When the Church Becomes Your Party: Contemporary Gospel Music

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In When the Church Becomes Your Party, author Deborah Smith Pollard assesses contemporary gospel music as the genre enters the twenty-first century. She argues that although the flashy clothing, informal language, and elaborate stage presentation found in some of the newest gospel music might not be what some worshippers expect, this new aesthetic rests on the same Christian principles as more traditional forms and actually extends its message to a wider and younger audience.

In this volume Pollard looks at contemporary gospel music with the insider’s perspective she has acquired as a regular participant in praise and worship services in the Detroit area and through her work as a successful gospel concert producer (The Motor City Praisefest and the McDonald’s GospelFest) and host of a popular Sunday morning gospel show on Detroit’s FM 98 WJLB. Among the topics she considers in When the Church Becomes Your Party are praise and worship music, gospel musical stage plays, the changing dress code of gospel performance, women gospel announcers, and holy hip hop. She draws on Detroit’s thriving gospel scene as well as her knowledge of the national gospel music industry to identify important trends in each area and trace the cultural transformations that brought them about. In addition, Pollard includes interviews with contemporary gospel artists, allowing them to explain why they rap, make particular choices in attire, or participate in gospel radio, praise and worship, or gospel musical plays.

While other studies address some of the subtopics included in this volume, When the Church Becomes Your Party offers a comprehensive picture of the history and future of contemporary gospel music. Scholars of music and African American cultural studies will enjoy this intriguing volume.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814332184
  • Publisher: Wayne State University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2008
  • Series: African American Life Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Deborah Smith Pollard is associate professor of English literature and humanities and former director of the African American studies program at the University of Michigan–Dearborn. In 2005 she was named gospel music announcer of the year during the 20th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards.

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Table of Contents

1 "Praise Is What We Do": The Rise of Praise and Worship Music in the Urban Church 17

2 Right Under Our (Upturned) Noses: The Phenomenon Known as the Gospel Musical Stage Play 55

3 Muscle T-Shirts, Tight Jeans, and Cleavage: (W)rapping the Gospel for a New Generation 79

4 From Princess Premium Stuff and Miss Mandy to Holy Boldness: The Influence of Women Gospel Announcers 111

5 Preachers in Disguise: Bringing the Holy to Hip Hop 137

Epilogue 161

Appendixes A-E 167

Notes 181

Works Cited 203

Index 213

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  • Posted February 20, 2009


    From its birth, gospel music has occupied a unique realm straddling the sacred and the secular. While it is God's word expressed in song, no other genre of sacred music reaches out to - and is enjoyed by - millions of people who may not even be believers. Perhaps it is because gospel music has been inextricably tied to media since the early days of radio, since both were born at about the same time. It can be an uneasy realm in which to dwell. Just as early 20th Century church goers heard the "devil's music" in the blues influenced works of Thomas A. Dorsey, many today are disconcerted by the concept of "Holy Hip Hop" and rapping preachers.

    Pollard covers a lot of ground in under 200 pages, including among other things a history of gospel music, the influence and activism of female gospel announcers (who, to my surprise, have been around since the 1940's), the gospel musical stage play, the rise of praise and worship music, debates concerning what rightly belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God, and emerging trends like those rapping preachers.

    This is unlike any other book about gospel music I've read. The fact that it is so readable and fascinating is probably due the background of author Deborah Smith Pollard. As an associate professor of English literature and humanities, she brings the requisite academic credentials. But she's not a scholar looking in from the outside; she also has a deep personal knowledge of the subject as a long time gospel announcer, church goer, choir member, concert producer and fan.

    I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in music, religion, or African American culture.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2008

    A reviewer

    When The Church Becomes Your Party by Dr. Deborah Smith Pollard is a great book for gospel music lovers or for those who want a better understanding of gospel music. Broken into 5 chapters , the book covers the Praise and Worship movement within the black church, gospel stage plays, gospel attire, women gospel announcers, and holy hip hop. Dr. Pollard's experiences in gospel music, gospel radio, TV, and gospel festival production gives her an insight into gospel music that she shares thoughout the pages of this book. I enjoyed reading this book, and I recommend it for all that are involved in gospel music as well as those who want to expand their knowledge of gospel music

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