- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2001 1 Jan
True Vibe has one selling point that few of the boy bands today have—a resume. The founder of True Vibe, Jonathan Lippmann, was also the founder of popular group 98 Degrees, a boy band that never quite made it as big as Backstreet Boys or N'Sync (though their success was nothing to sneeze at either!). It's also worth noting—and taking comfort in—the fact that True Vibe isn't some record label fabrication created in reaction to the success of the Backstreet Boys and Plus One. Jonathan formed the quartet in early 2000, well before Essential Records signed them, and the group has already made numerous television appearances in the last year, ranging from The Late Show with David Letterman to Monday Night Football (for which they sang the national anthem). It would seem True Vibe is perfectly poised to hit the Christian music scene with their spiritually focused boy band pop.
Ultimately, I think there are three things that set these boy bands apart from each other: production, songwriting, and—let's be honest—charisma. Of these, production matters the most—it's gotta sound cool and in keeping with the times or else the youth will see right through it. For the most part, True Vibe succeeds where Plus One sometimes failed on their debut. There are times when Plus One sounds a little too adult contemporary, and they never quite achieve the same bombastic dance-pop sound as their mainstream counterparts. True Vibe comes closer to sounding like N'Sync, especially on the aggressive songs such as "Jump Jump Jump" and "Never Again," as well as "Give You More," which comes close to sounding like the N'Sync hit "Bye Bye Bye."
It's strange then that there are other songs, such as "Sweet Jesus" and "You Are the Way," that come across more like Avalon or a modern version of 4Him. Other tracks feel both modern and dated, such as the lead single "Now and Forever." The song has a great groove to it, but the synth bells sound more at home with New Kids On the Block than the Backstreet Boys. The album closes with the stunning a cappella track "I Live for You" (not to be confused with the recent Rachael Lampa hit), which shows that these four have an excellent vocal blend, rivaling that of Christian a cappella group Glad.
Lyrically, there's nothing particularly profound or clever here to mention—most are simple testimonies of Christian faith intended for a younger audience. And though their sound is occasionally dated, I'm sure the majority of the intended audience won't notice and will, in fact, embrace True Vibe's music. It's hard to be too critical of a group whose musical and artistic goal is to sound like other groups already out there, emulating the same production sounds that make other said groups popular, all for the ultimate goal of bringing today's youth closer to Christ. If mainstream boy bands are about packaging and sales, Christian boy bands are more about sales and ministry, and I can't argue with the end result in this case. Though they don't always maintain a current sound, True Vibe hits the right notes with enough bells and whistles to satisfy fans of boy band pop looking for another Christian alternative.