Shari Addison - Shari Addison (2009)

Shari Addison
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The advent of talent show competitions ala American Idol, each searching for the planet's next superstar talent, has led to a few show alumni becoming and remaining superstars. Others, as in the case of Rueben Studdard, have struggled, worse still-some have ended up in the dreaded "where are they now?" dustbin of music history (can we say '06 AI winner Taylor Hicks?). Still, the advertising success of these televised talent shows and the consistently stratospheric sales for the shows' top-tier singers prove the effectiveness and durability of this star-making formula. Given today's "follow the leader" mentality in popular media, it should be no surprise to see copies of this proven secular format played out in gospel, with no less than three televised competitions now hunting for the next gospel celebrity.

Unfortunately, being a follower has not yielded A.I. success for the winners of gospel's copycat shows.

The advent of talent show competitions ala American Idol, each searching for the planet's next superstar talent, has led to a few show alumni becoming and remaining superstars. Others, as in the case of Rueben Studdard, have struggled, worse still-some have ended up in the dreaded "where are they now?" dustbin of music history (can we say '06 AI winner Taylor Hicks?). Still, the advertising success of these televised talent shows and the consistently stratospheric sales for the shows' top-tier singers prove the effectiveness and durability of this star-making formula. Given today's "follow the leader" mentality in popular media, it should be no surprise to see copies of this proven secular format played out in gospel, with no less than three televised competitions now hunting for the next gospel celebrity.

Unfortunately, being a follower has not yielded A.I. success for the winners of gospel's copycat shows. The first competition, Gospel Dream, was introduced three years ago on the Gospel Music Channel. Only, no gospel dreams were immediately realized with only one lackluster solo project to their name.  The following year, Gospel Dream released a compilation disc of the previous two seasons' best contestants.  Following suit was another gospel show competition, Gifted, which also chose to release a compilation project from the first season and an uninspired debut from winner Da'Quela.  So far, none of the Gospel Dream and Gifted contestants have garnered national attention, nearly calling into question the point of these shows. 

That was all before Black Entertainment Television's (BET) Sunday Best, which after only one season has become the cable network's highest-rated inspirational program to date. Learning from other shows' marketing misfires, Sunday Best-winner, Crystal Aikan, and runner-up, Shari Addison, are both releasing self-titled debut CDs-coincidentally, for the same label on the same date. Of previous gospel show runner-ups, Addison is perhaps the most unlikely of idols, if the best prepared.

Like most amateur show finalists, forty-five year old Addison had no recording experience. Unlike her peers, she is not the typical idol prototype. While most young contestants are just starting their career chase, Addison's longtime music ministry and theater background has already shaped her professionalism and developed her vocal depth. Her Verity Records introduction showcases many gospel styles, all suitable to her ample gifts.

Addison fully demonstrates her capabilities with traditional and contemporary praises, modern R&B, easy listening ballads and dance workouts. Of the project's ten tracks, several strike memorable chords. "I Praise You" brings all-out church shouting with a funky blues twist. Of a more fundamentalist vein, "Can't Make It Without Him" pairs Addison's and her pastor Christopher Harris, with the two bouncing testimony after testimony off of one another about God's goodness. Addison channels bits of Patti LaBelle throughout the ballad "One More Sunny Day," backed by Donald Lawrence & Co.  From the inspirational category, "You Can Rise" offers a perfect house music praise session, while "Whateva" delivers sassiness without compromising the message. Finally, "No Battle, No Blessing," a wise choice for the first single, balances sophistication and gospel firepower.

The remaining tracks are not necessarily bad, but maybe a bit too formula-even for Addison. Still, overall, her debut should put her in excellent stead with a major gospel audience. Already distancing herself from many past contestants who failed to generate that "wow!" factor with their recorded efforts, the quality of Addison's self-titled debut should also distance her from that dreaded "where are they now?" trap. Sometimes in the long line of "reality" talent shows, somebody does their homework and gets it right.

By Peggy Oliver
 

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