bobbyjones-title An in-depth look at the 2013 top 25 Gospel chart-toppers.


Last week I made a soul gospel chart analysis based on a weekly countdown from a radio show that doesn't use tracking from any established music/radio trade publication, but its own proprietary sampling of stations' playlists.  For at least the third year running,  though I looked forward to the year-end chart show from the same program used above for the last such exercise of mine, The Bobby Jones Gospel Countdown, I noticed a few tunes hanging on in pretty high positions from 2013, including at least one I linked in my 2012 article.

Why not instead go to the widely-perceived gold standard for radio play and music sales data for a sequel-of-sorts to that previous piece? Why not go to Billboard? So be it. Every song commented upon below did make Dr. Jones' show's weekly chart, but not all of them make his 2013 top 20. Since he included a few near misses on his last show for the year, so will we (even if that's the royal we).  Here, then, is a semi-personalized reminiscence and breakdown of the apparently biggest hits in the field of the Christianny music to which I listen most often, at least on radio (and even then, Internet radio at that).  

25) Abide-Lexi Question her allowance for wide berths for President Obama and former gospel trailblazer Tonex (or whatever he's calling himself nowadays, whichever way he's swinging sexually) as a radio and TV host/commentator though I do, Lexi can win me artistically both with her effective comedic acting presence and a way with adult R & B inclined, mid-tempo ostebsibly praise & worship joints such as "Abide." Here, in one of her occasional lengthy music videos, gal gives a funny performance as she and friends attend an apparently lame church singles group party...before she starts lip-syncing her latest single (or so the DJ wishes?)! But why does the guy spiking the punch receive no comeuppance?!

24) You Reign-William Murphy III I've said it before elsewhere, and I'll say it again here: it's a damnable shame and mystery that Euromerican-made cCm can  find acceptance in the Afrimerican-majority church, but rarely does the door swing the other way where Afrimerican-made soul gospel makes it into the majority-Euromerican congregations (at least since the days Ron Kenoly and Larnelle Harris had followings in both). This simple, but doctrinally substantive chorus with a slight calypso lilt buttresses my case. I don't know much about Murphy, but if there are good guys who don't countenance or involve themselves in the various riduculousnesses of Afrimerican churchianity (watch TBN, Word Network, God TV ad nauseum for evidence thereof), here's  hoping Murphy's among them.

23) God's Up To Something Good-Hart Ramsey & The NCC Family Choir featuring John P. Kee and Ms. Ty Scott When it seemed like I was reviewing albums by soul gospel choirsalbums for a  Christian bookstore trade magazine at least every other month in the '90s, I noted in one such review what I deemed choral funk. Back then, likely in good part due to the preponderance of Parliment/Funkadelic samples in hip-hop of that time, it took on a different  form. But thanks to the choirsters Alabama pastor Hart Ramsey's Northview Christian Church, the C-Funk isn't dead. They hit it rather hard, in fact, getting more forceful as the song goes on, making room for ad libs by North Caroloinian fellow pastor/choir director John P. Kee and a rap by gal who looks like a comelier (to my eyes) and fairer complected Sista Souljah raps like she's had a steady sonic diet of M.C,. Lyte and Eve for a while (and whose name is strangely similar to that of a prominent label in their scene, Tyscot Records).

22) Greater-The Greater Allen Cathedral featuring Michael Pugh Without necessarily sounding triumphalistic over its contemporary/traditional melodic bounce, the choir at the Jamaica, New York church for which they're named succinctly and earwormingly articulate the thinly-veiled narcissism of word-faith heterodoxy. Sure, they're giving the Almighty the praise, but it's for greater favor, harvest, miracles (there are lesser ones?!) etc. If this single speaks to the church's overall philosophy, it might be best to not expect anyone soloing on Casting Crowns' "Praise You In The Storm" any given Sunday here. But is it catchy? Yes, but , like I said...

