A Gospel Recap of 2009

We've polled the offices here at GOSPELflava.com and come up with our collective list of top Gospel happenings of 2009. Whether that be album releases, trends, or events, these are things that might have missed if you lived on another planet. Here they are, in no particular order...

The Economy and Gospel
Like everything else, the economy hit Gospel too. The year 2009 was a tough year on the business of Gospel music overall; from reduced recording budgets to less shelf space at leading retailers, we took the hit. Our leading independent retailer had to have a fundraiser to keep their doors open. From the largest label to the smallest label, significant restructuring was common place. Attendance a conferences, award ceremonies and tours were also down a bit. But the good news after the third quarter of 09', with the help of several big records, Gospel was not only holding strong, but looking good going into 2010. Don't get it wrong, Gospel music is not fading by any means, but we might just be forced to take much better care of it. (JR)

 A Season Called Clark
Gospel's premiere divas, The Clark Sisters, were featured up front (The View and The Tonight Show) as well as included in featured selections on the Frankie Beverly and Maze Tribute project and the EMI compilation Oh Happy Day (check it out, this album was a real sleeper). Riding high after a Grammy nod for their One Last Time album, Karen Clark Sheard and Drew Sheard inked an imprint deal with EMI for their Karew label, released a Christmas project that featured the extended Clark family, and we await the 2010 release of Karen's new solo project. In addition, Dorinda Clark-Cole put out a ver unexpected indy 4-song EP online, Kierra Sheard delivered a mix tape on EMI, and J Moss was Restored. (GG)

Mary Mary's Continuing Mainstream Prominence
Mary Mary was named the top R&B/Hip-Hop group of 2009 by Billboard Magazine, not to mention snagging trophies such as Grammy, Dove, BET Award, American Music Award, and Soul Train Music Award. They performed at the inauguration of President Barack Obama and "God In Me" was a top 15 song at Urban Radio for the entire year. The unabashed Gospel duo continues to reach all ears; we know the Gospel must be preached to the four corners of the world, and God is using groups such as Mary Mary to take accomplish His purposes, and bring his Word to the world. (SJ, GB)

 Unprecedented Inauguration
The election of a Black president of the US featured an inaugural celebration with The Queen of Soul and perennial Gospel favorite Aretha Franklin belting out a gospel infused version of "My Country Tis of Thee" (wearing her now famous COGIC church hat). (GG)

Gospel Media Controversy
Some Gospel media outlets chose to report the downfalls and shortcomings of Gospel artists as news —creating splits in the reaction of Gospel fans and industry professionals alike on the social phenomenon that is Twitter. (SJ)

 Bebe and Cece Winans
There's a strong case for the reunion of Bebe and Cece Winans being the year's biggest release. After a decade of solo efforts, Gospel's popular sibling duo returned with new music, and on a new label as well. All things worked out well for the dynamic twosome in '09. (JR)

Kim Burrell - No Ways Tired If for no other reason than we cannot go more than two years without a new Kim Burrell CD, this has to be one of the most anticipated projects of 2009. Kim's signature vocal quality, jazzy arrangements and creative musicianship make anything she touches a must a favorite for musicians, singers and listeners alike. (TM)

Social Networking The Gospel
The gospel world got a LOT closer and more accessible through the social networking venues of Twitter and Facebook. This has been a game changer, as suddenly, artists and fans grew closer through these mediums, affording everyone the opportunity to find common ground. So Fred Hammond likes Timberlands? You like them too? INSTANT connection. The world could quickly access the thoughts and commentary of many of the industry's finest, enabling the artist a voice outside of marketing packaging and label constraints. Sometimes that's good. Sometimes that's bad. We also learn news much faster! James Fortune and Isaac Carree robbed at gunpoint, and we know about it minutes after. Artists from Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary to Fred Hammond and Deitrick Haddon all embraced this new means of communication and expanded their fan base in the process. (GB, MC)

 Mali Music
Not since the release of Pronounced Tonéx in 1997 has urban contemporary Gospel seen an innovator that compares with the innovative and talented Mali Music. With his 2009 release The 2econd Coming, Mali broke onto the scene in a big way with a project that is stretches the envelope in production, arrangement, performance and lyricism. A musical prodigy, Mali's music is refreshingly engaging from the first cut to the last. Mali explores a variety of biblical and "real" content areas in the project while never failing to stretch the listener through his approach to music, artistry and lyricism. "The Light", "No Muzik" and "Avaylable" are tunes that should pick up popularity in 2010 and be blowing up iPods for years to come. (TM)

The Free Gospel Download
Not that it hasn't been done before, but it certainly was not widely spread in Gospel until 2009. (Other genres have been doing it for years.) Youthful Praise gave it a shot in 2009 and arguably generated not-heard-before noise about their latest album release (Resting On His Promise). With over 1500 free downloads prior to release and entering at #4 release week, a whopping 25% of that was credited to digital downloads. The wave of the future, no doubt. (MC)

Also of note:
  • The reigning Queen of Gospel (Albertina Walker) turned 80.

  • Lataillaide Entertainment (headed by Vicki Mack-Lataillaide and Claude Lataillaide) announced their next big thing —a deal with Central South Gospel.

  • Myrna Summers appearance on the 2009 Stellar Awards made us all wonder where she has been and what she is doing now? Not to be outdone, Kathy Taylor wore us out with a cover of Myrna's "Oh How Precious (is the name of Jesus)".

  • The long-awaited solo releases from the likes of Chrystal Rucker and Sheri Jones-Moffatt.

  • Myron Williams defined a new level of worship with Made To Worship.

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