Gospel music should be comforting and inspiring, in addition to sounding good. There are times, too, when it should get the listener fired up. It should touch hearts, and it will if it is being presented from the heart.
One of the most successful and effective gospel artists since 1987, when her first album, “Just As I Am,” was released is Yolanda Adams.
The Houston-born songstress is also one of those gospel artists who are well liked outside of that genre. She is highly respected everywhere and it is not unusual for a Yolanda Adams song to cross over onto R&B radio playlists and win the approval of urban listeners.
One example is “The Battle Is the Lord’s,” featured on her 1991 album “Save the World” as well as “Yolanda…Live in Washington,” a 1996 release. (The live version was the crossover hit.)
An even better example is “Open My Heart” (from “Mountain High…Valley Low,” 1999). The song, in fact, climbed all the way into the national Billboard magazine R&B Top 10, even though it was purely a gospel record.
Adams never compromises her Christian commitment. Her sincerity is always clear. “Open My Heart” was loved by gospel and secular fans alike. The lyrics are powerful. They go, in part:
“Alone in my room, it’s just me and you. I feel so lost ’cause I don’t know what to do…I need to talk to you, and ask for your guidance. Especially today when my life is so cloudy. Guide me until I’m sure…
“My hopes and dreams are fading fast. I’m all burned out, and I don’t think my strength’s gonna last. So I’m crying out to you. Lord, I know that you’re the only one who is able to pull me through…
“So show me how to do things your way. Don’t let me make the same mistakes over and over again…I open up my heart.”
THERE IS something almost regal about Yolanda Adams. She is tall, stylish, has a commanding presence and is fashion-model beautiful.
It comes as no surprise that while working as a schoolteacher, after graduation from the University of California, Berkeley, she was also a part-time model.
However, she gave them both up to pursue a singing career on a full-time basis, and she knew it would be in gospel.
Her lead vocals with the Southeast Inspirational Choir caught the attention of Detroit’s own Thomas Whitfield and the Sound of Gospel record company. This in turn led to her introductory album, “Just As I Am,” on Sound of Gospel, followed by “Through the Storm,” on the Tribute label.
Adams, unlike some gospel artists, has no problem working in tandem with secular artists, so long as the setting is positive and it is clear that her contribution will be gospel or inspirational.
Some narrow-minded people in the gospel community have criticized Adams for this flexibility. Shame on them for being judgmental, and getting into someone else’s business, with no understanding of Adams’ relationship with her Creator.
In fact, on her particularly popular 1999 album “Mountain High…Valley Low,” which was certified Platinum for selling a million copies, Adams worked with numerous producers and writers outside of the gospel realm, including James Wright, Warryn Campbell, and the power duo, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
IT IS AN outstanding album, featuring some of the strongest gospel songs ever recorded, particularly “That Name” and “In the Midst of It All” which are awesome, almost overpowering in the most positive sense of the term. If these two songs have no impact on you, you might want to check to make sure you still have a pulse.
On the latter, Adams holds back nothing as she belts out these encouraging words: “Don’t give up! Don’t give in! I don’t care what nobody else says, you can win. With Jesus you can make it!”
“Mountain High…Valley Low” is also an exemplary balance of contemporary and traditional gospel.
Her other albums include “More Than a Melody,” “Songs From the Heart,” “The Experience,” “Believe” and “Day By Day,” plus two holiday albums, “What a Wonderful Time” and “Christmas With Yolanda Adams,” and various greatest hits collections.
Adams duets with Patti LaBelle on the R&B superstar’s first gospel album, “The Gospel According to Patti LaBelle.” In addition, she has sung with Chaka Khan, Gerald Levert, Johnny Mathis and Fantasia, among others.
The four-time Grammy Award-winning Yolanda Adams also hosts a radio program titled “The Yolanda Adams Morning Show” that airs on gospel stations around the country by way of Radio One.
Written by Steve Holsey and Jason Donovan