The Year in Christian & Gospel Charts: Lauren Daigle's Rise & Kirk Franklin's Reign
Lauren Daigle, Billboard's top female Christian artist of 2015, continued her roll in 2016, as the 25-year-old singer-songwriter from Lafayette, Louisiana, is the overall top Christian artist of the year (and, thus, repeats as top female).
Chris Tomlin is Billboard's top male Christian artist of 2016, Hillsong United/Hillsong Worship rank first in the duo/group category and Hillary Scott & The Scott Family reign as the top new Christian artist.
Daigle's victory as the year's top Christian artist accompanies a host of other accolades she banked in 2016, including three wins at the 47th annual Dove Awards, held Oct. 11 in Nashville, including the biggest of the night, for artist of the year. She also claimed honors for songwriter (artist) and best pop/contemporary song of the year, for "Trust in You" (more on the track's year-end chart domination in a moment).
Daigle also received her first Grammy Award nomination, for best contemporary Christian album for How Can It Be. The 2017 Grammy Awards take place on Feb. 12 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
"Wait … what?," is how Daigle reacted upon hearing the news that she's Billboard's top Christian artist of 2016. "Just so you know, I'm driving, and as you said that, I just pulled over and parked. I had to take my seatbelt off, turn around and just pause a second.
"You know, my goal is always to just do my best and hope that the people who find my music also find God in the process."
How Can It Be, Daigle's first full-length, is the year's No. 2 title on Top Christian Albums. It houses her first Hot Christian Songs No. 1, "Trust in You," which topped the survey for 18 weeks beginning on March 26. It ranks at No. 2 on the year-end Hot Christian Songs chart.
"Trust" does one better on the year-end Christian Airplay ranking, as it crowns the list following its nine-week reign (which began April 9).
A 'GOOD GOOD' YEAR: Billboard's top male Christian artist (No. 3 overall) Chris Tomlin boasts the year-end No. 1 on Christian Digital Song Sales, "Good Good Father." The worship track, written by Tomlin and Pat Barrett, spent 14 weeks atop the survey.
"Father" is the year's No. 3 title on Hot Christian Songs, having topped the chart for seven weeks.
HOPE ROSE: Australian worship collective Hillsong United, which releases its church-oriented albums under the Hillsong Worship banner, is the No. 1 Christian duo/group of 2016 and No. 2 artist overall in the genre.
The ensemble's megahit "Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)" is the year-end Hot Christian Songs No. 1, having led the weekly list for a record 61 weeks (beginning back on Dec. 7, 2013. Through the chart dated Dec. 17, it has logged a record 168 weeks on the tally. (Billboard's 2016 chart year encompasses rankings dated Dec. 5, 2015, through Nov. 26, 2016.) Amazingly, the track was the list's No. 1 song of 2014 and No. 2 for 2015 before reclaiming the year-end throne for 2016.
"Oceans" was co-written by Hillsong leader Joel Houston and sung by Taya Smith. In a 2016 interview with Billboard, Smith noted that it was one of the first two songs that she sang after joining the group. "What makes me happy is that so many people hear the song and then maybe God can work in their own hearts."
The film Hillsong: Let Hope Rise, which chronicles the act's story and was directed by Michael John Warren, known mainly for his directorial debut on Jay Z's 2004 Fade to Black documentary, was released nationally Sept. 16.
LEADING LADY: 2016 brought the first faith-based release from Lady Antebellum's Hillary Scott, with help from her family.
Hillary Scott & The Scott Family, Billboard's top new artist of the year (No. 9 overall), is comprised of Hillary, her 16-year-old sister Rylee Scott, her mother (and country singer) Linda Davis and her father (and songwriter) Lang Scott.
The act's launch single "Thy Will" topped Christian Digital Song Sales (for 19 weeks), Hot Christian Songs (15) and Christian Airplay (three). Parent LP Love Remains is the year's No. 9 title on Top Christian Albums, having entering the chart at No. 1 on Aug. 20.
JOEY REMEMBERED: The year's No. 1 title on Top Christian Albums is Joey + Rory's country/Christian set Hymns, which spent 18 weeks at No. 1 on the weekly chart. The act is the No. 3 top Christian duo/group of 2016 and No. 5 among all artists in the genre.
Sadly, after battling cervical cancer, the husband-and-wife team's Joey Feek died March 4 at age 40.
'HAPPY' NEWS: In the world of gospel music, Billboard's No. 1 overall and male artist of the year is Kirk Franklin. The year's leading female is Tasha Cobbs. Anthony Brown & group therAPY rank No. 1 in the duo/group category and Todd Dulaney is the top new artist.
Franklin's "Wanna Be Happy?" is No. 1 for the year on Hot Gospel Songs. It bowed at No. 1 on the chart dated Sept. 19, 2015, and held at the summit for 45 weeks, the second-longest reign in the chart's 11-year history, after Marvin Sapp's "Never Would Have Made It" (46 weeks, 2007-08).
Franklin's "Happy" is also the year's No. 2 song on Gospel Digital Song Sales, after logging 19 weeks at No. 1. The chart's top title of 2016 is Anthony Brown & group therAPY's "Worth," which tallied 33 weeks at No. 1 (beginning June 20, 2015).
Meanwhile, Franklin's Losing My Religion is the year-end No. 1 on Top Gospel Albums, having rolled up 14 weeks at No. 1 (starting Dec. 12, 2015).
'KING' RULES: The No. 1 hit on Gospel Streaming Songs for 2016 is Tamela Mann's "Take Me to the King." Mann is the year's No. 2 female gospel artist and No. 8 overall.
Female gospel artist of the year (and No. 5 overall) Tasha Cobbs owns the Nos. 2 and 3 positions on the year-end Gospel Streaming Songs chart, "Break Every Chain" and "For Your Glory," respectively.
'BETTER' & 'BIGGER': The No. 1 Gospel Airplay song of 2016 is Hezekiah Walker's "Better," followed by Jekalyn Carr's "You're Bigger" (No. 2), Tasha Cobbs' "Put a Praise on It" (No. 3), Casey J's "I'm Yours" (No. 4) and Todd Dulaney's "The Anthem" (No. 5).
Dulaney is the year's top new gospel artist (and No. 10 overall). He previously sought hits of a different kind, having played professional baseball for five years in the New York Mets' minor league system before deciding to take a swing at making music full-time.
"While playing in the Mets organization, I shared with some teammates that I occasionally sing," Dulaney told Billboard earlier this year. "The guys thought it would be funny if they told the coaching staff.
"So, one morning during spring training they asked me to sing the national anthem. Afterwards, everyone stopped and asked, 'What are you doing here?' That was the very beginning of my transition towards music as a career."
Billboard’s year-end music recaps are based on chart performance between the Dec. 5, 2015 and Nov. 26, 2016 charts. Data registered before or after a title's chart run are not considered in these standings. That methodology detail, and the December-November time period, account for some of the differences between these lists and the calendar-year recaps that are compiled independently by Nielsen Music.