WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT 2017, Part 3: Top Male and Female Vocalists
NRT News Editor Caitlin Lassiter and review team member Stephanie Taylor share their thoughts on the nominees for Male and Female Vocalist of the Year.

THE BEST OF 2017, WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT 2017, Part 3: Top Male and Female Vocalists
Posted: January 10, 2018 | By: NRTeamAdmin
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In our special WE LOVE CHRISTIAN MUSIC AWARDS editorial series, members of the NRT staff have a back-and-forth discussion about this year's nominees.

In Part 3 of our series, NRT News Editor Caitlin Lassiter and contributing review writer Stephanie Taylor talk about the exceptional nominees for both Male and Female Vocalist of the Year.

Aside from Album of the Year, I think Male/Female Artist is the biggest category in any awards show. It really takes the focus off the specific genres and puts it on the artists themselves. It's one of the few categories that have been a constant since the beginning of the We Love Christian Music Awards, and it's definitely one of our favorites to discuss every year.

Everyone nominated for Male/Female Artist of the year has done something so individually unique this year. These artist really show and display the variety of genres that we see in Christian music, and they represent the best of Christian music by solo artists this year.

Absolutely! These are the best of the best, and picking a winner will no doubt be challenging for the fans. The artists represented here were some of the very strongest in their industry this year, in every element from songwriting to vocals to production and beyond. It's a tough category to choose from. 

And not only were they the best of the best, but comparing them side by side is nearly impossible due to the variances that make each of them so unique and talented in all of those categories that you mentioned.

Let's get into the nominees. For Male Artist, we've got Danny Gokey, David Dunn, Matthew West, Tauren Wells and Zach Williams. Who do you think takes this?

Again, this is so incredibly difficult, as all of these artists put out amazing music this year. Many have been fan favorites for a long time, and some have been quickly becoming fan favorites due to their recent radio success. I think that Tauren Wells takes it for me. He brings something that is so crazy good. His vocals, his stage presence, his collaborations, and his heart behind everything he does are all things that I love about him, not to mention his mainstream impact throughout the last year that might help him in this one. The song "Hills and Valleys" made me a huge fan, and his recent collaboration with Crowder on "All My Hope" put the cherry on top for me. I hope his music has reached enough people to win him this category. 

For starters, every artist nominated has had a major single at radio this year, so I don't think name recognition is that much of a factor here. They're all such deserving contenders. If I had to pick a frontrunner, I'd say Tauren Wells and Zach Williams will end up neck-and-neck. Tauren is a bit of a veteran in this industry and has had an incredible year stepping out of his time with Royal Tailor and into a solo career. I think the success of "Hills and Valleys" alone could win this for him, but then there's also newcomer Zach Williams who broke onto the scene this year with "Chain Breaker" and caught everyone by surprise. I wouldn't be surprised if this was his category.

I agree with Zach Williams. He has had two huge number one hits in the past year, and I think that those two songs alone are enough to make him a huge fan favorite. However, we also have Danny Gokey who has been putting out single after single and inspiring and encouraging fans with every new track he puts out. He might reach a broader audience as well, as his songs are played all the time on every type of CCM radio station across the country. So I think he could definitely be a fan favorite as well, especially for those who are into more of a traditional CCM, lyric-driven music scene instead of the newer EDM or R&B scene that we're starting to see a little more of in artists like Tauren Wells and David Dunn.

Definitely! Gokey is a personal favorite of mine, so I could easily make the case that this award is his to win. He's had a huge year in terms of touring and new music, which could seal this for him. He's been around for a few years now, but continues to get better with every record. 

Speaking of artists who get better with every record, what about Matthew West and David Dunn? David is still fairly new in this industry, but had one of the strongest debuts I've ever heard. After that, I had high hopes for Yellow Balloons, and it hit the mark on every level for me. Also, I wouldn't be surprised to see Matthew West sweep this category. His songwriting alone truly makes him a standout artist, and this last record was good from beginning to end.

I absolutely love David Dunn. He has definitely been in my top for favorite artists lately. There's something about his authenticity and lyrics paired with his music that hit a really sweet spot. I'm not sure if that's enough to win him this category, but I really hope that he continues to make headway in this industry because he definitely is one talented artist.

Matthew West's new record was excellent as well. He has been around for a long time, and I don't know of one person who doesn't like him. All In was great. Lyrically I thought it was really strong. I also appreciated the variances in tempo and theme throughout. "Broken Things" might win this one for him as well.

Alright, let's jump over to Female Artist now. We've got Blanca, Holly Starr, Hollyn, Jamie Grace and Tasha Cobbs-Leonard. Who do you think takes this one?

I think on every account, Hollyn probably takes this one. She's totally in her own lane. I mean, she's collaborating with everyone, everyone is seemingly collaborating with her, and she's making a mark that not many have made before her. You don't have to search far for a song that she's either the lead on or is featured in, and she's got some big names she's partnered with. I think her youthfulness and her vocals are definitely her strong suits, and due to her dynamic presence in the industry, I think this one goes to her.

I agree! I think this is Hollyn's category through and through. She's just had a ridiculously strong year. Her vocal talent is insane, plus she's so young and is able to reach different age groups with her music. Another artist who also fits that bill is Jamie Grace. This was her comeback year, and I think she nailed it! She's had a few years of struggling to get new music out, and I loved seeing her finally achieve that. It wouldn't shock me if her fans rallied here and awarded this to her.

It was so great to hear new music from Jamie Grace. I think that she has a chance to take this one, not only due to her new music, but due to her fan interactions and the things she does beside singing and making music. She does her vlogs regularly, and she puts out music on the side, either by doing a live cover of them on YouTube or doing something on her vlog. Plus, "Party Like a Princess" was pretty great and sums up both her personality and message with sincerity and humor, which I loved. And in a day and age where we seem to be having some sort of a "dating crisis," I think this exact message relates and sticks with a lot of people.

As far as powerhouse vocalists go, Blanca is another that I could see take this. She's still coming into her solo career after time with Group 1 Crew, and I've loved seeing her create her own sound. Holly Starr is a powerful nominee as well on many levels, but I think name recognition may win over here. 

Blanca definitely is a powerhouse vocalist as well. Holly Starr has a beautiful voice and put out a beautiful album, but I do agree that name recognition will be a factor as well.

And let's not forget about Tasha Cobbs-Leonard! She proudly represents her Gospel genre here, and I appreciate that diversity in the mix of so many pop artists. 

Yes! Tasha Cobbs-Leonard was a pleasant surprise for me. Talk about powerhouse vocals! She definitely has a lot of heart and a lot of talent behind what she is doing, and is a refreshing sound and genre amongst the mix of artists.

All in all, it'll be interesting to see what fans decide!

Yes, it'll be interesting to see what ends up being the deciding factors for each incredible artist up for these awards!

Now, you get to determine the winners! Head over to and click "Vote Now" through Friday, Jan. 26, to decide Male Artist of the Year, Female Artist of the Year and 22 other categories!


Assembled from the four corners of North America and many other corners in between, the NRTeam is comprised of staffers whose energy is equally dispersed towards loving music and writing about the music they love.

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