I wanted to open my first article of 2020 with a new idea. Maybe it’s controversial, maybe not. However, I’m putting my idea out there to anyone who cares to listen and take it up. I’m up for something different in this new decade -something to make our music stand out just that little bit more in this branding era. A new strand of gospel called POP GOSPEL!
POP means Popular. For ages I didn’t realise this is what pop music meant! Popular music is what a people are listening to the most. In this case there would be a definition of the most popular gospel hits of the moment. A way in which both the music industry and the public recognise we have pop hits within our genre. Can we have pop gospel? Is that something we can believe in to be beneficial to us?
Am I prophesying here? It is a serious proposition. At least I hope it might be taken seriously.
Well, it may be said that gospel music is already popular, but I’m speaking from a music industry system position. Is it worth seeing a strand of gospel within pop music that recognises its ‘pop value’? Could this turn out to be a potent currency for artists, producers and promoters alike? A recognised pop gospel hit, something unique created within British Gospel that maybe even the Americans might want to import!
INSPIRATIONAL OR CROSSOVER
It’s not a virgin thought; it isn’t a new idea at all, really. It’s just replacing the terms ‘inspirational’ and ‘crossover’ with ‘pop gospel’. I remember in the late 1980s and well into the ‘90s gospel choirs, like The Inspirational Choir, LCGC; groups like Paradise, Nu Colours; soloists like Lavine Hudson, Paul Johnson, and music producers, like Marcus Johnson and Steve Campbell (Ethnic Boyz), Tony Bean… they all created and performed in gospel music what was definitely DESIGNED for the pop music scene.
This all coincided with the likes of BeBe & CeCe Winans, the Clark Sisters and Terry Garmon (do you remember him with the big RnB hit, Anyway You Bless Me?). Hundreds if not thousands of new fans were attracted to gospel music, and only God knows how many may have literally found an authentic experience with the Lord as a result. The musical terminology was ‘inspirational music’ or ‘crossover hit song’. Lavine Hudson’s Intervention, BeBe and Eternal’s I Wanna Be The Only One to Raymond & Co’s Playing Games, not to name countless dance and rave hits, with remixes like Candi Staton on You Got The Love for The Source (aka producers Anthony B Stephens, Arnecia Michelle Harris and John Bellamy). This latter end is questionable, but it’s super relevant to the exposure we can experience and to the testimonials that have surfaced over the years.
A LONG TRACK RECORD
American gospel acts have long ventured down this road of singing gospel songs or gospel integrated performances with rock ‘n’ roll, country music, jazz and blues artists. There is a great catalogue of recordings as well as filmed evidence of this. Recently, after viewing quite a few music documentaries, particularly those on BBC Four iPlayer, there is much to show the close relationship that many artists and music producers had with individuals of gospel music from our churches. Ever since Elvis Presley in the 1950s and ‘60s, people – church people – have moaned about collaborations between ‘secular and divine’, yet still it has been those very public hits that have helped people to look towards the Church and maybe even find their way to faith in Christ JESUS. Of course, the greatest of these pop gospel hits, which began within my generation and whose legacy remains to this day, is – you guessed it – O Happy Day.
I like the term ‘pop gospel’. It says what it is. It places it well. It’s definitive. It’s unambiguous. It’s a media friendly phrase on many levels. I don’t know if I’m convincing you, but I have certainly convinced myself! LOL! I’m gonna talk to people involved in UK Gospel for a view and, if you have a view ready for me, do write in to Keep The Faith, or find me somewhere in social media land reposting this article. I’m quite happy to respond.
BENEFITS FOR OUR INDUSTRY NETWORKS
In this millennial era of branding, identity is soooo important. I believe there would be loads of benefits from this strand if we took it fully on board within our industry – promoting, as a brand of our industry.
Public Audiences: The public, in particularly young people, will be able to latch onto the specifics of what this brand means to them. An accessible phrase for all ages.
Songs and Artists: Songs that are specially written to suit a pop gospel strand by current artists. Regardless of the artistic configuration (ie. choir, soloist or group), if the sound or format fitted, it would be included. So the Kingdom Choir work would fit in with a GuvnaB release, as much as a Che Sampson or CalledOut Music or Noel Robinson! Whoever the artist may be, they can release with the identity of pop gospel.
Lyrically it releases very contemporary artists to write about life and everything in the way – as many are already doing. However, this gives them a credible track and channel through which they can make and create, express and promote who they are, and what they are saying.
Media & Music Organisation Sources: Radio and Press (the two foremost and significant outlets), Social Media, TV and Film – in addition to the artists – recognising and taking up the phrase legitimise its use. It enables a fresh news approach to the development of artist and music profiling.
Possibly it could give radio programming in mainstream a dynamic that all too often has been lost by the nit-picking of their understanding of gospel music, and could help with the portrayal away from the Sunday-only slot or presumed sound.
THE NEGATIVES OF POP MUSIC
Some call it ‘throw away music’, and there are likely to be those who believe that gospel shouldn’t be in the same phrase as pop, because of the negative connotations and lifestyles that go with many artists within the pop industry. I think this gives more reason to our being a part of the pop genre.
I liked what I found on the Official.FM website under the category PoP, and I’m quoting a chunk from it here: *” Modern Pop Music originated from the United States and the United Kingdom… Even though it is internationally recognised, most regions in the world have their own variation of pop music…Pop music has produced the most hits in the music industry….Popular pop musicians are Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry and Justin Timberlake… Pop music has produced the highest number of hits because it is upbeat and it focuses on common themes. The lyrics of most pop music songs are said to have had both positive and negative impacts on society. Changes and evolution in pop music have shaped popular culture and morals… Pop is not focused on any specific audience. It is meant to appeal to just about everyone that would listen, and is therefore very commercial.” (end quote).
More was said in that write-up, and it makes interesting reading. I felt that what it said about pop related to much of what we desire for gospel. In this regard there is an amount of synergy, as much of the upbeat inspirational sounds and themes have had their roots within gospel music.
Additionally, to my surprise, looking over the names, most of the artists the piece quoted as being the best in pop have their roots in Christian gospel music. I say we have some kinda rightful claim to take something back or – more pertinently – put something more powerful in. I believe we have the ability to do it!
I’ve just touched lightly on the numerous things that could be said in this piece. Creatively we now have more than seventy years of media, music, arts and culture contribution. It’s been amazing that we have a longevity legacy in the US Hawkins’ arrangement of ‘O Happy Day’ that hit these shores in the pop charts of 1969 and has never left.
The summary question is: Fifty years on since that pop hit, we now have our own musical legacies and heritage, and are swiftly moving towards our first one hundred years. So, who’s gonna be the first to produce the first global British pop gospel hit in this next fifty years? I believe you’re out there – somewhere!
Source: * https://official.fm