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The Grammys: Best rock OR rap gospel album?

ralph stanleyThird Day takes on a diverse cross-section of artists in the gospel category.

Each year, the Grammys pit singer against singer, songwriter against songwriter and, in the case of the Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album race, have guitarists battle MCs.

The former Best Rock Gospel Album category opened up to Christian rap back in 2006, becoming a general dumping ground for all loud, throbbing music about God. Yes, most big Grammy races -- Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Best New Artist -- include nominees from different genres, but to mix rap and rock in a gospel sub-category is bizarre. And yes, the artists recognized are in the biz to give glory to God, not win Grammys, but it’s still strange to put them in a contest that is the Recording Academy equivalent of “America’s Got Talent,” where comedians, dance crews and opera singers are all tossed in the same ring and are somehow judged against each other.

Click Track attempts to call this strange race between rock singers and rappers, drummers and drum machine programmers after the jump (And also provides a little background and secular music context for those who don’t know a P.O.D. from a KJ-52.)

“The Big Picture,” Da' T.R.U.T.H.
Sounds like: Will Smith and Freeway at Bible Study

Quick facts: Philadelphia rapper Da’ T.R.U.T.H, a past Stellar Awards winner in the Rap/Hip-Hop Gospel CD of the Year category (see how that works, Grammys?), is currently taking a break from music: The Christian MC announced an indefinite hiatus in November, following reports of infidelity in his marriage. And although “The Big Picture” was a big success, Da T.R.U.T.H.’s label, Cross Movement Records suspended the artist due to his "moral failure.”

He could win if: The majority of the Recording Academy's voting members don't care about the “moral failings” of musicians (which is almost certainly the case -- it’s the music industry!). Judged solely on his celebratory lyrics and seamless production, Da’T.R.U.T.H is the one to beat.

“Crash,” Decyfer Down
Sounds like: Nickelback, with lyrics by Joel Osteen

Quick facts: The North Carolina band’s sophomore album takes its name and musical inspiration from an actual crash -- while on the road promoting its first effort, “End of Grey,” the group’s tour van went off the road during an icy storm, spun across three lanes of traffic and smashed into a guard rail.

They could win if: Voters were so touched by the band’s harrowing crash story that they forgot their collective distaste for white men with dreadlocks (see Grammy-less Counting Crows singer Adam Duritz).

“Innocence & Instinct,” Red
Sounds like: Linkin Park screaming through the Garden of Eden

Quick facts: Another Christian rock band, another horrible tour van accident (who is driving these guys around?). “Innocence & Instinct” is inspired by the band’s serious crash (their tour van hit a guardrail and slid across a highway) and also, they say, “Dante’s Inferno.”

They could win if: Voters were so touched by Red’s harrowing crash story that they forgot how cliché it is to make an album themed around “Dante’s Inferno”

“Live Revelations,” Third Day
Sounds like: Daughtry covering Lynyrd Skynyrd at church picnic

Quick facts: Third Day has long been labeled as Christian music’s big crossover hope; “Live Revelations” is their latest effort to spread The Word to the widest possible audience.

They could win if:
The voting membership likes religious music that can very easily masquerade as secular music.

“The Dash,” John Wells-The Tonic
Sounds like: Jay-Z +Jehovah

Quick facts:
In the weeks leading up to the Grammys, John Wells-The Tonic, another Philly rapper, has created a series of online videos called "Grammys: The Glitz vs. Glory.” In them, he discusses the big, fancy, back-patting awards show and how it interferes -- and doesn't interfere -- with his musical ministry.

He could win if: The academy enjoys lyrics about spiritual journeys delivered in the style of ‘90s backpack rap -- or if they want to hear a rapper give an acceptance speech in which he thanks God for the success of an album that isn't about cars, jewelry or getting’ it on.

By Sarah Godfrey  |  January 29, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Grammys  | Tags: Da' T.R.U.T.H., Decyfer Down, John Wells-The Tonic, Red, Third Day  
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