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FIRST-PERSON : MercyMe, Nichole Nordeman, Bebo Norman stood out in 2002

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–In the wake of a very successful year in the Christian music industry, there are three artists who excelled in their musical genre. Based on their talent and their spiritual influence, my selection for the 2002 Group of the Year is MercyMe; the 2002 Female Vocalist of the Year is Nichole Nordeman; and the 2002 Male Vocalist of the Year is Bebo Norman.

The chances are pretty good that most Christian music fans have heard the runaway single from MercyMe, “I Can Only Imagine.”

The song, with themes of what heaven will be like, earned the five-member group two Dove Awards in 2002, including Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year and Song of the Year. Frontman and lyricist Bart Millard additionally received the Gospel Music Association’s Songwriter of the Year award.

In addition to their heavy touring schedule, MercyMe faced the challenge of recording a follow-up to their critically acclaimed 2001 release, “Almost There.”

Released in October, their sophomore project, “Spoken For,” was warmly received by fans, sending MercyMe to the number one seat on the Christian music charts. By the end of its opening week, the project sold a stunning 23,000 copies. On the Billboard Album Charts, composed of mainstream and Christian artists, it premiered at number 41, a feat few Christian artists have accomplished.

Spoken For goes far beyond their first release. The project feels more coherent and flows smoother and it flourishes in vertical lyrics.

Since 1998, Sparrow recording artist Nichole Nordeman has emerged and made a name for herself among Christian music fans. Following the 2000 release of “This Mystery,” Nordeman was nominated for two Dove Awards in 2002 — including Female Vocalist of the Year and Song of the Year, “Every Season.”

On Sept. 24 Nordeman released her third project, “Woven and Spun.” Becoming vulnerable through her lyrics, Nordeman focused the recording on God’s goodness woven into everyday events, making her thoughts easily accessible to listeners abroad.

It is the 12th-best-selling project at Family Christian Stores and peaked at number two on Billboard’s Heatseekers Chart, which highlights best-selling titles by new and developing artists throughout the entire music industry.

Her current single “Holy” is what really soared in 2002, tying a record of eight straight weeks at the number one position on the AC Charts, set earlier this year by Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Magnificent Obsession.” The infectious track broke a record with 2,069 weekly spins, according to R&R Magazine’s AC Chart.

Nordeman busied herself touring with Steven Curtis Chapman on the Live Out Loud tour, which reached 58 cities and more than 200,000 people in five months. She returned to the studio this year to be featured on Point of Grace’s “Girls of Grace” project and “City On A Hill — Sing Alleluia.”

Last year was also quite productive for recording artist Bebo Norman, introducing “Myself When I Am Real,” his first release with Essential Records.

The project featured his passionate voice, introspective lyrics and sound folk/pop musicianship to soar it to its undoubted success. Its first week sales led his project to the number one position on Billboard’s Heatseekers Chart, number eight on Billboard’s Top Internet Sales Chart, number four on the Christian market charts, and the number one ranking on Soundscan’s Christian Adult Contemporary Albums Sales Chart.

Apart from his own recording, Norman was also featured on City On A Hill — Sing Alleluia, and Nichole Nordeman’s Woven and Spun.

He also made a guest appearance on TruthQuest: California, television’s first Christian reality television show, airing on FamilyNet television, and was heard live around the country on Oct. 21 on the “Rick and Bubba” show.

Norman kept an extensive calendar full of tour dates. He performed at 53 of the 76 cities on the Come Together Tour that featured Third Day and was seen by 300,000-plus fans. Headlining the Fall Circa 2002 tour, Bebo Norman traveled to 42 sites from September to December.

    About the Author

  • Tim Harms