2017: The Year In Review (Top 10 Countdown, part 4)

1. Say What?!

For most artists, the measurement of their worth is often determined inside the content of their songs and performances. However, it was what several artists said away from the environment of their performances that caused all sorts of news throughout the year. Perhaps there was no bigger year for faith-based artists to be heard, and subsequently impacted, by their own words.

The year began in very controversial fashion for vocal luminary Kim Burrell. Greatly revered by artists in gospel, jazz, hip-hop, and R&B for her unmatched vocal ability, Burrell was under scrutiny following comments made at her church regarding participants in same gender loving lifestyles. The social media backlash was swift and far reaching. At the time, she was in the middle of a game-changing promotional tour for the movie Hidden Figures. The promo tour involved appearances alongside Pharrell Williams with opportunities to perform on Ellen and several other venues. Those moments were abruptly cancelled. She was also scheduled to be honored by the BMI Trailblazers of Gospel Awards. That too was cancelled.

However, all wasn’t lost for Burrell, as she did appear on the critically acclaimed 4:44 release from Jay-Z while working on an upcoming live recording.

Hip-hop pioneer and Grammy Award winner Lecrae faced a number of challenges from multiple pockets of supporters this year. His Caucasian supporters challenged his outspoken commentary supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality, and his subsequent support of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. His African-American faith based audience took issues with the Reach Records label owner based on his comments from this year’s BET Awards. While winning the award as Best Gospel Artist, Lecrae stated that he wasn’t “really a gospel artist”, which raised the ire of consumers and artists alike.

None of these challenges stopped or hindered the release of his eighth solo release titled All Things Work Together. The proof, however, was potentially in the pudding, as the project did not perform nearly as well as his previous release Gravity, which made him the first artist to top both the Billboard Top 200 Chart and the Billboard Top Gospel Albums Chart simultaneously.

2017 saw the first year of Donald Trump serving as President of the United States. While many in the entertainment industry were vocal against his presidency, a number of gospel artists were directly impacted by his ascent to power. Grammy nominee Travis Greene faced a bit of backlash at the top of the year when he signed on to perform the single “Intentional” at the Inaugural Ball for Trump. Accompanied by Grammy Award winning R&B artist Chrisette Michele, the performance aired live on CNN at an event that was boycotted by most entertainers from across all genres. Greene handled the controversy with grace and poise and ultimately made it through the year fairly unscathed by the darts of popular opinion. He went on to release the album Crossover: Live From Music City, which debuted atop Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums Chart, producing the #1 single “You Waited” while becoming the first Gospel album to post over 1 Million streams in its first week of release. He would end the year with his third Grammy Award nomination, with the album earning a nod for Best Gospel Album.

Perhaps the artist that faced the greatest response relative to the issue of this Presidency is Tina Campbell. The singer & songwriter, who perhaps is best known as half of the Grammy winning duo Mary Mary, stated in an interview with The Root that she voted for Donald Trump because “some of Donald Trump’s views on Christianity, honestly, is what caused me to vote for him.” That statement, coupled with a follow-up interview on the TV talk show The Real, set off a firestorm of controversy and outrage that had far reaching effects. While several called for a boycott of Campbell, her tour was subsequently cancelled after only performing three dates. Unrelated, this year also saw the final season of the reality show Mary Mary, which fans also spoke of boycotting.

The year did end on an upswing for Campbell as she received her first Grammy nomination as a solo artist, receiving a nod for her single “Too Hard Not To” as Best Gospel Performance/Song.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our recap of 2017. Did we miss something? What should have been part of this countdown? Weigh in below.

Happy New Year!

Want to see how this compares to the 2016 countdown? Check it out here!

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