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Best Artists of 2005

Wrapping up the year is our Best Artists list, which is meant to partly compliment our annual Reader's Choice awards while offering some strong potentials to consider for this year's Gospel Music Awards. Check out these twenty selections, reflecting the year's best in vocalists, bands, and solo artists.

Best Female Vocalist

1. Natalie Grant

Everybody already knew from her previous four albums that Grant had the powerful pipes of a pop diva. But she showed a new level of artistry and versatility with the 2005 releases Awaken and Believe (her first Christmas album), effortlessly spreading her wings into pop, rock, gospel, soul, and jazz. Maybe it's because she's co-writing more of her own songs, or maybe it's her newfound mission to raise awareness about human trafficking, but Grant also seems to be singing with increased passion and vigor—"Held," anyone? This was indeed her breakout year, and you can bet there's more to come.

2. Ashley Cleveland

Blame it on the infrequency with which she releases albums, but Cleveland is too often overlooked as one of the best vocalists in Christian music. Not this time. With 2005's Men and Angels Say, Cleveland impressively interpreted classic hymns with her gritty and graceful bluesy style. She's redefined what it means to cry for mercy and grace with the way she sells it vocally on this album.

3. Karin Bergquist( Over the Rhine)

Bergquist is famous for her passionate and versatile vocalizing, both readily heard on Drunkard's Prayer. Here she runs the gamut from heartbreak to romance, poignantly expressing the near breakup of her marriage. Her performance of "My Funny Valentine" is breathtaking, and for those who haven't yet seen Over the Rhine live, it's not uncommon for Bergquist to surpass ...

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