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Not Afraid

  • reviewed by Christa Banister Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2008 1 May
Not Afraid
Sounds like … pop with a rock 'n' roll attitude a la Garbage, Sarah Kelly, Kelly Clarkson, and Gwen StefaniAt a glance … a personal investment in her lyrics and a sassy rock sound makes Stephanie Smith's debut shineTrack Listing Beauty Superstar Not Afraid Renew Me You Alone Waitin' On You Over It In My Eyes What If I Made a Mistake Love Out Loud First Words

While no one's about to confuse them for rock royalty like Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde, Janis Joplin, or Blondie's Debbie Harry. But it's nevertheless cool to hear young women really kick up the decibels and add a healthy dose of rock 'n' roll attitude to the pop music scene, especially Christians like Flyleaf's Lacey Mosely, Fireflight's Dawn Richardson, and now Stephanie Smith, Gotee Records' latest signee.

With her debut Not Afraid, Smith serves up 11 engaging slices of life that sparkle with inventive musicianship, impassioned vocals, and vulnerable songwriting. Aimed squarely at the teen demographic, topics like loving yourself despite your flaws and the age-old relationship struggles have certainly been tackled before by Superchic[k], BarlowGirl, and numerous others, but Smith's music still manages to stand out in a crowd.

In "Superstar," Smith is wise enough to anticipate objections from those who might think she's a little too young to be dispensing life advice at 23—"I may be just a girl to you/Don't have to listen if you don't want to." But Smith isn't afraid to infuse painful life experiences into her songs. On the piano-driven closer, "First Words," Smith tells the heartbreaking story of the awkward first-time meeting with the father she never knew for 14 years. Rather than speaking in generalities, her story effectively drives the message of forgiveness home.

Utilizing the same heart-on-her-sleeve approach is "Over It," the best break-up anthem since Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone." Smith has a slight snarl in her voice and the raw emotion of someone who's been there, making it easily one of the album's highlights. Whether it's her gutsy, authoritative vocals and shimmering guitar accompaniment that effectively set the tone on "Beauty" or the rollicking call for spiritual rejuvenation in "Renew Me," Smith makes the most of each track and convincingly delivers a decidedly counter-cultural message with verve and style—exactly the way rock 'n' roll should be.

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