Creflo Dollar, one of the most well-known black preachers in America, has now made his powerful preaching available to music lovers by having portions of his various sermons set to music and song in his new album, S.E.R.M.O.N.S. (Spiritually, Empowering Recorded Music Over Niche Sermons) (2012). Dr. Dollar is a televangelist and pastor of World Changers Church International in College Park, Georgia. Although Pastor Dollar is known primarily for preaching, his national and international audiences will now come to associate him with music.
S.E.R.M.O.N.S. draws upon call and response, a means of democratic communication and participation with a provenance in African religious rituals. Enslaved Africans brought this call and response tradition to America. The call and response tradition has become an essential part of gospel music and the way in which sermons are delivered in many black churches. In many black churches that embrace the call and response tradition, music is played during key points in a preacher’s sermon, especially throughout the concluding portion of the sermon. When a sermon is given, it can be a melodious experience: instruments are played, a rhythmic voice from the preachers is employed, and the congregation (using call and response) maintains the melody the preacher begins. S.E.R.M.O.N.S. shares a strong affinity with the aforementioned melodious experience.
The album has seven tracks. The first track, “Speak to Me,” features Creflo Dollar giving a brief introduction (which is a prayer) that delineates what he hopes the album will accomplish, and his introduction is followed by a songstress singing “Speak to Me.” On the second track, “Grace,” Pastor Dollar teaches about grace while gospel music plays in the background. After he states a few sentences of his sermon on grace, a male singer sings portions of the song, “Grace,” to reaffirm Dollar’s spoken words; Dr. Dollar returns to preaching after allowing him to sing briefly. During portions of this track, the singer sings while Pastor Dollar is speaking. On the third track, “Never Go Back,” the audience witnesses music and singing that’s quite divergent from what has been offered on the previous tracks: Christian rock music, which is a postmodern form of gospel music melding traditional gospel and rock. On the fourth track, “Another Level,” Dollar preaches (as he does on each track) while adult contemporary Christian music is performed instrumentally and vocally. The audience also hears adult contemporary Christian music being performed instrumentally and vocally on the fifth (“The Blood”), sixth (“Dreams”) and seventh (“Believe”) tracks.
–Antonio Maurice Daniels
Antonio Maurice Daniels is a Research Associate and Ph.D. student in Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He blogs regularly for his cultural commentary blog, Revolutionary Paideia. His works have been featured widely in academic and popular online publications, including Mused Magazine, Up 4 Discussion, From Ashy to Classy, The Black Man Can, Healthy Black Men Magazine and etc. Follow him on Twitter at @paideiarebel.