21) Nothing Without You-Jason Nelson Remember when BeBe and Ce Ce Winans' slow jams that were written to and about the Lord would get some quiet storm radio play, inferring that the same songs could as well be directly to an earthly paramour? And remember how Donnie McClurkin chopped the verses out of Bob Carisle's  "We Fall Down," tacked on another couplet or two and turned it into a praise chorus-cum-R & B radio hit? Nelson, whose "Shifting the Atmosphere" from the same album as the one where this number appears this  defined a kind of musically new-agey gospel at which listeners to WFMU's Sinners Crossrroads golden age gospel show likely recoil (but works for me in its context about so well as the hardest-shouting male quartet on a post-WWII/pre-1965 indie label 45, too), does a kind of mash-up of those circumstances/principles without resorting to preexisting source material. His slightly gravelly baritone sells it, though hearing Him referenced as an informal "Ya," as opposed to  "You" is a touch off-putting. Kudos go as well to the video for Nelson's multi-culti band and apparent  poignance of him ending the song in the studio...alone. (that's the official music video, but it doesn't quite sound like the radio edit I heard;try the following for a fuller, read: longer, experience:

20) Sunday Morning-Mary Mary Yes, the sisters whose career was cemented into a high general market profile after "Shackles" made headway in R & B, pop and club circles at the dawn of the '00s have had their moments of doctrinally lyricism, too. The titular track to the soundtrack album to their cable reality show numbers prominently among those moments, alas, but this other new track on that collection isn't. Instead, it's a jaunty little ditty with a mid-paced Carolina beach music rhythm about enjoying going to church. Slight? Maybe, but the sibs capture the joy of joining with one's congregation in worship and the work Christ's earthly body's called to do. If the rumors about the duo's break-up are true, there are far worse ways the ladies could have bid their farewell.

19) 1 On 1-Zacardi Cortez You may recall from my first piece like this that then-newcomer Zacardi Cortez could cause my feet to be free of socks, seeing as how his supple Fred Hammond-influenced tenor blew the aforementioned apparel from the aforementioned extremities. Maybe there are numbers running at higher beats per minutes on his album with which I've not been serviced (and maybe they provide showcases at least as effective for his instrument) , but when it comes to what radio receives from him, his handlers seem to be in an "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" mode. And yep, a slow burn approach still works for he with the first name whose ethnicity escapes me. Can't tell you whether Cortez has ever heard Larnelle Harris' "I Miss My Time With You," but this simply piano-accompanied ode sounds like its answer song of a believer coveting his uninterrupted time alone with his Master.

18) I've Seen Him Do It-Kurt Carr & The Kurt Carr Singers Credit Carr and his singers for recording a song of genuine testimonies, running the gamut from deliverance from damnation and physical disease (including his own mother's lung cancer) to financial hardship and homosexuality. Maybe it's the touchiness of that last topic vis a vis both Afrimerican churches' history of compromises for sodomite men and women to be part of their musical ministries as well many of those congregatlons' support for noted "marriage equality" advocate President Obama, not to mention the difficulty in giving it a decent edit of five minutes or less, that kept it from being a bigger smash? Either way, its Walter Hawkins/Andrae Crouch stateliness and proclamation of a God of miracles and providence make it a winner.

17) Awesome-Charles Jenkins & Fellowship Chicago Here's one of those '12 holdovers that hung onto playlists tight enough to chart this high this year. Its lilting melody and theological sturdiness struck me upon my first listen. It did enough so for me to look up the church from which Jenkins and his choir emanate. Disappointed as I was to see it had recently hosted at least one famed word-faith/oneness pentecostal preacher in its pulpit, I wrote the church. that I'm still awaiting a reply doesn't dim my view of this probable insta-classic. Chrisianity-dismissive rapper Jay-Z was impressed and/or savvy enough to book Jenkins and his Fellowshippers for a festival he organized  One hopes the Spirit worked a number on the m.c. blasphemously egotistical enough to nickname himself  'Hova (now put a J in front of it...) when he heard them in person.

