Brandon Lake and Tasha Cobbs Leonard were among those in the winners circle on Friday evening (Oct. 20), as the 54th annual Dove Awards aired on TBN.
The Gospel Music Association began in 1964, and the first Dove Awards were held in 1969; initially, the ceremony primarily honored Southern gospel music. But the awards ceremony has expanded over the decades to honor an array of sounds and musical styles, including pop, hip-hop, Gospel, country, Latin and more.
During the 2023 ceremony, which was taped on Oct. 17 at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Lake took home the lion’s share of wins, earning four trophies, including the overall artist of the year trophy.
“There are so many people in this room that I look up to and who gave me permission to write as a young boy. They say imitate before you innovate,” Lake said in accepting his artist of the year honor. “I have imitated so many of you year after year after year and songs not making it and no one hearing it and then God breathes on a little something. I’m so grateful to be a part of this community.”
Cobbs Leonard took home two awards — gospel worship album of the year for Hymns (Live) and traditional gospel recorded song of the year — and closed out the evening by performing “Burdens Down.”
“This album means a lot to me because I’m a church girl; I’m a PK [preacher’s kid],” Cobbs Leonard told the audience after winning the evening’s first honor, gospel worship album of the year. She added, “One of the ways I learned scripture was through song. I think we have an amazing opportunity to impact future generations through our lyrics.”
Toby Mac, Blessing Offor and Jeff Pardo each won two awards. Other winners included Katy Nichole (new artist of the year), Elevation Worship (worship album of the year for Live From the Loft), Jason Crabb and Dylan Scott (bluegrass/country/roots recorded song of the year for “Good Morning Mercy”) and Lecrae (rap/hip-hop album of the year, for Church Clothes 4). Song of the Year went to “Goodness Of God,” honoring songwriters Ben Fielding, Ed Cash, Jason Ingram, Jenn Johnson, and Brian Johnson. Miel San Marcos, Daniel Calveti, Marcos Witt and Ingrid Rosario won Spanish language recorded song of the year for “Coritis (En Vivo).”
Here, we look at eight impactful moments from the ceremony. A full list of winners can be found here.
For King & Country and Jordin Sparks Sing ‘Love Me Like I Am’
Flanked by blue laser lighting across the arena’s main stage, Jordin Sparks joined for King & Country’s Luke and Joel Smallbone for a pitch-perfect rendering of the collaboration “Love Me Like I Am,” from for King & Country’s 2022 album What Are We Waiting For?.
This carefully constructed, pop-smooth track offered a superb vessel for their vocals, with Sparks’ rafter-ringing, crystalline voice topping off this CCM hit.
Blanca and Jekalyn Carr Bring ‘New’ Energy to Dove Awards Stage
Flanked by dancers and clad in silver attire, Blanca and Carr brought high intensity and wondrous vocal blending to their first GMA Dove Awards performance of the collaboration “New Day,” with its propulsive hip-hop beats, soul-soaked groove and an energetic performance with a dash of 2000s pop flair.
Dr. Bobby Jones Honored With Jackie Patillo Leadership Award
Dr. Bobby Jones was honored with the Jackie Patillo Leadership Award, an honor named after the Gospel Music Association’s president/executive director.
Dr. Jones started his television career in 1976 and launched the variety program Bobby Jones Gospel on BET in 1980. Bobby Jones Gospel, which ran on BET for 35 years, provided prime media exposure for artists including Yolanda Adams, Kirk Franklin, Shirley Caesar, Donnie McClurkin, Byron Cage and more. Dr. Bobby Jones was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2008.
Lauren Daigle Comforts With ‘Be Okay’
As several artists did throughout the evening, Lauren Daigle recognized the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. Daigle offered the comforting, soulful piano ballad “Be Okay,” which she wrote with fellow CCM songwriter Ellie Holcomb.
“In light of what has happened in Israel this week, our eyes need to be opened to what He might be calling us to,” Daigle told the audience. “We have the hope of eternity and the good news of the Gospel. We aren’t bringing in messages that tear and divide, we’re bringing in messages that remind people of their worth, that remind children they are valuable and belong in society.”
Christian Hip-Hop’s Impact Celebrated
As the hip-hop music genre celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, the GMA Dove Awards ceremony also offered performances highlighting the impact of Christian hip-hop through the decades, featuring Hulvey, Social Club Misfit, GRITS and TobyMac. Hulvey, wearing a jersey emblazoned with Lecrae’s name, offered “Altar,” while GRITS and TobyMac performed their 2002 collaboration “Ooh Aah.”
The Lasting Impact of Vocal Groups Celebrated
The lasting impact of vocal groups was demonstrated with performances from two legendary vocal groups: eight-time Grammy-winning gospel group Take 6 and four-time Grammy-nominated Southern gospel group Ernie Haase & Signature Sound. Together, they offered a glorious display of superb vocal talents.
Take 6 began with one of their signature songs, “Something Within Me,” with the two groups trading off performances from there. Ernie Haase & Signature Sound sang “You’ll Find Him There,” Take 6 performed the classic spiritual “O Mary Don’t You Weep,” and Ernie Haase & Signature Sound sang “O What a Savior,” before the two groups converged their harmonies on “Get Away, Jordan.”
Tauren Wells, Katy Nichole Acknowledge Israel-Hamas War
“Famous For (I Believe)” hitmaker Tauren Wells pulled double-duty as both host and performer during this year’s GMA Dove Awards. He also took a moment early in the evening to acknowledge the ongoing conflict affecting Israel and Palestine, saying, “We stand with the people of God and as scripture instructs us, we pray for peace in Jerusalem. Now here’s the thing – we can’t just pray for peace and not understand and identify the Prince of Peace…The world could be at war but the church is gonna be in worship. Because we don’t praise God depending upon our circumstances. We praise God depending upon His reputation.”
From there, he introduced Katy Nichole, who performed a powerful rendition of her nine-week Billboard Christian Airplay No. 1 “In Jesus Name (God of Possible),” a song asking for healing and comfort during difficult times. Later in the evening, Nichole was named new artist of the year.
TobyMac Wins Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year For Project Honoring Late Son
TobyMac recorded his album Life After Death in honor of his late son, 21-year-old Truett, who died of an accidental overdose in 2019. The album was honored during the GMA Dove Awards ceremony with the pop/contemporary album of the year accolade. TobyMac took the stage to offer a touching acceptance speech, thanking many members of the industry for their support.
“Thank you to all of you guys, everybody here, from Gospel to CCM to worship, thank you for your prayers for me and my family,” he said, adding, “to the musicians who helped craft the album, I’m grateful to you guys that helped me navigate this in the studio, all the emotions, the pain, to try to put chords and words to that…I made this record in honor of my son, Truett, my firstborn who we lost. His life was like a shot of lightning, burning fast and hot, but you couldn’t help but take notice. I couldn’t be more thankful for the fact that our God loves the wild ones. He loves the wild ones. Lastly, I just want to say I made these songs in the hardest, coldest of valleys, and we still don’t know why God would ask this of us…He didn’t promise us that we wouldn’t face hard things. He didn’t promise us that we wouldn’t face loss. He promised us that he would never leave us or forsake us.”