After countless disappointing performances week after week, last Sunday felt like the glorious ray of sunlight that brought back warmth and light after a ferocious storm. Rising Star's Gospel Night came and brought back excitement, spirit and joy to the amazing television program. For the first time in a long while, I thoroughly enjoyed the entire show.
Before the amazing performances began, however, we had to see a “Sing-Off” between the two contestants who unfortunately fell into the bottom two. I wasn't surprised when Brian was named as one of the bottom two. However, when the beautiful host Terri-Karelle named Celicea as the other competitor who would be battling for a position in the Top 8, I was in utter disbelief. Both contestants where tasked with doing over their performances from "Redemption Night". The two singers did an exceptional job, giving an even better rendition of what they sang the night prior. Unsurprisingly, when the smoke cleared Celicea came out victorious, earning her spot in the Top 8.
With 8 undoubtedly talented contestants, I was extremely excited ready to hear each and every contestant deliver their songs. Gospel Night is always my favourite Rising Stars night, and last Sunday blew my expectations out of the park! Every single one of the contestants did amazingly, and similar to Redemption Night, it was extremely difficult to rank these performances. The only difference now is that rather than all the performances being mediocre, it was challenging to rank the performances because they all did exceptionally well!
Out of all the contestants, I expected much more from Casey. From the beginning of this season, his image was heavily tied with his Christianity and involvement in the church. Singing “If It's Not You Then Lord It's Nothing” by Kevin Downswell, Casey did a pretty decent job vocally. However, I wanted him to use his voice and give me a spiritual experience. Instead, his version of Kevin Downswell's song felt a bit insincere and a bit too staged. Out of all the performances, this was probably the only one for the night that just did not resonate with me.
For Gospel Night, Raihanna courageously decided to tackle the Queen of Urban Gospel's famous song “Still I Rise”. Honestly, I did not have high expectations for Raihanna, as I thought she was going to deliver another overly staged “Barbie” performance. However, I think she did a very nice job with such a challenging song. Her sweet voice caressed each note so tenderly, adding such a nice magical feel to the song. Nevertheless, there were a few vocal issues throughout, especially when it came to the famous and powerful high notes in the original version by Yolanda Adams. Instead of powerful and resonating, Raihanna's high notes were a bit growly and uncomfortable to hear. Even though compared to her other competitors, Raihanna's rendition was one of the weakest vocally, it was still a great performance overall.
I was not ready for J-Lue's powerful performance! “Because of what I'm going through right now, I've decided to do this song because it resonates with me” said the contestant, explaining why the song meant so much to her. As soon as she opened her mouth and let out those beautiful first notes the entire atmosphere shifted. From her introductory post card, J-Lue made her difficulties known as her son is battling cancer allowing us viewers to empathize and understand how much the competition means to her. Her rendition of Jekalynn Carr's “You're bigger” was a real tearjerker. When she altered the lyrics to fit her own personal story singing “You're bigger than cancer Jesus”, tears were brought to the eyes of a lot of the audience members. However, I agreed with Judge Anthony when he said “that song was bigger than you were vocally capable of delivering”. I felt like this was one of her poorest performances vocally. Nevertheless, it was still powerful and resonated with me even after the show ended.
I was totally enamored by this duo's harmonies! Shea's opening of “He Kept Me” was so beautiful it felt like sweet honey for my soul. Furthermore, the arrangement between the two singers were well planned and I enjoyed every single moment of it. However, I shared similar sentiments with Judge Conroy when he critiqued saying “ a lot of the times [they] were singing what the choir was singing." I felt as if they added a few more ad-libs instead of singing with the choir, they would have made even more of an impact. Nevertheless, it was heartfelt, emotive and sweet. That was one of their best performances yet. Being the first singers on stage, they gave a wonderful example of what a "Gospel Night" performance should look like. They set the bar for the entire night on an extreme high, and as Judge Anthony said “I hope God keeps you in the competition”.
Last Sunday was Oryan's time to break out of his shell! All who didn't know Oryan was a “big dancer” before, definitely know now, after his stellar performance! Singing the energetic “My God Is Good (Double Double Remix)”, Oryan spread his infectious energy to the audience, getting them all on their feet and dancing with him. It was when he did the famous Gwara Gwara dance move that I, myself, could not contain my own enjoyment and had to stand up and dance with him as well. One of my favourite performances for the night. Furthermore, it was refreshing to not have all the Gospel songs be so deep and emotional, but instead fun and joyous so Christians can enjoy themselves too!
Celicea's performance last Sunday showed us again why she deserves to be in this competition! She was so soulful and I felt every word of her song. Celicea's voice worked extremely well with Shirley Caesar's “He'll Do It Again”, delivering it with the right amount of power I was expecting. As Alaine said, Celicea was “Swimming in Jesus juice! Yes Mama! A force to be reckoned with!” It is still surprising Celicea was in the bottom two but I hope Celicea's amazing performance struck the hearts of the voters enough for them to keep her in next week.
Laveka's performance set the entire Rising Stars studio ablaze! That girl is just a force of sheer talent. It is rare that I find a performance on this show that can compare to the original, but Laveka completely embodied the song “I Need A Little More Jesus” and made it her own. Her voice grabbed me and took me on a musical journey and I enjoyed every minute of the ride. Halfway through the song I couldn't help but sing along with her. Delivering another refreshing upbeat Gospel song, Laveka electrified the entire studio. Not only was her delivery of the song exceptionally done but her vocals were amazingly also on the same level. Her powerful ending of the song took me to church! I knew the Holy Spirit's power flooded the entire studio at the exact moment. Once again, Laveka gave an exceptional performance that will have people talking for weeks to come.
Further and further into this competition, I am slowly being convinced that Sherlon is not of this world. “Mi nuh know if any angel inna heaven wudda sound better dan dat” said judge Alaine, bringing my exact thoughts into words. Sherlon was the only contestant that managed to bring me to the brink of tears. It was the only reaction I could muster after Sherlon's heavenly voice mercilessly invoked a myriad of emotions inside of me. Sherlon's rendition of “No More Nights” definitely blessed someone with a light to illuminate and bring them out of whatever dark and gloomy situation they were in. Every single note that left his mouth melted into my soul and blessed it with so much joy and happiness. When he belted out the last note to end the song, the power radiating from his voice reverberated through the studio and evidently touched the entire audience's soul. Their consequent standing ovation was an expected reaction. It would be a grave injustice to refer to what Sherlon did as a performance for that was even greater! That was a heavenly encounter. That was a ministry. I am still in complete awe of what a blessed experience listening to Sherlon was.
Gospel night was the redemption that Rising Stars was desperately needing. Each contestant did such an amazing job. Being the biggest and most anticipated episode of the show, all the contestants amazingly delivered their praise. I hope the show continues on this amazing streak and give us amazing entertainment for all the Sundays to come.