The popular appeal of the black gospel choir

I’ve got a new piece up over at one of my favorite online magazines, Religion Dispatches, about the cultural capital of the black gospel choir. I take as my text for the day that “Imported from Detroit” Chrysler/Eminem ad from the Super Bowl. Money quote:

Enveloped in this reverential aura, Eminem swivels toward the camera, points his finger at us, and intones—Uncle-Sam style —“this is the Motor City, and this is what we do.”

Whatever “this” is meant to be exactly, the host of herald angels framed in the background of this final scene testifies to the depth of feeling we are clearly meant to experience. In this case, the part of angels goes to The Selected by God Choir, but my interest was sparked not so much by this particular chorus (though they sing with great power and beauty) as in the way the black gospel choir is pivotal to conveying the aesthetic seriousness and conceptual profundity to which the ad aspires. Which is to say, the ad is most interesting to me for the way it illustrates the black gospel choir’s power as a multi-purpose psychosocial cipher in American pop culture.

The whole thing is here.

This is a good time to thank all y’all who helped out a week or so back with citations of black gospel choirs in pop culture. Your collective wisdom about gospel music is, as per usual, among the best and most helpful.

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Comments

  1. RDB wrote:

    Whatever a “multi-purpose psychosocial cipher” is. Does that actually mean anything?

  2. cynical one wrote:

    I read the whole thing this morning, and understood most of it. Not sure what the point was, except repeating the statement that “Oh Happy Day” seems to be the only black gospel song Hollywook knows. And that there does seem to be quite a bit of use of black gospel music, even outside the church.

  3. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    Speaking of Hollywood stereotypes, doesn’t it seem that about 95% of all church scenes in movies are either very stylized/formal (Catholic, etc.) or Black Gospel?

    Yet, I would think the vast majority of American churches are from Protestant denominations and would be considered either non-formal/traditional (though non-black gospel), contemporary/P&W, or somewhere in between in worship style.

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