Admit it. We’ve all felt the chills when hearing the awe-inspiring roar of a gospel choir join into the melody of a song. When reaching the crescendo into hand-clapping, feet-stomping choir vocals, it’s hard to resist belting out right along with them.
To honor this musical trend, we complied a list of 10 great songs that use gospel choirs.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds kick off our list with their hauntingly beautiful “O Children.” Backing Cave’s hypnotic vocals, a choir of gospel singers provide soulful harmonies to the hymn-like song. “O Children” is also featured as the soundtrack to Harry Potter and Hermione Granger’s (awkward) dance scene in 2010’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.
As a part of U2’s Rattle and Hum album and rockumentary, New York choir The New Voices of Freedom accompanied the Irish rock band on a gospel version of their hit “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” To explain the collaboration in the documentary, The Edge said the track is essentially a gospel song both lyrically and musically. Rattle and Hum also features a rehearsal with U2 and The New Voices of Freedom in a Harlem church as well as a performance together at Madison Square Garden.
Widely known for its overwhelmingly controversial music video, “Like a Prayer” by Madonna fused elements of gospel music with the music icon’s singnature pop-rock sound. Inspired by Madge’s youth as a Catholic school girl, the 1989 single keeps gaining momentum, finishing with the gospel-backed chorus complete with hand-clapping and high-note wailing.
Produced by Kanye West, Talib Kweli’s 2003 single “Get By” features gospel-like backing vocals to heighten the truthful message of the New York rapper’s lyrics.
“All These Things That I’ve Done” was the third single from from The Killer’s hit debut album Hot Fuss. The anthem blends Brandon Flowers’ croons with harmonies from The Sweet Inspirations when reaching its peak when both belt the lyrics “I’ve got soul, but I’m not a solider.”
“Jesus Walks” was a highlight track from Kanye West’s debut album The College Dropout. Using a sample of the hymn “Walk With Me,” Kanye’s 2005 Grammy-winning track is backed by chant-like vocals from the ARC Choir.
Blur combined their alternative rock percussions with the London Community Gospel choir’s gospel vocals in “Tender.” In February 2012, Blur was awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Music Award at the BRIT Awards. The English rockers performed a five song set that reunited Blur with the London Community Gospel choir to perform their 1999 hit. Watch the performance here
Less publicized than many of his other hits, Justin Timberlake experimented with a gospel choir vocal arrangement on “Losing My Way” on 2006’s FutureSex/LoveSounds album. Inspired by a documentary about crystal meth addiction, Timberlake wrote “Losing My Way” as a narrative about a man desperately wanting to change his path in life. The powerful lyrics and gospel backing vocals allow “Losing My Way” to stand out among Timberlake’s typical pop standards.
“Movin’ On Up” was the Primal Scream’s breakthrough hit in the United States. Complete with optimistic vocals, the Scottish rock band’s gospel-backed song addresses redemption in the manner of “Amazing Grace.”
The King of Pop’s critically acclaimed 1988 hit “Man in the Mirror” was written by Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard. Along with Garrett, gospel quartet The Winans and the Andrae Crouch Choir provided the distinct and powerful backing vocals for Jackson’s classic track. Through the empowering message of the song, the choir assists Michael in advising us all to make that change.