasn’t a Francesca Battistelli fan before the release of this project. It’s not that I didn’t like her music; I just never took time to listen to it. That all changed with her 2011 sophomore release, Hundred More Years. It’s rare than an artist can win me over with just one album, but in delivering of the best CCM pop projects I’ve heard in years, Francesca did it. Continuing to crank out hit after hit, I think if anyone has the lead in this category, it’s Franny.

Kevin Davis: Hundred More Years by Francesca Battistelli
Pretty much a perfect pop/contemporary album loaded with great songs. This is almost always the toughest category. Great choices and the other albums have a lot of attention, in particular Laura Story, Mandisa and Jamie-Grace. I also nominated On The Altar of Love by Downhere, You Got My Attention by Dara Maclean and Invisible Empires  by Sara Groves which are excellent albums that were overlooked unfortunately.

Mary Burklin: Hundred More Years by Francesca Battistelli
Francesca Battistelli added to her growing list of impressive achievements this past year with this solid album. She seems to constantly realize new levels of success with a refreshing humble spirit and some serious vocal skill.

Who Will Win

Kevin McNeese: Hundred More Years by Francesca Battistelli 
Francesca did the near impossible task of besting her debut album that instantly establed her as one of the best female artists in the industry. That establishment, and pure momentum, is hard to ignore, especially given the fact that she worked through pre-promotion of the new release through relentless touring during her first pregancy.

Marcus Hathcock: Hundred More Years by Francesca Battistelli
She has the most firepower, the most standalone singles from her project and the biggest fanbase. If Jamie Grace or Laura Story had more standout tracks from their respective albums, this would be a more difficult category to pick.

Sarah Fine: Hundred More Years by Francesca Battistelli
This is a tough category this year. Jamie Grace broke new ground with her debut project, Mandisa and Laura Story both delivered strong albums in Blessings and What If We Were Real, and MIKESCHAIR delivered the farthest thing from a sophomore slump with A Beautiful Life. But if we’re going off who which album has made the most impact in this genre in the last 12 months, Francesca Battistelli’s Hundred More Years takes the prize.

Kevin Davis: Blessings by Laura Story

In the digital song age, the title track has transcended the album and propelled the album to be a year long bestseller. I'm moved by Laura's transparency and confessional challenges to believers in the incredible title track. I’m pretty sure Laura’s sweeping in every category.

Mary Burklin: Blessings by Laura Story
I think that the Grammy award winning Laura Story has a good shot at taking this one. It seems like in a lot of these categories I’ve been predicting either Jamie Grace or Laura Story, but there’s a reason for that-- both of them really saw some remarkable success in the last year.


Who Should Win

Kevin McNeese: God Is Able by Hillsong Live
For me, there's not much to choose from. Selah released the only album that really caught my attention, and the solid tracks just were not deep enough. I'm calling this one for Hillsong simply through the easy process of elimination.

Marcus Hathcock: God is Able by Hillsong Live
It’s probably safe to say most of the Church’s worship songs come from Hillsong (and its bouncier counterparts in United) and Passion (with Chris Tomlin, David Crowder and Co.). Hillsong Live’s God is Able easily would’ve fit in with United’s fare, which shows tremendous health in the church--the older generation is passing the torch to the younger. Plenty of amazing songs here, from “The Lost Are Found” to the truly anointed title track, that will provide the Church with plenty new songs for worship.

Sarah Fine: God is Able by Hillsong Live
Hillsong Live delivered one of their strongest live worship albums to date with their 2011 release, “God Is Able.” It showed a clear maturity among their songwriting, but a more substantial growth in their approach to their sound. Many who had begun to write the group off quickly changed their minds after hearing this album and it’s clear to see why. I think it would be an enormous victory for them to win this award in 2012.

Kevin Davis: God is Able by Hillsong Live
Of the nominated albums, the best choice. I'm impressed by the consistent quality and fresh worshipful songs from Hillsong. Every single song could be added to your Sunday morning worship set. I personally nominated The Road by Tricia Brock and I was disappointed that her great solo worship album was overlooked unfortunately.

