Sure, locals go to church and (mostly) roll their eyes at that “Sin City” stuff. But there was no guarantee that fans of gospel music’s Stellar Awards would see beyond those Las Vegas cliches.
Now the awards are back for a third year Friday and Saturday at The Orleans showroom and arena. “We love Las Vegas, and so do our fans,” executive producer Don Jackson says.
“We have an audience of African-Americans who want to be appreciated for the business that they can bring to your city. In some of the other cities, we had some concerns about the way we were treated,” Jackson adds. “But Vegas, they really put out the welcome mat.”
TV ratings have improved for the awards show since it made a grand entry in 2015 with a surprise show opener by Beyonce and her Destiny’s Child partners Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams.
Any such surprises this year — and Jackson had some impressive “maybes” — will probably be spoiled by the time the show airs for the first time at 3 p.m. April 9, on TV One (and in broadcast syndication at 10 p.m. April 16 on KGNG-TV 47, Las Vegas). But it’s worth it, Jackson says, because the special that draws about 5 million viewers sees its best numbers with “the natural tie” of Palm Sunday and Holy Week.
Like other awards shows, the Stellar Awards have tried to rein in acceptance speeches and pump up the performances, particularly the cross-generational ones.
This year, look for 19-year-old Jekalyn Carr, who’s been called a young Shirley Caesar, to be paired with the 78-year-old gospel legend herself. And for “Holy Hip-hopper” Canton Jones to team with three younger Christian rappers inspired by the 40-year-old.
“That’s the growth of the gospel music genre,” Jackson says of momentum that will grow to a year-round Stellar TV network by year’s end. “Gospel music has touched all sectors of black music. That’s where the artists learned their roots. That’s where I would say 90 percent of these current artists got their start, including Beyonce.”
Read more from Mike Weatherford at reviewjournal.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @Mikeweatherford on Twitter.
What: Stellar Gospel Music Awards Pre-show
When/Where: 7 p.m. Friday, Showroom at The Orleans. Tickets $45 (800-745-3000)
What: Stellar Gospel Music Awards Announcers Showcase
When/Where: 11 a.m. Saturday, Showroom at The Orleans. Tickets $35 (800-745-3000)
What: Stellar Gospel Music Awards
When/Where: 6 p.m. Saturday, Orleans Arena. Tickets $50-$125 (800-745-3000)
This year’s hosts:
Anthony Brown and Erica Campbell
Tamela Mann (9)
Travis Greene (9)
Hezekiah Walker (7)
Kirk Franklin (6)
Jekalyn Carr (5)