Every year, about this time, I get really frustrated. The center of my frustration? The Grammy Awards. I don't know how many of you watched the gala evening for the entire three hours-plus, hoping to maybe, just maybe, find out who won in the Christian Gospel categories. And if you were very attentive, the winners in each of the eight "Gospel" categories were displayed at the bottom of the television screen in very fine print.
The eight "Gospel" categories weren't the only ones that were slighted, as there were no less than 108 different categories at the 48th Grammy Awards Show. While I totally understand that the vast majority of the audience were hoping to see the likes of U2, Green Day (note: a successful crossover group), Kelly Clarkson, Maroon 5 (who?), and Gorillaz (I haven't a clue), I would like to think that part of that audience watching the Grammys are fans of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM from now on), and would have liked to see on stage performers from that category.
PROBLEM NUMBER ONE...
Let's take a look at the eight categories in the Grammys, so that we can discover what much of the problem is, with the winner's name following the category. They are Best Gospel Performance (CeCe Winans), Best Gospel Song (Yolanda Adams), Best Rock Gospel Album (Audio Adrenaline), Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album (Casting Crowns), Best Southern, Country, or Bluegrass Gospel Album (Amy Grant), Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album (Donnie McClurkin), Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album (another by CeCe Winans), and Best Gospel Choir Or Chorus Album (Gladys Knight and The Love Fellowship Choir).
The first question I would love these Grammy folks to answer is why the use of the word "Gospel" in all the categories? Is there something terribly wrong with the word Christian? I hope not. I also fully agree that five of the eight categories are truly "Gospel" categories and were won by artists that I would consider to be "Gospel" artists.
HERE COME THE DOVES...
The Dove Awards, presented each year by the Gospel Music Association, have been called in many music circles the "Christian Grammys". This year, at the 37th Annual GMA Music Awards, there are a total of 41 different categories that will be awarded the coveted trophy. I would be the first to concede that the categories don't have the word "Christian" attached to them, but I think what is very telling is the fact that only six of the 41 categories have the word "Gospel" in their name. Curious what they are? Good. They are Southern Gospel Recorded Song of the Year, Traditional Gospel Recorded Song of the Year, Contemporary Gospel Recorded Song of the Year, Southern Gospel Album of the Year, Traditional Gospel Album of the Year, and Contemporary Gospel Album of the Year.
The Doves have kept it real simple. Three categories for a song, three categories for an album. The categories being Southern, Traditional and Contemporary. What makes it really confusing is that the six categories in the Dove list don't match six of the eight categories in the Grammy list.
WHY SHOULD WE CARE, GEORGE?
We should care because the Grammy Awards, at least in the Christian category have simply been out of touch for many years. The eight "Gospel" categories don't represent CCM, and haven't for a very long time. I'm not knocking the likes of Petra, Steve Green or Sandi Patty, but the fact is that they were still getting Grammy Awards long after they made their mark on the CCM scene. Or even Amy Grant, one of this year's Grammy Award Winners for her album Rock Of Ages...Hymns & Faith (6th Grammy in her career).
It becomes particularly obvious that there's a serious problem here when we take a look at the top-selling Christian and Gospel music albums of 2005 (thanks to Nielsen Christian SoundScan). The best selling album of 2005? Switchfoot's Nothing is Sound, with sales of 449,102. A Grammy Winner, you might ask? Not even nominated, I would answer. By the way. Switchfoot is also on that "top 20" list with their album Beautiful Letdown, placing 4th with sales of 407,482. Those two albums alone sold close to a million copies.
If there is one album that is consistant on both the Grammy and Dove lists, it's Casting Crowns project titled Lifesong. Winner in the Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel category for a Grammy, the group and the album have multiple nominations for Dove Awards. And, to top it off, Lifesong was the number two album of the year, with sales of 430,227. And I should also mention that Casting Crowns had the number seven album of the year with their self titled project, and sales of 360,274.
How many "true gospel" singers find themselves in the top 20 in album sales last year? How about four? Kirk Franklin, Mary Mary (a stretch), Donnie McClurkin and Yolanda Adams. The highest ranked in sales is Kirk Franklin's Hero, if you're curious.
The top sales charts for 2005 have names like Switchfoot, Relient K, Third Day, Chris Tomlin, Jeremy Camp, Natalie Grant and tobyMac gracing the list. You'll have to look long and hard to find them even mentioned for Grammy nominations. The Doves? Multiple nominations for groups that are actually representing CCM today. The numbers agree with my gut feeling. The Grammys, when it comes to CCM, are totally out of touch with today's world.
Would you like to know what else is scary? How far off are many of the 108 categories that I have no personal knowledge of? Could the nominations in categories like Folk, Native American, Hawaiian, and Reggae be just as far off as CCM? It wouldn't surprise me a bit. I just don't have the knowledge to comment.
Sure, there's a solution. Find individuals on the Grammy Nominating Committee who know something about the area(s) of interest. Need a volunteer? Just give me a call!
IN THE MEANTIME...
I'll be watching with interest the outcome of the Doves in April from Nashville. I hate to put the "kiss of death" on any artist, but I really think this is Natalie Grant's year. Twice nominated previously for Female Vocalist of the Year, she really should get the call this year. Natalie has been nominated for a total of seven Doves this year, and while I don't expect her to win seven Doves (four would be nice), I do think that her time has finally arrived. Seven Doves in one year? It's been done. By Nichole Nordeman a few years ago.
ISSUE 3 IN TWO WEEKS?
One artist that didn't get nominated in the Dove category for Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year, that should have, is Sara Groves for her album Add to the Beauty. She did get a nomination for that project in the Recorded Music Packaging of the Year category, but I find it hard to take the nomination seriously, given the beauty of the songs and their ability to reach out to followers of Jesus Christ.
George McHendry has lived in the greater Denver, Colorado area for the past 32 years. He is currently the Pastor of the First Congregational Church of Eastlake, Colorado, and he and his wife Helene have been the owners of a photography studio in Broomfield, Colorado, since 1979 that specializes in wedding photography. For the past few years, George has also written a weekly column on religion that appears on Saturdays in the Broomfield Enterprise and covers happenings at local churches.