Grading the Gospel Charts

1. Pastor Charles Jenkins & Fellowship Chicago, “Awesome”

This song just builds and builds and builds until it is an avalanche.

Grade: B

Best YouTube Comment: “Oh my goodness. Makes me want to shout.” — missprissy20

2. Tamela Mann, “Take Me to the King”

Written and produced by Kirk Franklin, “Take Me to the King” is a showcase for Tamela J. Mann’s expressive voice. Mann is an actress and singer who originated the recurring role of Cora Jean Simmons in several Tyler Perry plays and has been singing in church choirs since she was 12. She and her husband David Mann are working on a cooking show and Tamela has a part in the Sparkle remake that comes out this week.

Grade: B+

Best YouTube Comment: “I just woke up from a nap singing this song. This song is just what I need.” — lovingmyself32

3. Andraé Crouch ft. Marvin Winans, “Let the Church Say Amen”

Andraé Crouch is a singer from San Francisco and was an important member of the Jesus Music movement in the ’60s and ’70s, which lessened the distance between black and white Christian music and helped pave the way for contemporary urban gospel. He is the also cousin of jazz critic Stanley Crouch. Andraé Crouch’s first song “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power” was published when he was 15 and, in 1965, he formed a musical group called The Disciples. The Disciples toured widely during the ’70s, when many white audiences did not realize the group’s members were black until they saw them onstage. A Disciples concert was once canceled when the bookers found out one of the band’s black members had a white wife, and they were dogged at tour hotels by the KKK. Crouch has won six gospel Grammys and arranged the backing vocals for Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” He sometimes writes up to five or six songs a day. His voice has only gotten more vivid with age.

Grade: A

Best YouTube Comment: “GOD IS THE MASTER BUILDER AND SO HE IS THE MASTER HEALER my wife died of cancer 4 yrs. ago I felt my life went with her but God restored me and my faith now I’ll continue to do the things he wants me to do and at the end of the day crack a smile, stay strong and faithful.” — praiseiswhatido52

4. Jason Nelson, “Shifting the Atmosphere”

Not to be confused with Jason Nelson the cyber-poet, this Jason Nelson is a pastor in Baltimore. But this pillowy song’s lyrics about how “every yoke is destroyed” is making me wish this Jason Nelson would write some cyber-poetry, too.

Grade: B-

Best YouTube Comment: “JASON NELSON is the best” — KimetrisSpurling

5. Marvin Sapp, “My Testimony”

This got me super inspired to do something awesome, I’m just not quite sure what yet. It gets really amazing around the three-minute mark.

Grade: A

Best YouTube Comment: “i love his voice and the passion he puts in his music” — firstlady1218

6. Mary Mary, “Go Get It”

Mary Mary had some crossover R&B success in 2000 with “Shackles (Praise You).” While they remain firmly entrenched in the gospel world, many of their songs (such as this one) could pass for secular inspirational. This one is particularly a banger.

Grade: A+

Best YouTube Comment: “My new theme song!! My motivation!!” — perkione2

7. Youthful Praise ft. JJ Hairston, “After This”

Bridgeport Connecticut’s finest. For an upbeat inspirational song, this is surprisingly limp.

Grade: C

Best YouTube Comment: “What a blessing I receive when I hear this song! Hang in there. God will not let you down!” — 13spock13

8. William McDowell, “I Won’t Go Back”

Sounds kind of like MJ’s “You Are Not Alone” with a little church organ fluttering around in the eaves. I like how repetitive and droney this gets.

Grade: B+

Best YouTube Comment: “i love this song it really helped me get through my friends death” — charrhightower

9. Patrick Dopson, “Keep Me”

Patrick Dopson looks and sounds like he escaped from a ’90s R&B group. While I don’t love this song, he seems like a nice dude, and yesterday he tweeted “I love Philly and the cheesesteak ministry! lol.” His website is called Oil On It (.com) because it is highly anointed.

Grade: B-

Best YouTube Comment: “He does sound like Fred Hammond. This is a beautiful cry to Jesus.” — MrLatoshia2

10. Byron Cage, “Great and Mighty”

Something about that weird, overly loud drum track (reminiscent of the drum solo from “In the Air Tonight”) and Byron Cage’s oddly affected delivery is really working for me.

Grade: B+

Best YouTube Comment: “Try singing this at midnight… #glorysurrounded” — IamVonD

Filed Under: Grading the Charts

Molly Lambert is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ mollylambert