16) A Little More Jesus-Erica Campbell Any Facebook friends of mine reading this? If so, you might have seen me post a link to this stompin' debut solo jam from one half of Mary Mary and my comment about how if you have any of Him, you have all of Him. I'm not backing down from that, but neither am I from my enthusiasm for Campbell's use of harmonica, clapping and humming/moaning she might've gleaned from whatever Marion Williams, Roberta Martin or Mahalia Jackson 78s she might have stashed away.  It rocks at least hard as the finger-pointing-at-oneself humility of its lyrics. That's pretty hard, trust, and if you've not heard it or don't trust me, that's why I've included the link below  (an here's hoping her full album arriving in '14 is consistently as good).

15) The Gift-Donald Lawrence One again, Lawrence leaves me conflicted. Masterful as he is at arranging and whupping a choir (uncredited on the citations of the single here, but my impression was that his famed Tri-City Singers are long gone), that masterfulness is often in service of some dubious premises. Here, the gift of which he speaks and his crew sing doesn't appear to be the Gospel, but whatever talents He gives a believer. OK enough, but to imply that faithful stewardship of that gifting will lead one into positions of prominence seems to derive from the same word-faith/prosperity gospel hooey with which Lawrence has in the past aligned himself (and an eisegesis or narcegesis of the Biblical texts presented at he start of the lyrics video below). That's entirely too bad, as this is an otherwise fetching confection where funk, smooth jazz and Lawrence's '90s contemporary gospel roots meet.

14) Turning Around For Me-VaShawn Mitchell Maybe anything less than the success of Mitchell's last radio hit, the exquisite "Nobody Greater," would be considered not living up to expectations. "Turning" didn't exceed those expectations, but even as this could be viewed as the same kind of materialistically aspirational dross I've already criticized here, there's a gentleness here that sounds to imply  "this, too, shall pass" instead of "I'm a King's kid and deserve the best" mentality.  Could it be that this sounded just a smidgen too similar to his previous biggie? Regardless, it was good to hear it while it was charting.

13) Life & Favor-John P. Kee & The New Life Community Choir featuring James Fortune and Lejeune Thompson  The lyrics video below makes specific what might be heard more vaguely on radio, but here's another song of  testimony, though seemingly less personalized than Kurt Carr's a few tunes back. Its loping melody, a switch-up on it about three-quarters of the way through and  narrative lyrics with a relative lack of repetition give it distinction. So does the semi-improvised vocal contribution of Thompson, whom I've not heard since her presence on Donald Lawrence's late '90s club crossover hit "Testify," and her solo album that followed. FIYA choir director Fortune figures a bit less prominently, if no less distinctly. Kee himself can't much be heard, but as we've heard earlier, it's not like he hasn't appeared on other folks' records lately. Another '12 holdover, this.   

12) Greater Is Coming-Jekalyn Carr In keeping with the dictates of one of the editrices here, no one necessarily wants to dump on a high school kid, right? Carr (Any relation to Kurt? Not to my knowledge) may only be 16, but she's put herself into the professional fray, making her fair game to whom I'll try to be gentle in my critique. Gal has a positively powerful alto range up to the challenge of the heavy orchestration here. She has cited Kim Burrell as an influence, and though I'm no fan of the agape/eros confusion of some of her recent work, Carr could do worse for vocal role models. But-and you knew there was a "but" coming from the opening sentence, didn't you?-"greater" looks to be an indicator or code word for a certain nature of questionable lyrical content in soul gospel if this and previous entries are any indication. Herein she speaks of the greater that's coming not being the Lord's return, but whatever her destiny, anointing, et al that are preparing her to embrace. The overall effect sounds like a gospelized  take on the George Benson song Whitney Houston remade into an anthem of self-appreciation, "The Greatest Love of All." Carr sells it like an American Idol winner, but what she's selling doesn't seem all that spiritually healthy, or at least substantive, when taken to its logical conclusion. It's songs such as this that make me wish the revival of Reformation thought would grip at least some of the gospel singing world as it has sectors of its hip-hop counterpart.

