Well, it turns out that Absolutely Gospel didn’t really mean anything that specific by “addressing rumors” in Part 2 of their Ernie Haase interview. Part of it was just his sharing the backstory behind “Any Other Man,” which came out of some righteous anger towards people spreading gossip about the group on forums and such. No specifics were given, and I actually don’t feel like specifics are needed. Some of us have seen such gossip ourselves, and it doesn’t deserve the oxygen of publicity.
But part of it was also a discussion of the group’s entertainment philosophy, and I wanted to spark a discussion based on that. Ernie re-hashed some of his usual talking-points on the topic, but I don’t think I’ve seen him do it quite this candidly before. As he’s done before, he addressed the danger of spiritual manipulation in a concert setting, and this time he specifically connected it with his philosophy of entertainment. He said that he’d rather be “blatant” about “just” entertaining someone than entertain someone under the guise of having a fake “spiritual moment” on the stage. This is something I’ve always respected him for.
He also revisited something he’s been saying for years in response to the accusation that Signature Sound is nothing but empty flash, which is that it’s never been his intention to give that impression, and it comes from a very sincere desire to simply bring one’s top game to the table when presenting this music. When he looks at the production quality of secular music, he wants to aim for that bar because he believes Southern Gospel deserves the best in production and presentation.
But it got me to thinking—they didn’t really get into a lot of specifics in the interview on exactly what that “top shelf” production looks like when you break it down into its component parts. Obviously one huge component is the live band. That’s something that definitely sets Signature Sound apart from the pack. They also have a light show and the occasional fog/dry ice/whatever you call it.
The thing is though, I’m not sure how much the quality of entertainment really rests on those things, with the possible exception of a live band. It seems like if you’re bringing quality singing and quality songs, with quality emceeing, you’re already presenting southern gospel well. I think the Booth Brothers are a great example of a group who consistently delivers top-notch entertainment with pretty much no “extra” stuff—they even get away without having a live band. Lights and fog are nice, but I wouldn’t say they always add something.
So I would say that Signature Sound are definitely great entertainers, but at the same time I think there’s more than one way to skin that cat. And since Southern Gospel IS different from pop or rock, one can only “borrow” so much. And frankly from a purely musical perspective, there’s a lot of poor quality junk out there in the secular arena too. It’s not like it’s automatically good just because it’s on American Idol (and I’m not even getting into issues like lyrical content).
What do you think?