Photo: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com. "Sunday Best" season 9 finalists Melvin Crispell III and Joshua Copeland
Photo: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com. "Sunday Best" season 9 finalists Melvin Crispell III and Joshua Copeland

Season 9 ‘Sunday Best’ finalists Joshua Copeland, Melvin Crispell III discuss journeys

Originally posted Thursday, August 22, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

BET’s “Sunday Best” took a three-year hiatus but the gospel singing competition show was resurrected this year and was shot for the first time at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta. 

The two finalists - Maryland native Joshua Copeland and Charlotte’s Melvin Crispell III - are vying for $50,000 and a record contract with RCA Inspiration.

I asked some fans on my AJC Radio & TV Talk Facebook page their thoughts and some believe Crispell is the favorite to win.

They visited the AJC this week just days before the live finale Sunday. America is voting now through Saturday

Here are some bits I learned from each. First up:

Joshua

Age: 38 

Hometown: Salisbury, Md. 

How he got on the show: He tried out a few years back but didn’t get past the second round. When his wife heard the show as coming back, she convinced him it was the right time: “She was so persistent so I submitted a video.” And he made it all the way to the finals. The producers surprised him and had her at the show that aired Sunday. “I had some low moments thinking I’m not good enough to be here,” he said. “She just encouraged me. She told me, ‘Whenever you go on stage, show them what God has put in you. Get over the nerves. Get over the people.’”

How he discovered he could sing: His siblings and parents heard him at age 7 sing the jingle to Summer’s Eve. He chuckled over the memory that of all songs it would be about a feminine hygiene product. 

Dabbled with touring: For a time, he was a back-up singer for Charles Butler and Trinity. He now works at a service company as a counselor helping people with mental disabilities. 
Best advice from host and gospel legend Kirk Franklin: “He told me I’m a flat-footed singer. I have to engage the people, make them feel and understand the message I’m giving. You have people looking at you. Bring them into your story.”

His goal with the show: “I want to travel the world singing God’s praises and drawing people back to the church. The focus is Jesus Christ. I feel like we have so much going on today that it’s taken focus away from Him. It needs to be turned back to Him. That’s the purpose of us being on Earth: to bring him back.”

If he wins the $50,000: He wants to help out his three little children and provide some money to his church as well. 

Melvin

Age: 22

Tragedy: His parents died when he was a teenager of medical illnesses. He went through depression and it was God who got him through the darkest moments of his life. “I would not be sitting in front of you if it were not for Him,” he said. “I never thought I could do this without my parents. I’m so grateful!... I wish they could be here but I know they’re watching down smiling at me. They’re my two guardian angels and God is protecting me.”

Great genetics: His father Melvin Crispell Jr. wrote hit gospel songs such as Hezekiah Walker’s “Jesus Is My Help” and “Wonderful Is Your Name”, and James Hall Worship & Praise tracks “Caught Up” and “He Took My Place.”

Favorite moment on the show: Singing a song as a tribute to his parents. “That would trump winning for me.”

Getting on his feet: “I’m just focusing on rebuilding my life after having been knocked down. I pray, go to church and work at a couple of places. God is restoring me, healing me.” 

Best advice came from judge and young gospel star Jonathan McReynolds: Don’t try to do too much and lose the audience. That means not every moment has to be full of runs and theatrics. “They might lose focus on the main message,” he said. “I want them to believe what I’m singing. It’s more about the ministry.”

His goal once he’s on tour: “I want it to be a celebration of God. God wants us to have joy. We’re going to rock out and have fun.”

ON TV

“Sunday Best” season 9 finale airing at 8 p.m. Sunday on BET

About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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