Nashville, TN was on fire as the 29th Annual Stellar Awards came into time. This year’s award show was hosted by two comedians who truly love GOD. The View’s, Sherri Shepherd, and Rickey Smiley from The Rickey Smiley Morning Show had the crowd in stitches the entire evening. The night kicked off with Bishop Hezekiah Walker singing, “Every Praise”. The song is still the #1 song at Gospel Radio and the crowds reaction to it explained why. The entire room stood as one big choir and lifted their voice in praise unto GOD. The show was being broadcast live on upTV and the praise in the room was high. In between commercial breaks Comedian Jonathan Slocumb kept the crowd entertained and warmed up. Central City Productions might want to consider doing a behind the scene of the show as some of the funniest moments happened when the cameras weren’t on. The first award of the night was given to Tye Tribbett for Male Vocalist of the Year. After such a big debut of his latest album ”Greater Than”, and the smash single, “If He Did It Before”, this award was well deserved.
Next up there was an all female lineup that included Lexi, Erica Campbell, LaTice Crawford, and JeKalyn Carr. Lexi started it off singing her two step theme song, “Abide”, and Latice Crawford followed behind with some hot new music. The little vocal powerhouse JeKalyn Carr set the house on fire with her song, “Greater Is Come”. Many marveled at how much vocal power and anointing the young lady had. Perhaps if she had more time, we probably would have went over time as the anointing fell thick. Lastly Erica Campbell took is in with some down home Gospel singing her song, “A Little More Jesus”. Erica’s sister Tina was her biggest fan in the audience cheering her on. In between commercial breaks the crowd got a chance to see a sneak peak of the new season of Mary Mary which premiers on February 27th.
Actress Kimberly Elise presented Bishop Hezekiah Walker with the James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award. Pastor Joel Osteen appeared via video and sent his congrats to the Bishop. Next the now Stellar Award Winning Anthony Brown and Group Therapy took to the stage to sing his song, “Testimony”. The entire room went into a frenzy when the group added vocal inflections to their hit song. I just happened to be sitting near Anthony’s mother who had the biggest smile on her face as she watched her son minister in song on this national stage.
Now the Stellar Awards would not be complete without a performance from the First Lady of Gospel, Pastor Shirley Caesar. Looking beautiful and never aging Pastor Shirley Caesar sang her song, “God Will Make A Way”. Next Melinda Doolittle and Jason and Jonathan Nelson presented Tasha Cobbs with the UNCF award for “New Artist Of The Year”. Despite their being a mixup of the envelopes, Cobbs graciously accepted the award and thanked her parents. This proved to be bittersweet as when she returned home from the Awards, her Father suddenly passed away.
There was a special tribute to the late great Nelson Mandela. Kirk Franklin who performed at Mandela’s memorial service talked about this great South Africa leader and how honored he was to be there. Jennifer Holiday, The Original Dreamgirl sang a special song in tribute, delivering a song only the way she can.
Sister Bernice Jenkins made a special appearance to this year’s show and read this years church announcements. Tamela Mann was presented the Albertina Walker Female Vocalist Of The Year by Kierra Sheard who won the award previously and past Stellar Nominee Anita Wilson. Next Donald Lawrence and Company took to the stage doing choreography to their single, “The Gift”. The Tankards from Bravo’s, “Thicker Than Water”, presented Bishop Hezekiah Walker with “Choir Of The Year”. After a successful debut of Azusa: The Next Generation no one was surprised Bishop received this honor.
Isaac Carree gave a unique performance of his song, “Clean This House”. The performance started off with a video that set up the theme of the song. In the video Carree sat a conference table with this legal team. The team brought up some of the issues the song talks about. Next Carree was on stage in a press conference style setting, setting the record straight through song. Carree’s performance will go down in the Stellar history books as one of the most unique live performances.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee was presented with the Thomas A. Dorsey Most Notable Achievement Award. This was a well deserved award as Congresswoman Lee works tirelessly for the Gospel music industry in Washington, DC. She was the driving force behind making September: Gospel Music Heritage Month.
For All the quartet fans there was a special performance featuring The Wardlaw Brothers, The Canton Spirituals , and The Gospel Legends. Dr. Bobby Jones presented Reverend Maceo Woods with the Bobby Jones Legends Awards. Erica Campbell and Tye Tribett presented Anthony Brown and Group TherAPY the award for “Group/DUO of the Year”. Anthony thanked his team and his parents who went into a Baptist fit when his name was called.
When Tasha Cobbs took the stage to sing her hit “Break Every Chain” the atmosphere was immediately charged. Cobbs took the stage and the power of GOD fell strongly in the room. The Ford “Song Of The Year” was presented to Kirk Franklin for writing Tamela Mann’s smash hit, “Take Me To The King”.
VaShawn Mitchell, Jonathan McReynolds, Zacardi Cortez, and Jonathan Nelson took to the stage singing a medley of their hits. And Lastly Tamela Mann was presented the award for “Artist Of The Year”. A tearful Tamela took to the stage thanking her family and longtime friend Kirk Franklin and all who believed in and pushed her.