Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton, Shirley Caesar - "America's Best Church Choir" Finale - Staples Center - October 28, 2011
Last night's competition for "America's Best Church Choir" proved that you can take the girl out of the gospel choir, but you can't take the gospel choir out of the girl.
Whereas many genres of music often sound better after a producer has doctored the vocals and tweaked the levels, gospel singers usually have the goods in their own right. Spirituals are about creating kinship both with God and with each other -- the songs help us feel that we're not alone in screwing up or getting screwed. And spirituals are about, well, catchin' the spirit: "Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, I am there."
It was the finale for "How Sweet the Sound," the fourth annual search for the best gospel choir. Out of 70 choirs, nine were chosen to come to L.A. and compete for a $25,000 grand prize. Marvin Sapp, Israel Houghton, and the incredible, feisty Shirley Caesar were the judges.
Queen Latifah joined Dolly Parton -- clad in an amazingly gaudy outfit featuring gold crop leggings underneath a skirt made of gold tinsel -- for a song from their upcoming movie Joyful Noise. But Shirley Caesar stole the spotlight. Listen, this lady is a legend - even Fishbone was inspired by her. She proved why during her solo performance, during which she tore down a song and did little jiggs across the stage.
The choirs, meanwhile, did not disappoint. The Anointed Voices of Higher Ground Young Adult Choir started off vogueing and somehow pulled off the Matrix. The James E. Jordan, Jr. Adult Choir had the lone female director, and she worked everyone into a frenzy, including herself. Oakland's Christian Life Center Mass Choir, who won the $15,000 runner-up prize with huge bursts of sound followed by dead silence, was precise despite its massive size.