11) Here In Our Praise-Fred Hammond and United Tenors Just as it was disheartening to hear of Mavis Staples' membership in Jeremiah Wright's previous church (which, if its website and broadcasts on an AM Chicago station are any indication, hasn't firmed up into greater biblical orthodoxy after his departure),  I wonder what Fred Hammond's attraction to T.D. Jakes' brand of strange fire is. If he's still attending The Potter's House, that is. Still, Hammond's voice has been one of his genre's most emotive assets since his '80s days in Commissioned, and he continues to  be creatively restless enough to innovate. With United Tenors, he gathered a fellow gospel guy (Brian Courtney Wilson), an alt R & B singer who counts Hammond as inspiration (Eric Roberson) and  a former R & B fella' turned artistically wide-reaching gospeller (Dave Hollister) to put a fresh spin on the male quartet. And fresh it is, here following the lead of the adult R & B/smooth jazz feel of Hammond's latest solo album with a number about the Lord inhabiting the praises of His people. Or at least these four people. This assumes Hammond, et al aren't falling for the unsound teachings of the, erm, pastor to which he at least at one time not many years ago hitched his church-going wagon. If they don't play next year's iteration of Jakes' Mega Fest, I'll take that as a positive sign!...

10) Hold On-James Fortune & FIYA featuring Fred Hammond and Monica (Brown) No relation to any other song by its title, this offering by chrome-domed choir directing singer and radio host (with a weekday evening show syndicated by the same company handling Yolanda Adams' morning gig) Fortune here offers standard, but sonically consummate, mellow urban contemporary pop soul  gospel, low on theology and doctrine, but high on hope. In that way, it harkens to back to textually similar efforts by such ensembles as Sounds Of Blackness and The New York Community Choir, though more jazz  fusion'y than either, likely. Adult R & B radio listeners made it one of the year's bigger crossovers to that radio format, too. Hammond and Monica-the actress/singer who goes only goes by her first name in her musical capacity, probably best recalled by some listeners as she who dueted/tussled with Brandy (Norwood) on "The Boy Is Mine"- add sweet icing to an already tasty aural cake from Fortune and his niftily-named vocalizers.

9) God Will Make A Way-Shirley Caesar Oh, my. Caesar once touched my shoulder and asked me to yell "Jesus!" at an Easter Eve concert of hers where I was in the front row, and I respect her musical perseverance from the 1950s onward. That's a roundabout way of saying I don't want to get very far into my disagreements with her regarding female pastorate, her co-operation in at least one Jakes event, asking a Mormon (Gladys Knight) to share the platform at one of her own conferences and whatever else that gives me pause about her. OK, that was getting in far enough, but this is pretty wonderful in the downtempo, expertly phrased mode at which she's been adept  for much of her solo career. It recalls, in fact, her early '90s biggie, "He's Working It Out For You."  By the way, it's not a remake of the Don Moen song you may sing at your church. As you can hear here...

8) If He Did It Before...Same God-Tye Tribbett Tribbett and his old (and current??) choir, Greater Anointing, were something of a mind blower upon their arrival on the scene a decade ago. Choreography straight out of the traditions of Afrimerican college fraternities and outfits that could be loosely street casual or cheekily reminiscent of parochial school uniforms combined with instrumental arrangements a malgamating trad' gospel and hip-hop elements. Regardless his adultery scandal from a few years back (for which he appears more repentant than certain of his colleagues who figures prominently in a recent reality show about a few Los Angeles preachers) and some affiliations with clergy I'd not countenance, Tribbett's high on the list of acts I'm fiending to see in concert. G A. have been excised from the billing for his latest album, which launched Motown  Records' current sacred imprint, but he still sounds like the mad scientist of choral gospel, here fitting fidgety electronics to the assurance of God's continued provision for a monstrously hook anthem practically begging for trance and dubstep remixes. But it's plenty fine as is, too (my jury is still out on whether refitting a George Harrison '80s oldie in something sounding like a Black Eyed Peas b-side on the same album was genius or whack, however).

