A REASON TO SMILE: (from left) Co-host Dorinda Clark-Cole, Kirk Franklin, and co-host Marvin Sapp rejoice and dance at the 2012 Stellar Awards. (Photo: Rick Diamond/Central City Productions & The FrontPage Firm)
Despite how battles often rage between the traditional music of hymns and choir-based anthems versus the upbeat, secular-sounding groove of contemporary worship songs, artists from all facets of gospel music declared it a truce last week as they gathered for the 27th Annual Stellar Awards.
Newcomer VaShawn Mitchell took home the most awards, including Artist, Male Vocalist, and Contemporary Male of the Year. His 2011 album, Triumphant, won for Praise and Worship CD of the Year.
“It’s a great feeling when you know it’s God who stamped his approval on your turn,” he said soon after the show’s taping. Mitchell, who has worked with several heavy hitters in the gospel industry prior to his more recent popularity, said he had come to previous Stellar Award shows as a seat filler, a person designated to sit in prominent seats that are temporarily empty. “It’s amazing to see the process from being the seat filler to winning six awards.” That’s not something a person can do by himself, Mitchell said. “Only God can do it.”
And only He gets the glory for what you accomplish, said another newcomer, Jessica Reedy. A season 2 finalist on BET’s Sunday Best, Reedy said the whole purpose of singing gospel music was God himself. “If you want self-gain and you think your talent is all that, you might not want to do this because God will humble you,” she said during the show. “And when He humbles you, it doesn’t feel good.”
In most cases, it was clear that most — though not all — of the artists exhibited humility despite their successes. Kirk Franklin, who has received 25 Stellars along with numerous other honors for his work, picked up four awards for CD of the Year, Contemporary CD of the Year, Producer of the Year, and Song of the Year. The latter award, though, he shared onstage with Darius Paulk, songwriter for the song that Mitchell made popular, “Nobody Greater.”
“Just at that moment, it just felt right because [“Nobody Greater”] had ministered to me so much,” Franklin said. “It was important to acknowledge just the great body of work that it is.”
Franklin said he was thankful to still be a part of the gospel music community and that his music, which won Song of the Year in 1993 for “Why We Sing,” has an impact today. “I’m just glad (the music is) still speaking to somebody dealing with something that somebody may be facing.”
GREAT HONOR: "Nobody Greater" singer VaShawn Mitchell receives the Artist of the Year trophy from CeCe Winans at the Stellar Awards. (Photo: Rick Diamond / Central City Productions & The FrontPage Firm)
Other winners included well-known pioneers of gospel music the Rance Allen Group, who received two Stellars for Traditional Group and Quartet of the Year. Traditional performances by Richard Smallwood and Issac Caree from Men of Standard, paying tribute to choirmaster John P. Kee, underscored the enduring popularity of choral gospel music. Smallwood, who later said he thought his gift for songwriting had dried up after his mother’s death in 2005, performed a song from his latest album, Promises.
Kee, who cried during renditions of his hit songs, including “Standing in the Need of Prayer” and “He’ll Welcome Me,” received the James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award for his three decades of contributions to the gospel music industry. “When we really realize what this music is about, tonight meant a whole lot,” Kee said. “It not only showed what we’ve accomplished, but that there’s more to accomplish.”
A variety of artists said they were working on new projects and music-related ventures due out this year. Among them were Mitchell, Karen Clark-Sheard, Kurt Carr, and Artist of the Year nominee Earnest Pugh. Marvin Sapp, who co-hosted the show with Dorinda Clark Cole, is working on a book entitled, I Win.
As host, Sapp said the show turned out well and he encouraged people to tune in in their respective markets. “I was very pleased with the looks of the show. Tell everybody and their mama they should watch it.”
Beginning January 21, the award show will air in more than 130 markets through February 26. The GMC network will broadcast the awards nationally on February 11. Check TheStellarAwards.com for airdates in your area.
2012 Stellar Award Winners
Artist of the Year
Song of the Year
“I Smile” | Kirk Franklin
Male Vocalist of the Year
Albertina Walker Female Vocalist of the Year
Group/Duo of the Year
New Artist of the Year
CD of the Year
Kirk Franklin | Hello Fear
Choir of the Year
Mississippi Mass Choir
Producer of the Year
Kirk Franklin for Hello Fear
Contemporary Group/Duo of the Year
Traditional Group/Duo of the Year
The Rance Allen Group
Contemporary Male of the Year
Traditional Male of the Year
Contemporary Female of the Year
Traditional Female of the Year
Contemporary CD of the Year
Kirk Franklin | Hello Fear
Traditional CD of the Year
Smokie Norful | How I Got Over: Songs that Carried Us
Urban Inspirational Single or Performance of the Year
VaShawn Mitchell | “Nobody Greater”
Music Video of the Year – Short Format
VaShawn Mitchell | “Nobody Greater” (VaShawn Mitchell)
Music Video of the Year – Long Format
Deitrick Haddon | Church on the Moon
Traditional Choir of the Year
Mississippi Mass Choir
Contemporary Choir of the Year
Shekinah Glory Ministry
Instrumental Gospel CD of the Year
Moses Tyson, Jr. | Music Remastered & Sacred Organ
Special Event CD of the Year
Bishop Paul Morton | Bishop Morton Celebrates 25 Years of Music
Rap, Hip Hop Gospel CD of the Year
Lecrae | Rehab: The Overdose
Children’s Project of the Year
Teen Pure N Heart | Pure N Heart Live
Quartet of the Year
The Rance Allen Group
Recorded Music Packaging of the Year
Martha Munizzi for Make It Loud (Martha Munizzi)
Praise and Worship CD of the Year
VaShawn Mitchell | Triumphant
Spoken Word CD of the Year
Selah | Look At You Loving Me
RADIO STATIONS OF THE YEAR
KJLH 102.3 FM – Los Angeles
WLOU 1350 AM – Louisville, Ken.
