I'm 22 years old, and I've been saved for almost 17 years. My Christian walk started in a Baptist church, and my current home church is interdenominational, so I grew up listening to a wide range of Gospel artists, everything from Shirley Caesar and The Williams Brothers to Mary Mary, Kirk Franklin, and Keith "Wonderboy" Johnson. I've noticed that as I've matured, my taste in music has expanded to include more contemporary artists like Travis Greene, Jonathan McReynolds, Anthony Brown, The Walls Group, and most recently, Todd Galberth and WillMBand...and the list goes on and on. One thing's for sure: No other music makes me feel like Gospel music does.
While I still appreciate the hymns and songs that require double clap, I am loving the fresh, transparent anointing I'm hearing in Christian music from my generation. This new wave of psalmists is revolutionizing the genre and redefining what it means to be a Gospel artist. It's not just one sound anymore, but it's still raw, undignified praise. They're making it personal. Unlike older Gospel, which primarily focused on what God did in Biblical times, more contemporary artists candidly sing about what He's currently doing or has done most recently in their own lives. Sometimes, tradition has to be broken in order for change to occur. I think that's what's happening in Gospel music right now. All of the aforementioned artists in my playlist are fairly young, but they have deep, "churchy" roots. If you listen to their work closely, you'll hear influences from hymns, quartets, and many of the reknowned Gospel legends who paved the way for them. You'll also hear influences from popular artists in the secular realm, instances where Christian artists give a nod or two to a melody that is familiar to the world, but the music itself still does its job, which is spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
When a company wants to revamp its image and boost its sales, the first thing it usually does is change its packaging. Since the company doesn't want to lose its returning customers, it marks this packaging with a seemingly trivial but very important label: "New look, same great taste!" The same thing applies to new-school Gospel. In order to reach new Christians who may not be drawn to the old-timey church songs our parents and grandparents loved, God is giving a new song (and a new fashion sense) to artists who don't fit in a traditional box. New sound, same great message.
Folks write artists off if their sound isn't "traditional," but all that really matters is that God is pleased. Gospel artists have to market themselves a certain way because Gospel music is (and should be) held to a certain standard, but some young artists are also pressured to dress a certain way because of the type of music they sing. We are imperfect Christians serving a perfect God. These artists' main objective is to win souls for Him, even if it doesn't look "traditional." I'm not saying young Christian artists should be wearing provacative clothes, but if their demographic is young people (many of whom may not know Christ), dressing on trend while still remaining modest can help them show others that serving God is cool. Erica Campbell said it best in her hit, "I Luh God," "Cuz none of this means nothin' if He come and I miss Him, shawty!" That's it in a nutshell.
As Christians, we are required to meet certain standards, but at the end of the day, however you praise, just make sure you don't miss Him! Don't get so caught up in the new packaging of the sound that you miss the message. Open your mind, heart, and ears to the music that the Lord has placed inside of these young singer-songwriters. These are more than songs, they are psalms, from their hearts to God's ears. These are the sounds that souls who don't know our Savior desperately need to hear.