What a year 2016 has been! You have to look long and hard to find another year that combined so many shocking and landmark moments. From entertainment to sports to business, this year has been one to remember and for some, one to forget.
The year was certainly monumental in the world of faith-based entertainment and we are here to give you your annual Top 10 Countdown of the biggest personalities and events that made an impact on the genre. Strap on your seat belts. Let’s go!
10. The Revolving Door
Every year, there’s usually one project that tends to dominate the charts. However, this year could be dubbed the year of “The Revolving Door”. Twenty-one different projects sat atop Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums Chart. Industry veterans such as Myron Butler, William Murphy, and VaShawn Mitchell along with newcomers Tim Bowman Jr, Jekalyn Carr, Jovonta Patton, and Briana (Bri) Babineuax were among the twelve artists to have their first #1 album this year. No album spent more than six consecutive weeks atop the sales chart. The album that spent the most time consecutively atop Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums Chart is Losing My Religion from Kirk Franklin, which spent six weeks at #1 consecutively and twelve weeks total this year, followed by One Way from Tamela Mann which spent a total of ten weeks in the #1 spot.
What does all of this mean? There are a few takeaways here. For one, there is power in the first week marketing for new releases. A large portion of the buying population is Internet based and awareness via popular websites and social media really does make a significant impact. Equally true is that it’s become increasingly difficult to stay atop the #1 chart spot. This has everything to do with a constant onslaught of new music and could perhaps be indicative of the staying power of the music in the marketplace.
One thing that can’t be disputed. Even though sales may be declining, sales are STILL happening. Marketing, advertising, and strategic awareness campaigns will remain necessary moving into the coming year.
9. Reunited and It Feels So Good
If there was a reunion to be had within the Gospel music community, it looks as though this was the year for it to happen. This summer saw the reunion of three of the industry’s most influential choirs that had the entire industry salivating.
Hezekiah Walker, who had a significant year in his own right, decided to reunite the Grammy Award winning Love Fellowship Crusade Choir for a reunion and recording! Throughout the year, social media was teased with rehearsal videos that took everyone back to the 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s when the choir released anthems such as The recording took place the day after Walker released Azusa The Next Generation 2: Better, featuring the chart topping single “Better”. The huge recording took place in Brooklyn and covered a large portion of the choir’s history making catalog. We’re anticipating a 2017 release for this project.
Tye Tribbett brought his groundbreaking group G.A. back together for a long-awaited reunion. Following the Stand Out project, the group G.A. was disbanded which made way for an entirely new crew for Tribbett. Fast forward two projects and roughly five years, Tribbett prepared to record his latest project this year titled The Bloody Win. With that, he announced that part two of the recording would take place in Philadelphia and feature this incredible reunion. The performance was absolutely incredible, chronicling the success of the group, touching a number of their hits. While we’re not sure if that night will be part of The Bloody Win release or a separate project, but we hope that it hits our ears, mixed and mastered, in 2017.
The summer took us back in time to the choir that set the standard for choral music in the 1980s. For this, we travel to Chicago and speak of the revered Thompson Community Singers. With iconic hits such as “I’m Available To You”, “Jesus Rose”, and “Safe In His Arms”, the choir came back together under the leadership of Darius Brooks featuring the original musicians and choir members along with several new vocalists. The highly anticipated recording caused great excitement within the industry and rightfully so as it welcomed the return of one of the genre’s most influential choirs.
From one of the most influential choirs of the 80’s to one of the most significant aggregations of the early 2000’s, this year saw the re-emergence of Natalie Wilson and SOP. Known for years as “The Girl Director”, Wilson led SOP to be one of the most exciting, energetic, and urban choirs to hit the marketplace. With three albums to their credit, the New Jersey based chorale brought us hits such as “Free”, “Calvary”, and “Let’s Talk About Jesus”. After a lengthy hiatus, this year saw the choir return and perform on several dates. They are working on an official reunion concert and recording for the New Year.
8. Anthony Brown & group therAPy
Coming into 2016, this group was riding high from one of the biggest songs of 2015 “Worth”. That song really elevated the Washington DC-based group into gospel music’s stratosphere. For Anthony Brown, who has been a gifted singer, songwriter, and arranger for the last decade, the success of “Worth” and his sophomore project Everyday Jesus has been a game changer. The project was ranked the #2 Gospel Album of 2015 by Billboard’s Year End Gospel Albums Chart, with “Worth” topping Billboard’s Gospel Digital Songs Chart for 2015.
2016 would not disappoint as Brown & group therAPy made history sweeping this year’s Stellar Awards winning 10 prestigious trophies. No artist has ever won 10 Stellars in one year and that was a sign of things to come. “Worth” earned Brown his first Grammy nomination as Best Gospel Song in 2016, along with picking up two GMA Dove Awards for Traditional Gospel Album of the Year and Urban Worship Recorded Song of the Year for “Worth”. Let’s not forget that he performed at both the Stellar Awards and the GMA Dove Awards, a rare accomplishment for any gospel artist. In another nearly unprecedented move, the song “Worth” continued its dominance as for the second consecutive year, it tops Billboard’s Year-End Gospel Digital Songs Chart. “Worth” is also #8 on Billboard’s Year-End Gospel Streaming Songs Chart, up one place from it’s spot on the same chart last year. Everyday Jesus remains a Top 5 album for the year, as it’s ranked #4 on Billboard’s Year End Gospel Albums Chart and he’s #3 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Artists Chart.
The year ends with the announcement that he’ll be joining fellow Grammy Award nominees Jonathan McReynolds and Travis Greene on The Worship Tour: We Are Here. The month long tour is the latest faith-based tour sponsored by Live Nation and kicks off on February 21 in St. Louis, with stops in Chicago, Detroit, New York, Boston, Atlanta, and Dallas. The tour concludes on Mar. 23 in Las Vegas to kick off Stellar Award weekend.
With talk of a new project being recorded in 2017, it looks like there’s no stopping the incredible momentum of Anthony Brown & group therAPy.
7. Tye Tribbett
This has been an absolutely MASSIVE year for the two-time Grammy award winning artist. Tribbett came into the year with the announcement of his next recording. The live project, titled The Bloody Win, was a two part recording in both Greenville, SC and Philadelphia, PA. The first single from the project, titled “Work It Out” features the evolution of Tribbett’s groundbreaking sound and immediately topped the Billboard Gospel Digital Songs Chart upon its release.
His mammoth year would continue with the announcement that he would become the heir apparent to the BET Gospel throne previously held by Dr. Bobby Jones. As this year marked the end of the 35 year run to Bobby Jones Gospel, BET announced the creation of a new show titled Joyful Noise. The new, energetic broadcast featured Tribbett as the show’s host, launching Tribbett into the world of television. The show airs at 9a ET on Sundays and allows the energetic and infectious personality of gifted artist to be on display as he offers great exposure to artists, churches, and preachers alike through the platform.
Tribbett would then be tapped to serve as co-host for the 47th Annual GMA Dove Awards along with fellow Grammy winners for KING & COUNTRY, where he would also perform the TV premiere of the single “Work It Out”.
Amid all of this, Tribbett announced the launch of his new church titled liVe Church. Located in Orlando, FL, the gifted artist has long been a gifted preacher and gets to display this weekly at the new church plant. Look for the official Grand Opening of the church in 2017.
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