Chances are, most people who tune in to watch the 2014 Grammy Awards are hoping to catch a glimpse of artists like Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, The Rolling Stones and Lorde, and soak up DVR-worthy performances by big names like Paul McCartney, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, John Legend and Carole King. But there are other deserving nominees vying for awards, too. Some of their names may be less recognizable, but when the five Grammys are given out in the Gospel category, hometown crowds will be cheering on their favorites and scouring Instagram and Twitter for images of Tye Tribbett, Steven Curtis Chapman and TobyMac rubbing elbows with pop and rock royalty.
In order to have winners, you must have losers, and there can't be an awards ceremony without a few people getting left out. This year, that included Amy Grant's brilliant album How Mercy Looks from Here, the understated Inland by Jars of Clay, and Rise by Christian rock act Skillet. If it makes them feel better, though, they're in good company. Lorde was overlooked this year in the Best New Artist category, despite four other nods, and even Timberlake found himself absent from the biggest categories.
As far as the Gospel categories, here are this year's contenders.
Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance
This category pits gospel and contemporary christian music (CCM) acts against each other, with Tasha Cobbs and Tribbett facing down Natalie Grant, Matt Maher and Idol alum Mandisa. Cobbs' "Break Every Chain" has been big this year and Tribbett seems to be on the ride of his life, but the soaring vocals of Mandisa on "Overcomer" or Grant's "Hurricane" could easily take it. Maher may be a dark horse, but his songwriting chops are not to be dismissed, and they're showcased beautifully on "Lord, I Need You."
Best Gospel Song
Dietrick Haddon ("Have Your Way") and Mary Mary's Erica Campbell ("A Little More Jesus") are strong contenders in this category, but Tribbett is a powerhouse on "If He Did It Before … Same God." Then again, don't discount Charlie Wilson's "If I Believe" or Percy Bady's "Still."
Best Contemporary Christian Music Song:
Again, Grant and Mandisa have the vocal chops, but this category is about the song and the performer, too. Chapman is a perennial fave and one of CCM's most awarded artists, and we'd probably describe TobyMac and Chris Tomlin as almost "godlike," if saying so weren't considered sacrilege.
Best Gospel Album
Cobbs cleaned up at last year's Dove Awards, taking home three of the bird-shaped statues, and our money's on her to win again here for Grace. Donald Lawrence has experience on his side, though, and could be a sentimental favorite with his Best for Last disc. Other contenders, like Bishop Paul S. Morton, William Murphy and the ubiquitous Tribbett, can't be counted out either.
Best Contemporary Christian Music Album
This is a hard one to call because you have the worship music of Matt Redman, Maher and Tomlin going up against the gospel pop of Mandisa and the pop rock of Building 429. It hardly seems like a fair fight, but we're betting chart-topper Tomlin takes it home, adding to the Grammy he won in 2012 in this same category. If we were being asked who we want to win, we'd have to go with Redman, the pen behind many of today's best worship tracks.
For now, tune in to our attached playlist and hear 20 of the top nominated tracks.