- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Oct
Forget what you think you know about Joy Williams. From her debut last year, it sure seemed as though she was taking the teen pop diva route similar to Jessica Simpson, Jaci Velasquez, and Mandy Moore. Though the sound was somewhat routine, Joy stood out compared to similar pop artists because of well-written songs, first-rate production by Dan Muckala and Dennis Patton, and her outstanding voice. If you're looking for more of the same, I'm sorry to disappoint you. For her sophomore effort, By Surprise, Joy is paired with producer Brown Bannister, who's developed a track record in recent years for transforming and bettering artists' sounds (Steven Curtis Chapman, Avalon). He's done it again with Joy, shaping the budding pop diva into a modern pop/rock songwriter akin to Michelle Branch, Nelly Furtado, and Vanessa Carlton — a smart move, considering that teen pop is more or less on its way out. We are now in a new era of young singer/songwriters who favor widely accessible pop/rock sounds over childish teen pop. Joy's latest is about as timely as can be expected without becoming a trendsetter herself, taking her a remarkable leap forward as an artist and as a songwriter.
It becomes immediately apparent that
It's equally impressive that Joy has suddenly developed her own songwriting skills on
Who could have guessed Joy would even demonstrate the wit and whimsy of Nichole Nordeman in some of her songs? "Wish" wonders what it would have been like to literally walk alongside Jesus every day during his time here on earth, and "Beautiful Somehow" is a cleverly worded song that reminds us we're "wonderfully made" despite our rough edges and imperfections: "I've got old-fashioned sensibilities / I believe chivalry still exists / And I can be a princess / Even when there ain't no prince / So what if I'm right-brained? / I've got half a mind to disagree / I would rather write the book / Than go and read the movie." Too bad the majority of the album's lyrics are a little simplistic, though not really clichéd. If they were a little more poetic, or if Joy could incorporate a few more Christian worldview songs about everyday life, her music surely would be considered for some WB television time just like so many other Christian artists. Considering the leap forward in sound and that Joy is still new to songwriting, it's worth focusing on the positives. This is a catchy modern pop album that will defy your expectations. Instead of lumping Joy with pop artists such as Rachael Lampa, Stacie Orrico, and Jaci Velasquez, she now joins the ranks of artists such as Ginny Owens, Katy Hudson, and Michelle Branch. Her terrific new pop album will defy your expectations and literally take you by surprise.