Recently I was browsing the Musicscribe mega-blog (which y’all should check out in its full glory here), and I read a contribution from Kyle Boreing about the country/gospel sister act Red Roots. Kyle praised the sisters’ smart, creative marketing choices, holding them up as a tasteful but effective example for the rest of the industry in this area. Specifically, he highlighted their use of radio contests and music videos. And it’s paying off, as they’ve gotten significant airplay and a handful of new artist nominations.
I also like Red Roots and agreed with most of Kyle’s points. However, I gently pushed him a bit on one line in his post. When he listed the sisters’ accomplishments, he added “… and they’re doing it with a youthful appeal that is otherwise SORELY lacking in gospel music.” That wording caught my eye: SORELY lacking. I left a comment asking whether it was so bad that southern gospel is mostly made up of older groups. Red Roots’ publicist, Rick Schweinsberg, actually responded to my comment, and this is what he said: “Who said it was? But most veteran DJs will tell you that their listening audience is ready to go with something fresh.”
Okay, that’s well and good in its own way. I think it’s great to see a youthful group join the genre. But I don’t think that was Kyle’s point, exactly. He seemed to be indicating that southern gospel needs younger groups. And Rick’s wording indicates a certain staleness or stagnation within southern gospel as it is.
I don’t listen to southern gospel radio, but I’m told it doesn’t always circulate the best that’s out there. So perhaps Rick has a point when it comes to SG radio. But Kyle’s original comment seemed to be in reference to the genre as a whole. Call me an old fuddy-duddy, but I’m not sure I agree with him. Does southern gospel need “youthful appeal” in order to be a good genre? Is there something intrinsically good about youth, per se? Red Roots is a talented group with some cute songs, don’t get me wrong. But to be honest, I still prefer some of the older groups.
I also believe that some types of music should retain a certain core identity (we’re leaving out the ones that need to crawl away and die altogether, like dance pop and hip-hop). Southern Gospel, in its purest form, has that distinctive identity. Think what a shame it would be if all the older groups still doing it the old-fashioned way were to be completely replaced by groups like Red Roots. In my opinion, it wouldn’t be southern gospel anymore. It might be perfectly good in its own way, but it wouldn’t be southern gospel. And old-fashioned southern gospel, done right, is worth preserving.
Those are my two cents. Now I will turn it over to you, the readers: Do you think Southern Gospel needs youthful appeal? Or does it perhaps depend on what the goals are?