Y’anna: The Promise
Reality-TV winner and budding gospel star goes indie route, brings in seasoned veterans but lacks the power-packed strong material best suited for big pipes
Reality TV shows are giving out contracts by the dozens to their crowned winners in hopes to turn those Nielsen audience numbers.into volumes of cash. While FOX’s ‘American Idol’ takes in the biggest chunk of the cheese, BET has joined the race in getting their product branded on shiny compact discs (and on iTunes). Their shiniest star, ‘Sunday Best’, highlights the growing market for emerging gospel talent to replace the unstoppable tyranny of the 20+ year veterans. It’s definitely a hard job, but it’s one BET is willing to major in – even if Idol feeds the fame monster better. For gospel audiences, working with Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams, Donnie McClurkin and Mary Mary week after week is enough to start up a resume; making it even more appealing for starters to try out Sunday Best. Washington D.C. native Y’anna Crawley emerged as Season Two’s crowned champion. Rather than going the popular route and signing with a major label, Crawley got balzy and went for an indie deal. On the plus side, that meant more creative control, less expenditures and more money in the pocket. Judging by the cover art of The Promise, it’s obvious that much of the budget left that out. But Crawley is surrounded around an elite department of producers and songwriters to give her the elevation she needs to compete with previous season’s winners.
Buster & Shovani, veterans now approaching semi-retirement status, comes out of hiding to arrange much of the album. “I Believe” borderlines Yolanda Adams’ urban output, while “Lookin’ Toward Heaven” digs into the conscious of neo-soul. Both songs allow her to show off her range. It’s probably safe to say that Crawley’s strongest performance can be traced on the CCM-nurtured, urban pop fizzle of the title cut. The song walks through Ne-Yo synths and escalates full throttle into a big gospel finish with choir harmonies and anthemic results. James “Big Jim” Wright contributes a few tracks to the list; particularly “You’re Still God” and “Worship Song.” None come close to matching the spark found on “Grandma’s Hands;” containing a contemporary gospel finish on the Bill Withers’ classic. Interesting to hear “I’m Blessed,” a J Moss contribution, sliced with Moss-influenced backgrounds and Karen Clark finishes towards the back end of the disc.
Crawley’s debut does a fair enough job in connecting the dots and making sure everything sounds apropos for her and her newfound audience. But there just isn’t enough strong material to digest here. With a big voice as hers, it’s disappointing to hear her playing a cat-and-mouse game with bill collectors (“I gotta rob Peter so I can pay Paul”) and being cornered by quick last-minute rhymes. Ironically, the melodies tend to get lost in all of the urban beats and transitions while much of the lyrical content marginally detours from its never-ending topics about believing and receiving. Although nothing seriously stands out as a sure win except for one or two tracks, the indie-released Promise still remains a smart incubator for Crawley’s budding career choices.
J MATTHEW COBB
- Release Date: August 24, 2010
- Label: Imagio Dei Music Group/BET
- Producers: Buster & Shovani, James “Big Jim” Wright, PAJAM, Ryan Sims
- Track Favs: The Promise, Grandma’s Hands