Troy Lilly has HELD IT DOWN for the past several weeks, writing awesome recap after awesome recap of BET’s nationwide talent competition Sunday Best. What better way to discuss the season finale at GospelPundit.com than in Troy’s own words? Without any delay, here’s Troy Lilly…
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It’s official – the people have spoken and the results are in.
LeAndria Johnson is the winner of BET’s Sunday Best for season three. Thousands from around the country auditioned, but in the end there could be only one. She won the title after viewers like you took to the Web and phone lines, casting votes online and via telephone and text.
She will receive a national recording contract and a 2010 Ford Taurus SHO.
But she didn’t have time to get caught up in celebrating. Immediately after she was named the winner, LeAndria debuted her first original song, “I Shall Leap Into My Destiny.” Sounds like she’s ready to leap forth into her new recording career.
LeAndria beat out the unlikeliest Sunday Best contestant yet, 79-year-old Elder Goldwire McLendon. Elder McLendon defied the myth that you have to be young to win a singing competition, and that age works against you. He showed that his seven decades of experience only helped him. That, and the anointing.
The show was awesome, too. The theme for the evening was “seasons.” Host Kirk Franklin said there’s a time for weeping. “A time to weep a time to laugh and a time to sing.”
Representing the East Coast, Bishop Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship Choir opened the finale with their ubiquitous choir-favorite “Souled Out.” Choir members appeared in the audience and ran up on stage with Hezekiah Walker. They really got the house rockin’.
Each of the contestants performed a medley of songs that comprised their best showing during the competition.
LeAndria Johnson sang, “I Love the Lord,” “He Was There All the Time,” and “In the Midst of It All.”
Asked why she sings they way she does, LeAndria simply answered, “pain!” Before coming to Sunday Best she lost her house. In the audition she wore flip-flops and socks because that’s all she could find. She said at one point she had chosen death over life. But one song got her through: Yolanda Adams’ “In the Midst of It All. How ironic that she also sang it during the show. Yolanda was honored and said she feels the pain, but more importantly, the victory of LeAndria.
Elder Goldwire McLendon began singing a few bars of “Yes, Jesus Loves Me” with barely any music, and moved right into “The Battle Is The Lord’s,” another Yolanda song. He finished up with a characteristically energetic rendition of “He’s Keeping Me Alive.”
One week before Elder McLendon auditioned for Sunday Best he heard God say he was moving into a new season of his life. “God will set you up if you stay in His will,” Elder McLendon said. Throughout the competition, it seemed like Elder McLendon had been set up by God to win. And he was certainly a worthy contender. Judge Tina Campbell said, “every time I experience you I experience the God that you love and live for.
Season Two mentor Donald Lawrence returned with a few special guests to showcase his quintessential hits. Season two contestants, Jessica Reedy and Latice Crawford, sang “Seasons,” and “Encourage Yourself” respectively. And Season Two winner, Y’Anna Crawley, sang a stripped-down version of “The Blessing of Abraham.” Together, they did a few bars of “Let the Word Do the Work.”
But no one could have prepared for the special treat that came next.
God answered my personal prayer and this year’s mentor, Kim Burrell, FINALLY performed. And the wait was so worth it. She remixed “Oh, Lord” from her Everlasting Life album, freestyling the words up to recognize Sunday Best contestants Martha Buries, Dathan Thigpen, Tiffany Carlin-Laird and Orlando Wright. Her musical acumen is undeniable and reaches across so many genres. I would go as far to say she’s the finest gospel-jazz singer of our time.
In addition to the prizes given to the winner and runner-up, Kirk presented a generous donation of $30,000 on behalf of BET to the New Orleans’s Ellis Marsalis Center for Music. New Orleans native and saxophonist Calvin Johnson was the featured local musician this week.
Season three of Sunday Best will go down in the books as a competition that redefined what a contestant should look like. It also showed, yet again, that the power of gospel music has no limit, and the healing power can often touch the person who sings it as much as those who hear it.
LeAndria Johnson’s win this year was a triumph over the competition, but equally a triumph in her personal life. As Kim Burrell warned her, she’ll have to start preparing for life as LeAndria “after the fact.”
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Great recap, Troy. Thanks!
NOW, what are we gonna do on Sunday evenings?!
Leave a comment and lemme know what you folks liked/disliked about the season finale! And what do you think about how it all turned out?!