Inspiring Through More Than Just Melodies
The ads for Yolanda Adams' latest album describe her as the "greatest inspirational female artist of our time," a title that evokes laughter from the award-winning vocalist.
"I am so glad I didn't write that," she says. "I thank God for where I am, but I believe that there's always somebody greater than you and there's always someone who can sing better than you. That never would have been my slogan."
Those who listen to Songs from the Heart on Verity Records, however, might be more than willing to agree with the advertising copywriter's assessment. The project is a stunning collection of mostly hymns that leaves the listener reminded of the power of God and the joy of giving Him complete control of everything in your life.
Her first studio album since 1995's More Than A Melody, it also reminds gospel music fans of just why Yolanda Adams is one of their most popular vocalists.
Adams says that the purpose of this album was not only to encourage, but also to educate.
"For this project, we concentrated on hymns because there are a lot of people who are getting into gospel music now as a result of the boom of Kirk Franklin and people like Fred Hammond and myself and a whole host of other people," Adams explains. "But there are a lot of young people, especially a lot of young musicians, who don't know the hymns. I want them to know that there is a wealth of wonderful music that they should check out,"
Unlike her previous albums, most of which were produced by Ben Tankard, Songs from the Heart was produced by Gregory Curtis and Percy Bady, both of whom Yolanda described as wonderful to work with in the studio.
"Gregory has worked with Tony, Toni, Toné and other R&B acts, but his base is the church," she said. "I knew that he knew how to bring that flavor that the kids would like, but without going so far out that the adults wouldn't like it. And Percy Bady is the ballad king. He and I worked together before on a project and I love Percy's personality. He's a crazy person to hang out with."
A desire to educate also influenced Yolanda's choices for her contribution to Verity's Real Meaning of Christmas, Volume 2.
"Percy and I were searching all over Chicago trying to find the right Christmas songs," she remembers. "I wanted to do something different, which is why I chose "The Shepherd's Lullaby" as one of my songs. It's a beautiful song that most people have never heard."
As one of the headliners of the popular "Tour of Life" with Kirk Franklin and Fred Hammond, Adams was exposed to a crowd of music lovers who previously hadn't listened to gospel, and has been credited with helping to change the direction of gospel music. She, however, doesn't agree that she or anyone else has changed gospel music.
"I don't think gospel music has taken a new direction," she stresses. "I think a lot of us have come to the conclusion that life would be a whole lot better with God. When gospel artists know that and when they have that experience with God, they want to share it with other people. Kirk shares it in his way; CeCe shares it in her way; I share it in mine. But the bottom line is that gospel music is still saying the same thing: God loves you, God cares about you and if you let Him, He'll take over your burdens and be the best friend you ever had."
All that has changed, according to Adams, is the flavor of the music.
"Just like when Edwin Hawkins did "O Happy Day" and changed the flavor of gospel music for that time, the flavor of gospel music is changing today -- but not the ministry and not the aim," she says. "The goal of gospel music is the same as it was when Mahalia was singing: to inspire the people, to encourage the people and to get the people to understand that God loves them and that He wants a relationship with them."
Earlier this year, Adams signed with Elektra Records and expects to release her debut recording for them in 1999. She says that she chose Elektra because, although she was courted by a slew of secular labels, the executives at Elektra have no desire to change her ministry, her music or her image.
"Elektra was the only place I felt comfortable signing to do gospel," Adams says. "I am not Whitney Houston. I love Whitney and I think she's great at what she does. But just because I'm tall and just because I'm thin and I have a voice similar to hers, I'm not trying to be Whitney. Every other secular label tried to make me Whitney or CeCe. CeCe and I are great friends, but I don't want to be CeCe. If I try to step in CeCe's place, I won't be blessed. I have to stay in Yolanda's place and let God bless Yolanda."
Changing labels is not the only recent change in Yolanda's life. This year marked the first anniversary of her marriage, an event that she says has changed her for the better.
"I'm definitely enjoying marriage," she admits. "I'm a calmer person. I'm a more patient person. I'm a more loving person. I'll tell anyone, marriage is the joint. It's the bomb, but only if you have the right person."
Adams says that her future plans include starting a family, as well as management and production of other artists. Most of all, however, her desire is to make a difference in lives of others through music and involvement in the lives of young people.
"I know that I have been blessed beyond blessings and God has really been good to me," she says. "So what I want to do is give back to the young people in the community who are going to church and are going into the music field. I want to give scholarships to go to Juilliard and Berklee so that they can perfect their craft. I want to make sure that I reinvest and give back to the community as well as to God's people."
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