You may laugh, and it may even sound absurd, but according to industry executive Torrence Glenn, it is more of a possibility than you think.
“There is a lot of disagreement among our industry as to what gospel is and what it should be. Gospel can be whatever it wants to be musically,” said the director of Music Development forBET Digital. “It is all about the balance. It should not be all groups, all choirs, all rhythm and blues, or all pop. It should sound like a little bit of everything as long as there are some traditional things involved.”
Gospel music used to be the standard in the music industry, said Glenn. When an artist, of any genre, made their music as good as gospel they were considered to have arrived musically. Yet, that is not as much of the case today.
Today, many gospel artists are making music that sounds more urban and contemporary. Why?
Glenn suggests a number of factors have come into play to influence the change.
“There is no one cause,” he said. “Everything you could possibly think of has played a role. Some artists saw the success of more urban driven music like Kirk Franklin, Mary Mary and even Yolanda Adams in her hay day.”
In turn, some of them wanted that same success. But then Glenn references other artists, likeDonnie McClurkin Marvin Sapp, who have had major success singing what is considered more traditional. For them, they stayed true to who they were as artists, therefore solidifying more success.
There are a lot of variables, according to Glenn. Some artists want to try new sounds; new stuff, but the label does not agree. As a result, all parties are in disagreement.
“We all have heard the story of the artist being frustrated with the label, but what we do not hear about labels’ frustration with the artist,” Glenn said. “In these instances, no one knows what to do so everyone is trying to out-do the other.”
Jonathan Landrum, a newsman for the Associated Press in Atlanta, believes the reason is reach.
“While the music has changed, the message has stayed the same; it has just become broader,” he said. “Artists like Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary are simply attempting to appeal to more people. That is why you see the type of production where you might have a more secular sound, more of a Hip -Hop sound, or more melodic. They are trying to touch the souls of people who would not normally be touched by more traditional music.”
Landrum covers mostly entertainment reporting for the Associated Press. In his talks with numerous gospel artists, what they have told him is their concern has been more about touching a whole new crowd that did not consider themselves believers.