ALL TOGETHER SING: This year's top ten finalists sharing a moment after the big announcement.
ONE of the first things you noticed upon surveying this year’s crop of National Gospel Song Competition finalists is that no duo or group made the Top 10 – for the first time in years. It speaks to the strength and appeal of the solo performances that won over the adjudicators. Upon listening to the compilation album, dubbed Faithful Is Our God, you, too, come away with a lingering impression.
In other words, to mark the 30th anniversary of the annual singing competition, the top ten entries selected consistently reflect the depth and breadth of Jamaican gospel, not to mention the channel-surfing of genres that continue to influence the music – from reggae and dancehall flavours to soulful R&B to traces of jazz and blues.
You get the danceable up-tempo anthems like “Too Late” from Vylmark Hamilton, Raheim Betty’s funky, head-nodding “Jesus, I’m Sold Out to You” and Dyncinta Nunes’ gritty “Bawl Out,” a track which easily connects with the Jamaican masses. Similarly, Shanoya Haley scores cool points for the insistently resonant “Di Blood,” which starts off the album with the kind of praise-and-worship fire that you experience amidst the Pentecostal crowd and at certain live shows.
But Flavia Bradshaw-Beswick slows down the tempo with the prayerful, reflective “Centre of My Life,” a tune striking similar chords to Chevanese Thomas’ “Through the Test.” Empowerment and conviction is what you think of when you hear “Arise Mighty Warrior,” this year’s winning entry that not only highlights Shaughna-Lee Steele’s songwriting prowess but her commanding, throaty vocals. Her rendition of the song at the National Finals (adjudged the Best Performance) was an amazing blend of ministry and stagecraft.
Meanwhile, Derona Nunes’ “God Is Real” and Tevaun Brown’s soul-stirring “Christ Put a Praise in Me” round out the list.
For three decades now, the National Gospel Song Competition has been unearthing and showcasing awesome talents (Jodian Pantry, Kevin Downswell, Glacia Robinson) and splendid songs that get to the heart of what we Jamaicans love when it comes to our gospel music. The 2017 bunch wonderfully continues this tradition with an appealing mix of lyrics and melodies, worship tracks and anthems. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+