7) Every Praise-Hezekiah Walker Somewhere between the the brazenness of Tribbitt's aforementioned solo Beatle appropriation and a more controversial general market hit coming up the very next notch up the chart is Walker's latest chart topper. Putting praise&worship lyrics atop the melody of Tina Turner's "The Best" is just audacious enough to  work splendidly. Also like Tribbett, Walker appears to be over with crediting his choir on his albums, too, though referencing in his latest album's title the early 20th century revival that launched the world's current iteration of pentecostalism (and claiming it could be impetus for another revival?) makes up in chutzpah what his current billing lacks in inclusion... (radio edit, but an actual music video that provides one answer for what to do with a choir in a promo clip; a faux flash mob with praise dancers?-why not!...) and for comparison's sake...

6) Clean This House-Isaac Carree Last time around in this format, former Men Of Standard lead man Carree topped the weekly chart on and got my good side with his Princely club banger "In The Middle." here he goes from appropriating the sound of an '80s R & B giant to adapting a melody from a prominent figure from the '90s. And if the news hasn't made it to you yet, that figure's R. Kelly. Yes, that R. Kelly, who did record a gospel album some years ago but whose latest long-player finds him posing with a topless hootchie on its cover and is entitled Black Panties (and one of whose scandals was so brilliantly parodied by Dave Chappelle on his  Comedy Central showin a skit that shan't be linked here!). Whatever the matters of  appropriateness and sensationalistic exploitation surrounding the existence of a gospel song based on Kelly's ridiculously epic/epically ridiculous "Trapped in the Closet" song cycle/soap opera, Caree sounds sincere here on this plea of a quality seemingly largely lacking in his chosen music-repentance. With that in mind 1) here's hoping Caree isn't involved in the circumstances surrounding the divorce of a previously referenced Preachers Of L.A. star, as has been speculated in the press, even if this song acts as a mea culpa for same, and 2)recording a duet version of it with Kelly seems a misstep by my  reckoning. and because some of you are doubtless curious, probable  NSFW status regardless, the first 12 of 37 (?!) installments of Caree's melodic inspiration...

5) The Best Is Yet To Come-Bishop Paul S. Morton "Stay away from negative words! Stay away from negative people!," sings the bish' who recently stepped down from his last pastoring position. Because speaking and hearing the former's not in accord with word-faith principles and the latter should receive ministering, much less friendship, from other people? Morton, being one of the older cats in this survey, his slightly grizzled voice unsurprisingly sounds comfy in this lush,  refangled '70s-'80s production element on this chorally-backed slowie. But it comes in an restatement of Ecclesiastes 7:8 that sounds a whole lot like for Osteenian self-help amid its guise of  "hold on, God's coming" hopefulness. Fashionable baldie  with sumptuous retro' production values and vocals that could have led a killer quartet though he is, this doesn't cut lest the nest thing coming about which Morton is crooning is heaven. And the good money says it isn't. ...and for the highest-charting neo-trad' quartet (OK, quintet, but Southern gospel guys fudge on the numbers, too) to make the trade mag's airplay top 50...