WHAL 95.7 FM/1460 AM – Memphis
KOKA 980 AM – Shreveport, La.
Internet Gospel Radio Station of the Year
GospelSynergy.com1radio.com, Chicago, IL
Gospel Announcer of the Year
John Hannah – WGRB, Inspiration 1390, Chicago, IL
Like Kool-Aid and hot combs, Ebony and Jet have been fixtures in African American households for decades. As a little girl I dreamed of my mocha almond skin appearing on the cover of Ebony, and I got my weekly fix of black news from Jet. So this week when I received an email that’s been making its rounds through the black community pleading for people to subscribe to both publications, I was surprised by my own apathy. Are Ebony and Jet still worth saving? To be honest, I traded in Ebony for Essence, and Jet for TheRoot.com a long time ago. So as with all moral conundrums, I took to the Internet to see what the bloggers were saying and found that many people share my guilt-ridden lack of enthusiasm about the possible shuttering of these historic publications.
When I was growing up as a little black girl in California, the closest thing I had to an African American Disney princess was Cinderella. She seemed like a girl from around the way. You know what I mean — her daddy wasn’t in the picture, and she had a crazy godmother, or “Big Mama,” who always made somethin’ out of nothin’, turning rags into a flawless gown just in time for the ball. So when I heard Disney was releasing The Princess and the Frog, starring Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls) as Princess Tiana, I was thrilled. Finally, little black girls will grow up seeing themselves as princesses, without having to superimpose their culture onto someone else’s fairy tale. But my excitement over the film was diminished when I heard about the controversy over Disney’s decision to cast Brazilian actor Bruno Campos as the prince (instead of an African American actor). I’m not sure whether to be discouraged over the casting or to just be grateful the movie is being made at all. I’ve found some comfort from Keith Josef Adkins, over at The Root, who is telling people to relax — Disney had to make the film appealing to everyone in order to make it profitable. What do you think? Is the casting a commentary on America’s receptiveness to black women versus black men, or am I being hyper sensitive?
Smearing Miss California
We may need to start an official UrbanFaith Pageant Patrol to keep track of the crazy scandal around Miss USA loser Carrie Prejean. Every time we turn around, there’s a new bit of drama with Prejean’s name front and center. It all started a couple of weeks ago when we were moved by the story of the young Christian woman’s courage to stand up for her beliefs on the nature of marriage, despite the fact that doing so likely cost her the crown and won her the ire of an entire movement of people. Then last week the story took a turn for the worse when pageant officials started throwing slanderous blows at Prejean, exposing her cosmetic surgery and publicly decrying her involvement in the National Organization for Marriage’s television campaign. Now the situation has gotten completely out of hand as photos have been leaked to the press showing Prejean, the reigning Miss California, posing partially nude. Even though she’s owned the fact that taking the photos was a bad move on her part, the old photos, taken when she was a naive 17-year-old trying to land a modeling gig, are potentially a violation of the contract she signed when entering the Miss USA pageant. She currently awaits a ruling from the Miss California pageant authorities as to whether she’ll get to keep that crown. Though I think it would behoove Carrie to lay low for a while, isn’t it interesting how certain folks from the usually open-minded progressive community have gone after Prejean? One of the more interesting commentaries on the subject this week came from the left-leaning political site Talking Points Memo, where blogger Eric Wattree posed the question, “Are Progressives Becoming As Intolerant As Conservatives?”
Mormons Baptize Obama’s (Dead) Mother
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) just found one more way to give America the heebie-jeebies. Rumors were confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that the Mormon Church did indeed baptize President Barack Obama’s mother last June 2008, thirteen years after her death. The church just can’t catch a break with the bad publicity. Who could forget last year’s media frenzy when polygamist compounds of a fundamentalist sect of the church were raided in Texas? A spokeswoman for the church claims there will be an investigation into how the baptism happened, as it’s against Church policy to submit the name of a non-relative for the sacrament. However, baptizing the dead without the consent of the deceased person’s family has long been a controversial practice of the church. The White House has no official comment on the matter. However, we can assume President Obama knew nothing of his mother having any unusual sympathy toward the Mormon faith. Throughout his campaign, he often shared stories of his mother’s religious skepticism. We just wish there was more noise being made about the living Presidential family’s faith. We know they profess to be Christian, but we’d love to see them finally settle in at a solid Washington, D.C., church.
Michelle the Influential
Michelle Obama ditched her duds from J. Crew on Tuesday night to slip into a stunning gown by Azzedine Alaia for Time magazine’s event honoring 100 of the World’s Most Influential People. Last week, we mentioned that the First Lady had been named one of People magazine’s Most Beautiful People of 2009. And though we fully stand behind her beautiful biceps and recession-chic style, “influencer” is a much more appropriate title for this Princeton University graduate. I can’t get enough of Barack’s sweetheart. As eager as I am for President Obama to lead America successfully through the next four years, I’m more excited to see the impact Michelle Obama will have on the United States. Whether she is planting a garden on the White House grounds or inspiring American women to pay renewed attention to their families, Mrs. Obama is reinventing our society’s concept of what it means to be a black Christian woman.
Idol’s Got Competition
Has anyone actually been watching American Idol this season? I haven’t watched the show steadily since Fantasia won season three years ago, but I hear we’re down to the final three: Danny Gokey, Kris Allen, and Adam Lambert. And though it seems like the men are running things over at Idol, it’s a ladies’ game on BET’s Sunday Best. After a sing-off of “Jesus Loves Me” between the three finalists last Sunday, the judges narrowed it down to Y’Anna Crawley and Jessica Reedy. We’ll see what goes down this Sunday when viewers decide the winner.