Mary Burklin: God is Able by Hillsong Live 
Is there any limit to what the Hillsong collective can achieve? This release from Hillsong Live is yet another stunning example of their frontline work with worship music.

Who Will Win

Kevin McNeese: God is Able by Hillsong Live 
No other album has impacted more than this release from Hillsong. It's another obvious choice for me.

Marcus Hathcock: God is Able by Hillsong Live
Hillsong helps write the songs for the Church, and they’ve done so yet again, with a VERY inspirational album that focuses on God’s involvement in our lives.

Sarah Fine: Hope of the Broken World by Selah
Selah has gone through a rebirth of sorts in the last several years, having added the wonderful vocals of female vocalist Amy Perry, as well as showcasing the vocal talents of band coordinator Allan Hall. While their latest effort, Hope Of The Broken World, might not be their strongest project as a group, it certainly shows that one of CCM’s most beloved adult contemporary trio’s still has a lot to say. I think this will be their year.

Kevin Davis: God is Able by Hillsong Live
I've been singing "The Stand", "From The Inside Out", "Mighty To Save", "Stronger" and many other Hillsong classics at my church for many years and I expect there will be several more worship classics from this album. Hillsong has missed out on awards before and deserves recognition.

Mary Burklin: God is Able by Hillsong Live 
Although I would say that Selah also has a good chance at this one, Hillsong is definitely the best established and most widely received on this list. With their ongoing achievement and pervasive influence in churches worldwide, they’re a solid bet for this aware.


Who Should Win

Kevin McNeese: Ghosts Upon The Earth by Gungor
Most of the Album of the Year categories have a pretty clear front runner, but as a few of my colleagues will note below, this is easily the toughest category of this group to decide. There are so many strong albums in this list but oddly enough, I want to see Gungor win. I say oddly, because while I didn't entirely get into this release, I'm a huge fan of Gungor. I feel they need some industry recognition to fuel a release that will appeal to the masses so they can breakout from their indie cred. I'm rooting for them, and there's plenty of people within the industry that are as well. They could pull it off based on critical acclaim alone.

Marcus Hathcock: 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman
FINALLY! A really difficult choice! Oh my goodness, this is a tough one. My top album of the year was Gungor’s Ghosts Upon the Earth, although I really don’t think that album fits in this category. So it’s really difficult for me not to pick that! Then I’m forced to choose between the phenomenal Matt Redman album 10,000 Reasons and the turning point album for Hillsong United, Aftermath--which were No. 8 and No. 6 on my Top 10 of 2011, respectively. Ultimately, for this category, I picked Redman because it was a live album, full of amazing worshipful crowd moments--something the studio-recorded Aftermath doesn’t capture (which is a rare thing for United).

Sarah Fine: Aftermath by Hillsong United
Hillsong United, the youth focused worship team based out of Australia’s famous Hillsong Church, has been around for over ten years, but it wasn’t until several years ago that they started to gain attention of worshipers outside the walls of their church. A string of high profile live albums have followed their massive uprising, but nothing quite like their 2011 studio album, Aftermath. Joel Houston’s passionate songwriting combined with the project’s superb musicianship has made this Hillsong United’s most prolific album and for good reason. I’d love to see this group garner the recognition they deserve for all the hefty contributions they’ve made for worship, and I think winning this Dove would do just that.

Kevin Davis: Aftermath by Hillsong United
For me, the standout songs are “Go”, “Like An Avalanche”, “Bones”, “Nova", “Search My Heart” and “Awakening." Aftermath is a must-have for your praise and worship collection and is my top choice of this tough list of nominees as Gungor, Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman have won more awards overall.

