a native of houston, texas, yolanda adams is the eldest of six siblings. though raised in the church, having such a large family exposed a young adams to a variety of musical influences. with each new favorite of her many siblings, adams' appreciation of a broad range of musical styles began to flourish. trained as a teacher, adams' spiritual upbrining and love of music never allowed her to stray far from the church. in fact, it was in her role as featured vocalist for the southeast inspirational choir that adams was discovered by composer/producer thomas whitefield, who guided the production of her first album, just as i am.
though just as i am was recorded on the sound of gospel records label, adams' next two albums1991's through the storm and 1993's save the worldwere recorded for tribute records and earned her several stellar awards. having already been cited, by many, as the most inspiring gospel singer since queen of soul aretha franklin, adams demonstrated her versatility as an artist with the 1995 release of the r&b-infused more than a melody. the album, which earned adams a soultrain lady of soul award and a grammy nomination exposed her to an even larger audience than she'd already established, winning her fans among a non-gospel audience, based on the sheer grace of her voice. in a 1996 appearnance on the soul train music awards adams wowed the audience with a powerful performance and her statuesque beauty. while there had certainly been beautiful women in gospel prior to yolanda adams, never before had a gospel artist so honestly reflected the sensual nature that resides in each of us. in a spaghetti-strapped, form-fitting gown, adams took control of the stage, causing the audience to all but forget the equally-rousing performance by patti labelle they had just witnessed. the 1996 album yolanda live in washington further established adams as one of her generation's most exciting live performers and resulted in another stellar win and grammy nomination.
aside from releasing a string of successful gospel solo albums, adams has become a highly sought-after vocal partner for gospel luminaries such as everette harp, kirk whalum and doug williams. she also keeps busy singing background vocals for artists such as atlantic records' beth hart.
most recently, yolanda adams released her sixth studio album, mountain high valley lowher first for elektra records. signed to the label after label chairman sylvia rhone witnessed a stirring performance at new york's beacon theater and became discouraged that the phenomenal diva was not more renowned than she is, mountain high valley low marks adams' further exploration of the myriad of styles that comprise her musical lexicon. working with famed producers jimmy jam and terry lewis of janet fame, songs such as "open my heart", "wherever you are" and "already alright"which opens with adams urging listeners who may be driving in their cars to resist the urge to get up and dancedemonstrate that true gospel need not adhere to a particular format as long as it convey a spiritual message. "coming from the gospel world and being able to work with them was a dream come true," adams explains on her personal website, "they provided leadership and gave me the leeway necessary to develop the songs. they wanted me to bring material to them so that i wouldn't lose connection, for inspiration. their input and approval really encouraged me as a writer."
more than just providing fans of r&b-infused gospel with another option when they enter the record store, yolanda adams, backed by rhone, is on a mission. though one of gospel music's brightest stars and, by all accounts, one of the most accomplished and compelling vocalists of our time, adams' records sales tend to be dangerously low, by conventional pop standards. as mentioned before, rhone and elektra have committed themselves to seeing this album enjoy sales 300,000 units greater than the artist's average no small feat in a world that gives teen sensation britney spears seven times platinum status and thinks that pan-genre ingenue natalie cole hasn't recorded anything since groundbreaking 1991 duet with her father. this goal not only speaks volumes about the integrity of elektra's sylvia rhone whose reputation for taking risks on artists in whom she sincerely believes explains her executive producer credit on mountain high valley low, but also suggest the vast talent that exists within yolanda adams. not since the days of supreme gospel diva mahalia jackson has the world been witness to a gospel vocalist who so dramatically demonstrates the power and range of the human voice that she defies genres. add to that the fact that adams does nothing to disguise her obvious physical beauty and sensual appeal, and you have not only the makings of an artist who is likely to send shockwaves through the industry that will resound for generations to come, but also the makings of a true diva.