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3 big stories in the religious music world last week
Choir
Religion News Service reported this week that choirs are "on the downbeat" in American churches. - photo by istockphoto.com

A Christian rapper appeared on late-night TV. The artist formerly known as Cat Stevens, who is a Muslim, is bringing the peace train back to North America. And, the music in American worship services is sounding a little different these days.

Here are the stories creating a buzz in the religious music world this week:

Christian rapper Lecrae tops Billboard 200

Beating out artists like Maroon 5, Ryan Adams and Lee Brice, Lecrae topped Billboard’s chart ranking artists by album sales. In the week ending Sept. 14, his new album, “Anomaly,” sold 88,000 copies, Billboard reported. Lecrae also led the Gospel Albums and Christian Albums charts.

And Lecrae’s big week didn’t end there. On Thursday, Lecrae became the first Christian rapper to appear on late-night TV, performing with The Roots during “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” Christianity Today reported.

Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, announces new tour

The peace train is back on the tracks! Yusuf Islam, better known as Cat Stevens, has announced the release of his new album, “Tell ‘Em I’m Gone,” and six North American tour stops, Rolling Stone reported. From Dec. 1 to 14, he will appear in Toronto, Boston, New York City, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

In 2011, Time explored the artist’s name changes, tracking his journey from Steven Demetre Georgiou to Cat Stevens to Yusuf Islam. He’s been Yusuf Islam since 1978, when he took a new title to represent his conversion to the Islamic faith.

Worship music is getting a makeover

Religion News Service reported this week that choirs are “on the downbeat” in American churches. “Among white conservative evangelicals, only 40 percent of worshippers say they hear a choir at services, down from 63 percent 14 years ago. For those who attend liberal or moderate Protestant congregations, there’s a similar slide to 50 percent in 2012, down from 78 percent in 1998.”

However, in black Protestant churches, “choirs stand strong,” RNS explained.

The data was drawn from the National Congregations Study, which surveyed American churchgoers about their experiences. An earlier RNS article highlighted the study’s data on drumming during worship services, which may be replacing traditional music like choir anthems. Forty-six percent of respondents “attend congregations where drums are playing during the main service,” up from 25 percent in 1998.

Email: kdallas@deseretnews.com, Twitter: @kelsey_dallas