What you Should Know about Gospel Music
Classical music is an unfortunate term used to describe music usually played by orchestras, or using orchestra-type instruments. It’s an attempt to use a blanket term for many different styles of music. It’s not much different from coining the term, “radio music” for any type of music that you can hear on the radio.
The reason it’s important is because many types of music receive blanket labels. Jazz, pop (or popular), and Eastern are just a few. Today, let’s look at gospel music—another victim of the blanket label.
Gospel music generally refers to Christian music written for or about God. Gospel does not refer to music of other religions like Buddhist or even Judaism. Like all of these musical labels, the exact definition largely depends on who you ask. Within the category of gospel, there are many different styles. Here are a few:
Gospel music is often considered music played in churches predominantly made up of African-American attendees. It’s written for live, praise and worship settings and is largely influenced by R&B and modern jazz. Gospel music might be charismatic, involve large choirs, and some of the genre’s artists are also known by secular music fans. Notable gospel musicians include CeCe Winans and Yolanda Adams and the incredible Take Six group.
Every type of pop music genre also has a Christian based equivalent. In the 80s, when “hair band” heavy music was popular, Christian heavy metal which, at that time, was referred to as Christian Rock, was popular. Bands like Petra and Stryper brought heavy metal to the mainstream for Christian music fans.
Today, the genre is no longer as popular as it was in the 80s but some metal bands still exist. Keith Green was dominant in this era, and understandably so.
Contemporary Christian music is inspired by today’s mainstream pop music. It has a simple chord structure, memorable and recognizable lyrics, and a similar and predictable form. The secular equivalent of the style might be Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, or Maroon 5.
Popular contemporary Christian artists include Chris Tomlin, MercyMe, and Big Daddy Weave.
Contemporary Worship is similar to contemporary Christian except that it’s written primarily for use in church worship settings. (Although many churches record studio albums) The two genres sound much the same although worship music often has simple lyrics and melodies so listeners can easily sing along, and the lyrics more overtly speak to praising God.
Popular Contemporary Worship names aren’t often artists, but instead, Churches. The most notable is Hillsong Church but others like Gateway, and Bethel are also well known. Michael W. Smith produced two wonderful worship CD’s that define the style.
Others include Christian Bluegrass, R&B, Children’s gospel, and, of course, the more traditional hymns. Each of these genres has notable artists who may not be in the mainstream but have a following nonetheless. And of course George Beverly Shea singing with the Billy Graham crusades for 50 years must be included in any list of gospel music singers.
Categorizing music is difficult and subjective and is often based on the knowledge and experience of the person categorizing. If you’re a music lover, move out of your comfort zone and listen to a new style of music. Regardless of the genre, you might wonder what you were missing for so long.