Five Uplifting Contemporary Gospel Songs
These five contemporary gospel songs clearly honor God but have wider appeal to a secular audience compared to their contemporaries.
Sometimes, we all need some inspiration in our lives. No, not everybody is a devout Christian. Some folks aren’t Christian, nor religious at all. Regardless, the five songs on this mini-playlist post are contemporary gospel songs, but have wider appeal. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t deferent to the Most High, but the messaging and ministry should appeal/apply at some level to multiple populations.
1. Hezekiah Walker, “Better”
[Azusa the Next Generation 2 – Better, 2016]
Hezekiah Walker’s contemporary gospel anthem is bursting with encouragement, exuberance, and sheer excellence. It doesn’t hurt that the choir is on-point or that the modulations (key changes) amplify the power of the message. Simply put, “It will get better / because God is in control.”
“Better” naturally emphasizes the importance of faith in God to attain deliverance. Even if you’re not the most religious individual per se, the positivity is infectious.
2. Marvin Sapp, “Never Would Have Made It”
Marvin Sapp’s “Never Would Have Made It” is a contemporary gospel standard. When it arrived in 2007, the song couldn’t be contained to gospel charts. “Never Would Have Made It” landed on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at no. 82. For a gospel song, that’s an amazing feat. “Never Would Have Made It” was certified platinum, while parent album Thirsty went on to attain gold certification.
Why is “Never Would Have Made It” so uplifting? It’s a song about faith, resolve, and strength. Even the most faithless person is hard pressed to deny the power of the song.
3. Kirk Franklin, “I Smile”
[Hello Fear, 2011]
Kirk Franklin is the master of writing songs that appeal to both gospel and secular audiences. “I Smile” is the perfect example. “I Smile,” like “Never Would Have Made It” before it, landed on the Hot 100, peaking at no. 85. “I Smile” also ended up being certified gold, as did parent album, Hello Fear.
God is referenced in “I Smile,” but only during the chorus. The sentiment is similar to “Better”:
“I smile, even though I hurt see I smile / I know God is working so I smile / even though I’ve been here for a while / I smile.”
4. CeCe Winans, “Mercy Said No”
[Throne Room, 2003]
First, it should be acknowledged that “Mercy Said No” is a cover. Originally, “Mercy Said No” appeared on its cowriter’s album, CCM musician Greg Long (Jesus Saves). Winans’ interpretation of “Mercy Said No” arrived five years later. Regardless, “Mercy Said No” is often associated with Winans, given her stunning, touching performance. Throne Room would go on to be certified gold.
The lyrics are beautifully penned; quite poetic.
“Mercy said no / I’m not gonna let you go / I’m not gonna let you slip away / you don’t have to be afraid.”
God/Jesus are referenced more liberally throughout the course of this particular song, but most intriguing is how the writer replaces explicit reference to God in the refrain with Mercy. Essentially Mercy becomes synonymous with God.
5. Kirk Franklin ft. Mary J. Blige, Crystal Lewis, Bono, R. Kelly & The Family, “Lean On Me”
[The Nu Nation, 1998]
Okay, perhaps “Lean On Me” isn’t as “contemporary” as it was in 1998. Regardless, one will be hard-pressed to deny “Lean On Me” won over saints and sinners alike. “Lean On Me” thrives because it is powerful. It provides something that everybody needs – hope, love, and most importantly faith. “Lean On Me” peaked at no 79 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Lean On Me” was treated as an R&B song when it was nominated for Grammys. While even the appearance of Mary J. Blige and U2 frontman Bono couldn’t earn it a “W,” Parent album Nu Nation Project snagged the Grammy for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel album. Nu Nation Project is among Frankin’s best albums, not to mention the second-bestselling album of his illustrious career behind God’s Property.