Mary Burklin: Ghosts Upon The Earth by Gungor
There are no words for how happy I am to see such an unusual, offbeat album nominated in this category. This is not your traditional Sunday morning fare. It’s part soundtrack, part epic, part liturgy in one beautifully crafted musical narrative. Gungor is definitely deserving for their incredibly innovative work.

Who Will Win

Kevin McNeese:  And If Our God is For Us.. by Chris Tomlin
I really felt that Chris pushed his comfort zones a bit on his latest album and it results in some incredible worship songs like "Our God," "I Will Follow," "I Lift My Hands," "No Chains On Me," and "Awakening." After nearly a decade of impacting this industry, there seems to be no stopping Chris.

Marcus Hathcock: And If Our God Is For Us by Chris Tomlin
There's no denying that while other albums in this category are strong, the Passion project provided the worship anthems of the Church in 2010 (and beyond). 

Sarah Fine: And If Our God Is For Us by Chris Tomlin
This album missed out on last year’s awards, so everyone expected a handful of nominations for it in 2012. I’d honestly be very surprised if this doesn’t win.

Kevin Davis: 
And If Our God Is For Us by Chris Tomlin
The album did win a GRAMMY award and probably every voter has sung “Our God” at some point which makes it the prohibitive favorite to win the award.

Mary Burklin: Chris Tomlin - “And If Our God is For Us”
Hillsong and Matt Redman both have a really got shot at this one, as they both released some fantastic worship albums, but I’m going with the safe guess and choosing Chris Tomlin as my pick. Tomlin continues to make waves and cross boundaries with his worship tunes, and he could easily gain the support necessary to win this one.


Who Should Win

Marcus Hathcock: Leveler by August Burns Red
It’s really too bad David Crowder*Band’s Oh For Joy wasn’t in this lineup, because their little specially made DC*B nutcrackers would’ve taken this award easily. It’s interesting; the nominees in this category reflect the art world’s trends of simplicity and single-layer-type graphics. Nothing here really stuns me, so I had to go with which cover seemed the most memorable. August Burns Red provided that.

Sarah Fine: Christmas in Diverse City by tobyMac
Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a sucker for album artwork, which is the main reason I still opt for a physical CD over a digital copy. I’ve always been a fan of tobyMac’s creative album packaging. It often become his “brand” for the next several years and is a fun way of recognizing him. While Christmas In Diverse City wasn’t his most creative packaging (Portable Sounds wins that debate,) I think it packs enough of a punch to take this category in 2012.

Kevin Davis: A Way to See in the Dark by Jason Gray
Not so much because it is an incredible album packaging, but because Jason Gray deserves recognition for his incredible songwriting. I nominated him in every possible category and this was the only category where the “art team” picked the nominees instead of the GMA membership so I’m glad they gave this album attention.

Mary Burklin: A Way to See in the Dark by Jason Gray
Although it really is a tragedy that this fantastic album is only getting such a low profile nod, the artwork really was beautifully made. It also tied in nicely to the themes of the album as a whole.

Who Will Win

Marcus Hathcock: Christmas in Diverse City by tobyMac
Not sure exactly what made this fantastic, art-wise, but since it’s common consensus of my colleagues, I’ll go with Mr. McKeehan.

Sarah Fine: Christmas in Diverse City by tobyMac
I think Jason Gray has a good chance of claiming this category for the special edition of A Way To See In The Dark, but again, when it comes to the GMA, seniority tends to win.

Kevin Davis: Christmas in Diverse City by tobyMac
Great album packaging and my top Christmas album of the year as well. Worthy selection.

Mary Burklin: This Is What We Believe by Aaron Shust
This was one of the more high profile and widely received albums on this list. Although I would love to see Burlap to Cashmere or August Burns Red for their more grungy designs, they’re both more on the fringes and less likely to take it home. is kept running through a number of incredible volunteers who are passionate about Christian music. They write, edit, produce and pray that NRT continues to reach the world with the incredible message of Jesus Christ. If you are interested in joining our staff and contributing to what we are doing here at NRT, please send an email to We would love to hear from you!

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