- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2001 1 Jan
For a vocal group that's released only one album prior to this (in 1999), The Katinas have earned a lot of respect in the Christian music industry. Their debut album was well received and generated two hit singles, but it didn't exactly make the five brothers from Samoa a household name. Perhaps the respect has resulted from all the studio session work they've done for artists such as Michael Bolton, Quincy Jones, Kenny Rogers, Amy Grant, and Michael W. Smith. Or it could be from all the touring they've done for Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith on their Christmas tours. Or from their performance of the song "Draw Me Close" on the Exodus worship project. Whatever the reason, The Katinas are respected as a talented vocal group with a genuine heart for God — and their sophomore effort, Destiny, is likely to attract them even more attention.
Although the self-titled debut from the Katinas was pleasant enough with it's R&B-flavored pop, it didn't quite compete with similar-sounding projects in mainstream music. Plus, it was a little too adult contemporary in sound to attract a younger audience. Destiny, on the other hand, is as solid an R&B project as I've heard in Christian music. Destiny features a whopping five, count 'em five producers on the album, and that's not including the co-production efforts of The Katinas themselves. Producers Todd Collins (Out of Eden, dc Talk), Bryan Lenox (Commissioned, Michael W. Smith), Mooki Taylor (Raze, Stacie Orrico), Aurel M., and Mike Linney lend their talents to album's 13 tracks to give them a near-mainstream level of quality in many cases. With so many producers involved, each working on a specific song or two with The Katinas, you'd think the overall sound of the album would be inconsistent. Incredibly enough, this isn't the case. I'm guessing credit needs to be given to The Katinas for keeping it all together.
"It's Real" and "If You Really" both sound like songs you'd hear on Jennifer Lopez's recent CD. Bryan Lenox produced the more pop-oriented tracks (akin to "Draw Me Close") "Thank You" and "Who Do You Love?", as well as the powerfully produced "You Are." Producer Mooki gives "Dance" the same kind of funk-infused dance sound that he helped create on Raze's The Plan recording. Destiny runs the gamut in modern R&B styles, though it never gets very uptempo or aggressive. It's still fairly lite R&B/pop, but it's handled with more skill than the previous album.
Though the music is fairly top-notch, The Katinas fail to distinguish themselves as well lyrically. The album title ties the songs together thematically, stemming from Jeremiah 29:11 — "For I know the plans I have for you … plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Most all the songs connect into one whole attempt at evangelism. Individually, many of the songs have routine lyrics. For example, "Believe," "It's Real," "If You Really," and "Ain't No Love" all have the usual "let me tell you what God has done in my life" kind of lyric. It's true and spiritually inspiring, but not particularly original among other adult contemporary artists. Other songs feel far less clichéd in their lyrical content, though they're equally simple and true expressions of faith.
It's interesting to note that there are almost no male R&B vocal groups anymore — no modern version of Boyz II Men. I suppose I could say that The Katinas occasionally sound like the Backstreet Boys or N'Sync on their lighter songs, but that would overlook the Katinas' soulful side. Overall Destiny is very well performed and produced — the vocals are excellent and their words are genuine (though a little too much on the simplified side of things). Christian music has yet to fully embrace the R&B genre, but it's gradually starting to do so. The Katinas' Destiny will surely cause listeners to embrace it further.