Although it is a few days late, I figured that I should still chime in on the 2013 Stellar Awards. I had intended on writing this post on Sunday or Monday, but I postponed it in favor of reflecting on President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. Given the timing of this post, I will make it brief.
The singing and overall spirit of the Stellar Awards is always admirable. However, there were a few moments that stuck out to me as I watched this year.
Mary Mary has used their reality show platform in order to actually strengthen their career. It was good to see them hosting and performing. It’s not often that you see a gospel performance that is so well-planned. Sure I noticed that “Go Get it” was in a lower key, but it didn’t matter. They proved why they are at the top of the gospel world right now.
I have been a fan of Tamela Mann since her days with Kirk Franklin and the Family. It felt like I was watching an old friend come into her own when she performed her medley of “Take Me to the King” and “I Surrender All.” It looks like all those years of singing with Tyler Perry and playing Cora, the daughter of Brown who the character played by her husband David Mann, has finally paid off for her. I wish her the best.
Watching Kierra Sheard’s humility as she accepted her award was amazing. At first, I was a bit thrown off by her referring to her parents as “Mommy” and “Daddy,” but I later realized that she was legitimately shocked that she won. I especially liked the way she shared the spotlight with her brother and often silent collaborator J. Drew Sheard. It definitely gave hope to all aspiring musicians out there who are building makeshift studios in their closets.
I enjoyed Leandria Johnson’s performance so much that I had to watch it twice on my DVR. It brought me back to the first time I saw her on Sunday Best and reminded me of why I sing.
Watching award shows with my family is always an adventure because of our collective, twisted sense of humor. The Stellar Awards were no exception–especially considering how badly some African American church folk dress. (Sometimes, I find myself feeling like many stylists who cater to gospel artists are scammers.) Whether we like it or not, clothing choices can be distracting. Although some in the African American church are known for their amazing fashion sense, others are could use a bit of help. We know that some African American church women are a bit too liberal with makeup, weave, and huge prom dresses. There is such a thing as too much. We also know that some African American church men end up inadvertently looking like pimps thanks to their insistence upon wearing suits in odd colors. Indeed, these suit colors contribute to the audience at events like the Stellar Awards looking like a bag of Skittles. Needless to say, my family was in rare form as we watched the award show together.
At one point, my kindhearted uncle said he was convinced that the only explanation for Kirk Franklin’s second outfit was that he had gotten dressed in a dark room. Since Kirk was front-and-center thanks to his hosting duties, there was no missing his second outfit that may have been a bit too adventurous.
We agreed that James Fortune’s pants were too tight. Enough said.
We also wondered why Byron Cage and Charles Jenkins wore metallic silver and gold suit jackets respectively. Indeed, this phenomenon led us to break out in an impromptu rendition of Kirk Franklin’s “Silver and Gold.”
At another point, my sweet cousins noted the extreme prevalence of growls in today’s gospel music by making noises that sounded like cats. (I personally appreciate a good squall or growl every now and then. The problem is that many artists rely on squalls and growls to elicit a reaction from the audience. As a result, they are often overdone in venues like the Stellars.)
However, our biggest complaint was that many of the performances seemed rushed and too short. While it’s nice to give everyone a chance to sing, it felt like many of the performances ended before the singers actually got the chance to get comfortable with the stage. It’s almost like the organic worship that typically makes the Stellar Awards so interesting to watch was stifled a bit. Still, I understand that the live telecast meant that the program actually had to come in at under 2 hours so the schedule was definitely tighter than usual.
There is a lot more that I could write about the Stellar Awards this year, but I made a promise to be brief. Therefore, I will end this post by saying that this year’s award show allowed me to see just how much effort is being put forth by the gospel music industry to ensure that its quality meets or exceeds that of the traditional, secular music industry. Sometimes, I feel as if some gospel artists settle for mediocrity or attempt to poorly imitate popular secular artists instead of being the unique individuals that God created them to be. (Ironically, very few successful secular artists are copycats. I’m not sure why so many gospel artists spend so much time trying to be just like other artists instead of being original, but that’s another story.) If this telecast is any indication the gospel music world has come a long way in that respect.
Did you watch the Stellar Awards? What did you think?