Sounds like … Avalon for kids, offering highly produced kids' pop á la Hillary Duff, Aaron Carter, and Stacie Orrico.At a glance … Jump5 sounds as manufactured as ever, but the terrific production is perfect for a preteen and young teen audience.
It's been an impressive, fast-paced ride for Jump5, whose five members now range in age from 15 to 17 (some of them can Drive now!). In that short time, with more than 600,000 albums sold and a touring audience of more than 1 million, they've made more of an impact on the mainstream than most Christian artists in their entire career. They're regularly featured on Radio Disney, soundtracks, and national television appearances, touring with young high-profile acts like Aaron Carter, A*Teens, and Baha Men.
Jump5 clearly improves in quality with each new album, and with that is a subtle growth in maturity in both music and lyrics. Accelerate, produced again by Mark Hammond (Avalon, Nichole Nordeman), is still extremely glossy pop geared primarily to 7-to-14-year-olds, but they have added electric guitar effects to the mix like their contemporaries. While interest in teen pop is generally waning overall, it's still red hot with younger audiences. For proof, look no further than the No. 1 debut of Hillary Duff's new CD on the Billboard Albums chart. Or to the enduring success of the Kidz Bop series. Jump5's press kit refers to an appropriately nicknamed "just for us" genre of kids' music.
Themes of encouragement and acceptance abound—sometimes intended to be spiritual, sometimes earthly, sometimes either. "Wonderful," for example, is almost worshipful in its praise of God's perfect love, quoting 1 Corinthians 13. "Why Do I Do," written by ZOEgirl for the young quintet, naturally comes from Romans 7 about our sinful struggle. In contrast, "Pressure" is a Stacie Orrico-styled electonic pop track about peer pressure, and "Every Part of Me" is simply about loving relationships, earthly or spiritual. "All Because of You," the first Jump5 song ever co-written by a member (Brandon Hargest), is about how someone (Someone?) can completely change the way you live your life.
Accelerate also features a bevy of cover songs, opening with Michelle Tumes' 2000 single "Do Ya." This song about unconditional love despite our personal quirks was deemed a bit sophomoric for Tumes in those days, when she was still perceived as a sophisticated songwriter before turning to more of a pop repertoire. But "Do Ya" is actually a perfect match for Jump5's style. There's a slick rendition of Sister Sledge's "We Are Family," which is the theme song for Radio Disney's Family Pledge Initiative, encouraging kids to spend more time with their families. Also included are souped-up versions of "Walking on Sunshine" (Katrina and the Waves) and "Shining Star" (Earth, Wind, and Fire). There's something very Up With People (or Kids Incorporated or high school show choir) about all these cover songs, and like the plethora of '70s and '80s remakes these days, they're equally cool and overproduced sounding. But hey, they're still appealing to the target audience and their parents.
The album is a typically short 34 minutes in length—typical in that the group and record label are turning out a little at a time, but at increased regularity. How much longer will Jump5 carry on and appeal to their young audience? Will they grow with their listeners, and like ZOEgirl or Plus One, pursue a new creative path? Will they pursue solo careers, or call it quits after turning 18? Will an all-new Jump5 of young teenagers soon come into play?
Time will tell. If only Jump5 weren't so manufactured sounding, continuing to churn out more of the same—albeit with increasingly improved production and gradually becoming more appealing with maturity. By comparison, Stacie Orrico is creating sleeker and more sophisticated pop at the same age, impacting mainstream culture while being more vocal about her faith in the process. Accelerate isn't good or original enough to win new listeners, but if you've enjoyed Jump5 thus far, this new CD is likely to become your favorite.