ATLANTA — Christian singer Jason Crabb might not have won all of the award categories he was nominated under, but he certainly came away with the two most prominent ones for a male artist.
Crabb went home with artist and male vocalist of the year awards Thursday night. The 43rd Dove Awards show for Christian and gospel music will air on April 24 for GMC, formerly the Gospel Music Channel. The awards show was held at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta for the second straight year.
"It just blows my mind," said Crabb, who entered the awards with eight nominations. "It hasn't sunk in just yet. I'm proud to be in the family of God, and proud to be his kid. I can't believe it. I want to challenge other people and other kids this: Go after your dreams, pursue them. God is behind you."
Crabb said after winning the awards, the pressure is on to produce more quality songs.
"I have to get my 'A' game on now," he said with laughter. "It makes me want to strive to do better, to live as good as I can and be an example. I'm just going to do the best that I possibly can."
Natalie Grant dethroned Francesca Battistelli, taking home female vocalist of the year. Grant previously won the award four straight years before Battistelli had done so for two years.
After winning her first Grammy in February, Laura Story continued her stellar year with five awards. The singer's Grammy-winning song, "Blessings," won her song of the year at the Doves.
A pregnant Story said overcoming the tough times motivated her to write many of her songs including, "Blessings."
"I would rather have written a story about winning the lottery, than write about that," Story said. There are hard times in our lives, but that's when we see God show up."
R&B soul singer Angie Stone along with gospel singers Yolanda Adams, Crystal Lewis and Karen Peck opened up the show with a choir dressed in red, singing a spirited rendition of Dottie Rambo's song "I Go To the Rock." The foursome's performance was a tribute to Whitney Houston, who died Feb. 11. Houston also sang the song in the 1996 movie, "The Preacher's Wife."
Stone, who learned about the tribute a day ago, said it was an emotional experience.
"It was hard because I learned about doing it yesterday," the singer said. "But overall, because it was for Whitney, I gave all that I could for Whitney. I'm still trying to process she is gone."
After the singers' touching performance, some humor shortly followed when co-hosts actor David Mann of Tyler Perry's sitcom "Meet the Browns" and Christian comedian Chonda Pierce took the stage. Pierce asked if Mann could introduce her at some point, and the actor sarcastically said, "I'll see what I can do," while looking away as audience members broke into laughter.
Other performers included music artists ranging from Yolanda Adams, Natalie Grant, Ruben Studdard, Mandisa to rapper Lecrae.
Jamie Grace won new artist of the year. The 20-year-singer, who has battled with Tourette's syndrome for nearly half of her life, shed tears while accepting her award and thanked her family along with TobyMac, who signed Grace to his label, Gotee Records, after he discovered her through YouTube.
"My prom was here four years ago at the Fox Theatre, and my mom brought me here," said Grace, a Grammy nominee. "This is a dream come true."
Kirk Franklin ended a five-year drought, claiming contemporary gospel album of the year for his album, "Hello Fear." Franklin has had strong year so far as well, Franklin, recently collecting two Grammys and two NAACP Image Awards, hasn't won a Dove Award since 2007.
Rapper Lecrae won three awards including rap/Hip Hop recorded album and song of the year. NEEDTOBREATHE won group of the year award for the second consecutive time.
Presenters included Montell Jordan, actress-singer Tamela Mann and wrestler A.J. Styles.