Different Genres of Gospel Music
Updated: Nov 17, 2022
When we consider the diversity and uniqueness of sounds you hear or make, when it comes to Music that promotes the Gospel and the culture of heaven, there's an easy conclusion to be made - there are several genres in Gospel Music. In fact, Gospel Music is an entire universe!
One of the fundamental mistakes we make as music enthusiasts is to consider "Gospel" or "Christian" Music as a sub-genre or just one category on an award list; however, there's a vast ecosystem with great detail within this category of uplifting and inspiring collections of music.
So if you ever get into an argument to prove that there are genres of Gospel Music, or you would like to have a ready list or road map on where your favourite song belongs to or even where your music falls under and what to call your genre as a music minister and artiste, this is your lifeline. We got you! So here's a list of genres of Gospel Music in no particular order:
Whether it's a quartet composition or an entire singing group of more than 4, these are Gospel-driven and oriented music made out of the harmonious arrangements of the mouth - no instruments. While this genre might seem to fluctuate in popularity, especially in current times, it's a very active genre of Gospel Music. Notable examples include songs from Ladysmith Black Mambazo, BYU Noteworthy, as well as songs like Pentatonix's "Mary, Did You Know" and their cover of "The Prayer”.
While this genre doesn't need an explanation or pointer, let's just say this is what you get when sublime Afrobeat - the authentic African sound - and Gospel have a baby that feels like church and continental culture. In simpler terms, it’s music that speaks of Jesus in the African way. One you may be familiar with in more recent times is Limoblaze’s "Jireh (My Provider)” Remix featuring Lecrae. Other examples include Marizu’s “Jejely”,... If after these recommendations, you aren't hooked - which you most likely would be, because of its authenticity, feel free to check out “Hold On Me” by Called Out Music.
Contemporary Christian Music (CCM)
This is a mothership of Gospel Music. We are going to let you take a swipe with defining this genre of Gospel Music by listing as many songs as we can muster in less than 20 seconds: “WayMaker” by Sinach, Chris Tomlin’s “How Great is Our God”, “You Say” by Lauren Daigle, “Reckless Love” by Cory Asbury, Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel”, “No Longer Slaves” by Bethel Music and Jonathan David & Melissa Helser, “Jireh” from the at staples of Elevation Worship and Maverick City Music with Chandler Moore and Naomi Raine, Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes’s “The Blessing”, Nathaniel Bassey’s “Strong Tower”. CCM is a great mix of Urban contemporary Music with potent features of praise and worship. These are the songs we call G.O.S.P.E.L and we don't have to mince words around why we call them Gospel. If you wish to sample this genre, listen to Dante Bowe, Mercy Chinwo, Tasha Cobbs Leonard, Mercy Me, Israel Houghton, Jonathan Reynolds, and William McDowell to name but a few.
Country or Southern Sound
With the constant strumming of the guitar and a mellow acoustic sound tapped into a steady percussion on the side, Country music is a direct line to your feet and is great for the revival sound. Whether it's slow like Jim Reeves’ “We Thank Thee” or faster like “Coat of Many Colors” by Dolly Parton, you are sure to have a great time sampling this global genre of Gospel Music.
Looking for some traditional sound both in indigenous lingo, vibe and music soaked in tradition that takes us back to a celebration of our heritage, you cannot go wrong with Tope Alabi, Chioma JESUS with an additional input of Fuji-fusion from Mike Abdul and Bidemi Olaoba.
These two are the live-wire of the party: we all know those songs that get us dancing and vibing while we nod to the deeper meanings of the lyrics. So whether it's a fast beat, quicker delivery of the words or the uptown atmosphere of the song, HipHop and Rap play a great role in reaching out to quarters of our society that seem cut off. Our young ears love the vibe and it pays that we get the message of Christ in our bracket and context. So if you were wondering where “Imagine Me” or “Stomp” by Kirk Franklin as well as Andy Mineo and Lecrae’s “Been About It” fall under, here it is. We must also mention that songs from Da' T.R.U.T.H, Lecrae, Jackie Hill Perry, and Propaganda to mention a few are great examples of HipHop and Rap.
While many of us may agree that hymns are classics, others may argue that it's for the older generation. Even though composing hymns may look like an ancient affair, we've seen recent covers of old hymns that have a contemporary outlook, making us either love it, or unconsciously hum it. Pentatonix’s cover of “Amazing Grace and My Chains Are Gone” as well as “Gloria (Angels We Have Heard on High)” rendered by BYU Noteworthy are very good examples of the old hymns we love. Shane and Shane as well have beautiful hymn albums out. Hymns and CCM differ like the King James version of the Bible and the Message translation - hymns often go deeper in exploring God's character and our relationship with Him, while Contemporary songs, may lack theological depth as they contain fewer words.
Pop or popular music are those songs that fit into the spectrum of popular demand and have a knack for sticking to our minds faster. With songs from Amanda Cook like “You Make Me Brave” and Deitrick Haddon’s “He’s Able”, Pop is popular and always on your radio. If you love or your musical compositions are pop-inclined, check out Mitch Wong, Carrie Underwood, Kari Jobe, and Lauren Daigle. Thank us later!
With Classics like "Who Dat Man" by RighteousMan and more recent examples from Buchi's "11:59" and "Red Gold and Green" albums, the Reggae beat is both simple to recognize, easy to flow with, and often filled with conscious lyrics and an entire vibe in our minds. We've even seen artistes and music ministers who aren't primarily Reggae-prune take up this movement-inspired genre and we honestly love them. Still unsure of how that could be, check out Lauren Daigle's "Your Wings'' and "You Got Up" by Travis Greene.
Formally known as "Rhythm and Blues", this genre of Gospel Music comes to us as soft, soulful, and contrite. The lyrics are uplifting; taking our spirits from gloomy states to a better understanding of GOD's undying love and prowess even in difficult times. With favorites from Yolanda Adams like "Never Give Up" and "This too Shall Pass” as well as "Goodness of God" and the evergreen "Mercy Said No" by CeCe Winans and Tamela Mann's 2021 album: "Overcomer”.
Put your hands in the air, get ready to nod and tap your feet because it's rock time! Although seemingly contradictory to sanctimonious gospel music, you may love these songs. They are upbeat, energetic, and outrightly expressive. They get into the tough love and unyielding devotion to JESUS not with lyrics alone but with heavy guitar work, sturdy drumming, and fire-blazing speakers. It's either loud or not rock at all. From Hillsong United, TobyMac’s “Made to Love” cannot be missed, to the Newsboys with “God’s Not Dead’ and Anthem Lights to “Look What You’ve Done” by Tree63, and every single song from Jesus Culture and Casting Crowns, rock reminds us that...wait for it...JESUS is the Rock of our Salvation.
Have you seen a Christian movie recently? They are often accompanied by original scores that either reflect the story line, or amplify the mood of the scenes. While it's easy to ignore them and simply juice out their effects with the dialogue, a number of them actually stand out and can be independent as inspirational tracks. With liberty, we would recommend you check out Mandisa’s “Overcomer” in the Kendrick Brothers’ Overcomer Movie or take a stroll down memory lane to “Oh Happy Day'' by Ryan Toby from Sister Act II and a classic, Casting Crown’s “Courageous” from the 2011 film of the same name.
As a worthy mention, if you get lost or uncertain, consider having a second look at the award listing for such acclaimed and renowned Award Shows like the Stellar and or even the Dove Awards. Did we miss any? What's your favorite genre of Gospel Music? Let us know in the comment section below!