Geared to younger audiences raised on the rhythms of urban music, contemporary gospel is an updated form of traditional gospel. This more commercially oriented style incorporates recently written songs by artists fluent in R&B, soul, pop and rock genres.
Like its traditional counterpart, contemporary gospel derives from American slaves, who blended Christianity with African music and religion to create “spirituals.”
Contemporary gospel songs generally concern Christian life and giving praise, worship, and thanks to God; it offers an alternative to mainstream secular music. Songs usually take one of two forms: praise, which has a fast tempo and is strong and loud, or worship, which is slower, subtler and more devout.
With its flamboyant clothing, stunt-singing vocal style, smoothly paced rhythm tracks, informal language and elaborate staging, contemporary gospel can seem slick and often seeks success in crossover radio.
Prominent contemporary gospel artists include the Winans Family (considered the First Family of ’90s gospel), Kirk Franklin, Take 6, Mississippi Mass Choir, Morris Chapman, Rev. James Cleveland, John P. Kee, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Commissioned, Edwin Hawkins and the Newsboys.
Dubbed the "First Family" of 1990s gospel, The Winans started as brothers Marvin, Carvin, Ronald and Michael. Their parents then recorded as Mom & Pop Winans. This spawned other family acts, including Daniel, Vickie, brother and sister BeBe & CeCe and Angie & Debbie. The sons of the original brothers performed as Winans Phase 2.
Greil Cook has been a professional writer and editor for more than 25 years. Specializing in travel and arts coverage, she has published in "Outside Magazine," "Mothering," NPR.org, "E: The Environmental Magazine" and many regional publications.