Click here for Part One.
Oh yeah, there were awards too. I’ll spoil one for you, just because the speech was so awesome. The first award of the broadcast was Male Vocalist of the Year, and Chris won it. No, not Chris Tomlin, Chris August! The new guy. Wow. When he was a kid, he made himself a dare that if he ever won anything and got to give a speech he would thank the Fresh Prince. Sure enough, he kept that promise, saying, “I’d like to thank Will Smith for his pick-up lines on The Fresh Prince that got me started writing love songs.” Nice.
Well, he said something like that. I was trying to get the quote down, but I was distracted in the press room.
I mentioned before this was my first time covering the Dove ceremony, so let me tell you a little about the press room. It was really cramped. Like middle-airplane-seat-coach-class cramped. On my little swath of table I had my notes, a program, my netbook computer, my recorder, my phone, my phat camera, and a plate containing the dregs of the woefully undersized snack table. The live feed was on a big TV in front of me, and I had headphones to hear the audio if someone else was talking. I was also right in front of a platform from which the presenters and winners answered questions. Tough to focus with all that commotion and paraphernalia and twitter updating and getting texts from my daughters in the theater telling me what the feel was like in there. All that so say, if I didn’t get August’s line quite right, I apologize.
I wondered going in if I would be brave enough to ask questions in that media room. So there I was, sitting a few feet from music legend Kenny Rogers, thinking about raising my hand, then having second thoughts. This wasn’t just anyone, this was Kenny Rogers! The Gambler! He’s releasing his sixty-sixth album!! And he made those chicken restaurants!!! I’m running out of exclamations points!!!!
But there I was, and there he was, and there was the publicist announcing, “Any questions?”, and there was just enough of an uncomfortable pause for my hand to almost involuntarily extend, and there was that moment when I wasn’t sure if I should say “Kenny” or “Mr. Rogers” or “Gambler”.
The hand went up, and the words came out: “Kenny!”
The legend looked my way, anticipating my question. And so I said,
“Did Lucille leave you with four HUNGRY children or four HUNDRED children?”
No, not really. But that would have been cool. Instead, I asked how gospel music has shaped his career. He gave a very interesting and thoughtful answer, describing his childhood in a family that went to church three times a week. “God had a pretty good chance in this home,” he said, almost reminiscing. This will be his first gospel album. When I told my wife that Kenny and I had this touching moment and were now pretty much BFFs, she said, “What was Kenny Rogers doing at the Dove Awards?” Turns out, Kenny covered “Circle of Friends” by Point of Grace on his new album, and they asked him to come perform.
One of the ceremony’s most talked-about moments was the awarding of the new GMC Uplift Someone award to the Chapmans’ Show Hope foundation, which has helped 2,700 families seeking to adopt children around the world. Steven Curtis Chapman and Casting Crowns’ Mark Hall joined Third Day to perform “Children of God” in a moving musical reflection on the meaning of adoption, and Mary Beth Chapman accepted the award with a tearful and poignant speech.
Ironically, the GMC Uplift Someone Award itself got an award: Most Awkwardly Named Award Award. (Just kidding. But you know that about me by now, right?)
Francesca Battistelli was a big winner last night. She performed her current hit “This is the Stuff” over a trio of mandolins in a strange retro-living room set. She was also part of a fantastic tribute to Sandi Patty offered by all the Female Vocalist of the Year nominees. I love the concept and would particularly enjoy seeing the same idea applied to the male vocalist nominees, who tend to represent more diverse genres. Following the medley, Natalie Grant introduced Sandi Patty, who sang her classic “Love in Any Language”.
By the way, it’s interesting to see how some performers are disgraced by a public sin and fall out of favor with the Christian music community, only to eventually return. Such redemption often requires a long road of equally public remorse and repentance. Few would have predicted such a tribute to Patty 15 years ago.
Two more standout performances worth mentioning:
Kirk Franklin closed the show with a grin…
… performing “I Smile”. I loved the operatic opening with the old Charlie Chaplin song “Smile”. I also liked Franklin’s honest answers to questions in the press room. Describing the importance of family, he mentioned that he had left Atlanta yesterday afternoon to jet back to Texas because his daughter had a track meet. “I don’t want my daughter to see Jesus as the guy who kept daddy away,” Franklin said.
Though he was shockingly shut out of awards in all his categories, Lecrae showed how to turn a performance into an event. He demonstrated the antithesis of the message in his song “Background” by arriving backstage in a chauffeured limo surrounded by adoring fans, and he got help from Natalie Grant during “God is Enough”.
Lecrae was also mentioned by another of the night’s winners, David Crowder, responding to questions about their mash-up on the new Passion CD. “Lecrae’s got flow!” Crowder gushed.
That followed a bizarre and hilarious five minute discourse on Lite Brite pegs, inspired by the band’s win for their remarkable video “SMS (Shine)”. Crowder rambled (no surprise!), touching on the similarity of pink and orange pegs, the lessons of capitalism in the free market for pegs on eBay, and the near-apocalyptic profundity of finding a “quad green” peg. Crowder remains one of my favorite interviewees, though I’m typically left scratching my head.
As far as the rest of the awards go, a couple of the wins were really big surprises for me, even in some of the biggest categories. (Let’s just say there might be a spike in curious downloads of a certain Jason Crabb song on Monday.) Really, though, the Dove Awards might be less about the trophies than any other awards show. There is more than a hint of irony in celebrating one another in an industry that’s supposed to be focused Heavenward. Much of the reason the Doves have existed for 42 years now is more that they give this industry an excuse to get together, have some fun, make some music, and do the sort of business and networking that are necessary from a business sense. There was much less of that this year, with fewer showcases and ancillary events, and it’s clear that the industry is still counting every penny. But the spirit was still there, Atlanta seemed to serve as a wonderful host, and my hope is the Doves will keep celebrating music for years to come.