Streamlining the SN Fan Awards
Daniel Mount does some nice work reporting out a bit of gossip on the sogospelnews message boards about changes to the SN Fan Awards. He’s got Salem big-wig Jim Cumbee on the record explaining the major changes, including the elimination of gender segregated awards for mixed vs male quartet as well as awards for part singers (alto, baritone, tenor etc).
This is the first I’ve heard of these changes, not being a big message board guy. Furthermore, I’ve only just read Cumbee’s main points and I’ll be curious to see a full list of the new streamlined categories. So I reserve the right to change my mind. But I can’t see a lot to dislike in these changes. Certainly I can’t see any reason for the Chicken-Little hysteria that Daniel Mount and some of his commenters seem to be headed toward. Gendered categories are the relics of another, more hidebound era. Depending on how the new categories shake out, these changes strike me as a fairly important recognition that times have changed. Or as Cumbee says, “A southern gospel group is a southern gospel group.” (No matter, I’m counting this a win for my one-man campaign for greater gender equity in sg: see here and here and here, among other places).
And far from being a “step backward,” as Mount calls the elimination of awards based on group composition, or some kind of hang-dog admission that “we did not have enough professional trios (to take an example) to make an award in that category competitive,” the disaggregated categories recognize that gospel music fans make very little practical distinction in their choice of “favorites” based on group composition. People don’t say “Greater Vision is a great group … for a trio” or “The Rupes sing good … for a bunch of women.” They’re just great or good or bad or whatever. For quite some time now, the mixed-group, quartet, and trio categories were not a reflection of reality in the way gospel music fans sift, weigh, and determine preferences among artists. Rather this pigeonholing of groups based on gender and number reflected an elitist view of the male quartet as the end-all-be-all in gospel music - a view that lingers to be sure, but is fast becoming the mark of smallmindedness, not to mention an economically untenable position.
The SN awards have for too long tried to serve way too many masters: artists, fans, and, not least of all, the SN itself. The result was a bloated ballot that gave fans the illusion of “a voice” and almost every artist of any caliber a spot somewhere in the nominating process. Meanwhile, the SN got to play beneficent king and queen maker to the stars. That the fans’ voice often seemed to speak schizophrenically (The Inspirations and EHSSQ favorite quartet! Short ties AND the full length holy roller denim skirt for favorite fashion trend!) is partly a function of how increasingly diversified and hybridized the southern gospel sound has become. But the odd results have had not a little to do with the SN’s “statistical ties” and byzantine balloting and other administrative idiosyncrasies. All this may not have actually amounted to having your thumb on the scale but certainly it gave the impression at times that the fans’ voice often spoke so schizophrenically because that was a useful way to keep powerful performers happy (I mean, honestly, I’d be surprised if even Martin Cook’s wife likes to hear him play the piano, but there he is … in the top 10 favorite pianists more years than not).
Thursday night at NQC has been less an awards show or even a popularity contest and instead a festival of handing out “good sportmanship” awards to everybody on the team while the two Tims take this or that sketch-comedy skit too far. “Four Time Singing News Fan Award nominee” sounds great but really means only that you’ve not disappeared from the sg stage in the last four years. Favorite female singer, favorite soprano, favorite hanky waver, favorite cry-talker — don’t wory, hon, you’ll be in there somewheres (we’re all winners in God’s eyes!).
Thus it’s encouraging to hear the SN officially, on the record, talking about the dangers of diluting the process and making the case for slightly more rigorous standards. Now let’s hope this newfound commitment to the awards process comes with the courage to send some powerful people home unhappy now and then. Not least of all because this would be great, great fun. Imagine: a single award (group of the year, for argument’s sake) in which, say, the Perrys, the Inspirations, Legacy 5 and Greater Vision were all contenders …Email this Post