4) Break Every Chain-Tasha Cobbs For being a fairly new name on the scene with a song this big, it's a shame she has a screwy website that won't let me see anything beyond the home page. From what little can be gleaned from the opening lines of her biography as it appears toward the top of my favorite search engine's ranking for her name, she made a splash singing a solo in 2012 at Hart Ramsey's church...and the rest is history? It's been a good story professionally and musically so far for Cobbs, anyway, as this song reached the airplay summit; it's an immediately impressive surger speaking of the Lord's ability to release people from bondages. Hey, found the same bio on her page! She's worship pastor at William Murphy III's dReam Center Church in Atlanta (yes, its name is rendered like that of a '90s English synthi-disco act, its belief statement's rather vague, there's no way to avoid the LOUD music on its website no matter how often one hits the off button on the audio player on its home page, but it appears they have a children's mime troupe) label mate VaShawn Mitchell produced her major label debut , and also singing on "Chain" is also done by the wonderfully monikered Timiney Figueroa, who is also female. Cobbs'  Q Rating may be on a quick rise, but how about fixing her website, someone?!

3) Take Me To The King-Tamela Mann The biggest of the countdown's 2012 holdovers is  one about which I've written at length in this publication already, so briefly: the more I listen to this song with any degree of attentiveness, which it's easy NOT to do if you've heard it with the frequency it's been on gospel and adult R & B radio over the 18-plus months, the less sense it makes. Yeah, it's easy to get that Mann's all churched out, stressed, etc. and that she wants some alone time with Him or whatever, even if she's wanting someone to bring her to the throne room. But the further it goes on, the more it breaks down into a colossal  "Wha'?!" A gentle melody,  Kirk Franklin's production finesse (and brief cameo "whoo!"),  the lyric's air of needful resignation turning into relief and Mann's masterful way with latter sold this into its realms of ubiquity, but at best, this is a kind of Christianny fantasia where impressionism trumps narrative; to my ears, a similar functional cCm equivalent would be TobyMac's "City On Our Knees," and that was a a pretty humongous smasharoonie among its target demo', too, wasn't it. Oh well, Jakes affiliation and being one of the few gospel acts to participate in the business of reselling her latest album in tracks-added deluxe edition form months after initial release, gal can still saaang. And that continues to make "King" plenty listenable, regardless its textual oddity.

2) It's Not Over-Israel (Houghton) & New Breed featuring James Fortune and Jason Nelson Appreciate Houghton though I do for the diversity of his musical background and, what the hey, diversity of his ethnic background background, too, let's be clear: his decade-plus association with Joel Osteen's...for lack of a better seems to indicate a certain lack of discernment on his part. That's not to say I didn't miss him when he couldn't show for a benefit concert on a bill with Donnie McClurjkin and  Donald Lawrence several years ago (Jaci Velasquez filled his spot, and though that was on its face weird, it worked out reasonably well, not that I've a tinge of regret for not making the trek to see him and Chris Tomlin sharing the same stage. All that said, hearing Houghton go on about how if God is in it, there is no limit relates to  his boss. erm, pastor's shamanistic word-faith malarkey, even as he, Fortune, Nelson and New Breed sing truth in so far as His ability to make all things new. Lovely, limpid tune and vocalizing, but  you'll understand me if I don't encourage y'all to go out and spend your disposable income on supporting this, yes?

1) Testimony-Anthony Brown & Group TherAPy My vague curiosity over the peculiar capitalization off newcomer Brown's vocal octet (does that qualify as a choir? FIYA has few members, so whatever) is overcome by not finding an article mentioning it on the first page of my fave search engine's results for their name. Regardless of that and whatever it says about Brown and 'AP that Isaac Carree and James Fortune number among the cameo appearance makers in the video, this  mid-tempo funker exalts God's deliverance from and victory over hospitalization and financial woes, if not sin and damnation. It's a keeper, though, and the way its stutter edits are matched by clever video editing earns it bonus points. B y the way, Jones mentioned on his show that "Testimony" broke the record for most weeks in Billboard's gospel airplay top 10 (though it neither topped his weekly nor year-end survey). Fine stuff here, but this kind of catchiness coupled to profounder  lyrical content would make for a real wowser.

Jamie Rake

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