Over a month ago, I started a commentary on what I called the absolutely unoriginal Southern Gospel trend. You can find part one, here. To refresh your memories, it came about as a result of an email I received from a reader after my review of Cana’s Voice debut album, This Changes Everything.
What exactly is the unoriginal trend? It is Southern Gospel producers/arrangers feeling that somehow Southern Gospel’s style evolution has to sound like what CCM was giving audiences in the 1980’s/1990’s. That my friend, is unoriginal and boring. Let me explain further.
Here is one opinion many in the music industry may not agree with, but it is mine and I’m stating it; music styles/trends do not evolve, new ones are created. I am a huge fan of alternative rock music. It hearkens me back to my high school/college days in the 1990’s when groups like Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam were creating a new style of music. Initially many in the music industry labeled it grunge rock but it ultimately became know as alternative rock.
Some 20+ years later, alternative rock is still going strong with artists like the Foo Fighters, Weezer and Mumford & Sons. I can turn on an alternative rock station today and here a Foo Fighters song alongside Pearl Jam and the Pearl Jam song from 20 years ago still fits the style being produced today; it doesn’t sound outdated.
Lets now equate this to Southern Gospel music. CCM was created in the late 1970’s as an alternative to what is now known as Southern Gospel music. Lets make this distinction; it was created as an alternative to Southern Gospel music, not as a replacement. Disco was created as an alternative to the psychedelic sounds of the 1960’s, not as a replacement.
So, Southern Gospel producers/arrangers creating CCM sounds of the 1980’s and marketing them to Southern Gospel audiences as a sound/style today is not going to work with this listener. You can be guaranteed any album I review that continues this trend will automatically receive low marks for being unoriginal. If as a producer you want to pay homage to Southern Gospel music, create an album with crying steel guitars to honor the sounds of our industry in the 1970’s.
While several different styles can fall under the Southern Gospel umbrella (traditional (4) part harmony, progressive, country, Appalachian, bluegrass), it is still Southern Gospel. Remember CCM was created as an alternative to Southern Gospel, not a replacement. Trying to re-brand today’s Southern Gospel with the style of 1980’s CCM is not going to work.