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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Rachael Lampa

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Jul
Rachael Lampa
Sounds like … the pop makeover that Christina Aguilera, Stacie Orrico, and Pink received after their debut albums, plus instances of eclectic soundsAt a glance … both experimental and offbeat, Rachael Lampa is a surprisingly strong step in the right direction for the young power vocalistTrack ListingAll This TimeRubberhouseOutrageousNo Other OneWhen I FallBeing AliveYou Never KnowThe Good LifeHonestThe ArtRoom

Blame it on the volatility of pop music, but boy, does time fly. It seems only yesterday when Word Records introduced to the world a petite 15-year-old by the name of Rachael Lampa, right at the advent of Christian teen-pop in 2000. That very same year saw the debuts of Plus One, Stacie Orrico, and ZOEgirl, but Lampa was in a category all by herself. Like a young Mariah Carey or Celine Dion—or Diana DeGarmo in hindsight—she won acclaim less for her beats or image and more for her vocal range and age. Now 19, she's ready to change that perception a bit with her new self-titled album.

In many respects, Rachael Lampa mirrors the artistic ownership that Christina Aguilera, Pink, and Stacie Orrico attained following their initial teenybopper offerings. Like the mainstream divas, the Rachael of Live for You and Kaleidoscope fame was originally marketed solely on the strength of her voice, and the girl merely watched from the sidelines while producers Brent Bourgeois and Brown Bannister booked costly recording sessions and gave her well-crafted—if not generic and impersonal—pop songs. Though well intentioned on the surface, it often resulted in stylistic disparities that found the singer jumping erratically from teen-pop and Latin beats to power ballads, gospel anthems, and inspirational numbers, all without a sense of identity. This hodgepodge of influences ultimately led many to be ambivalent about her music, since she couldn't really focus on a particular style. Unlike Orrico, Lampa chose to wear as many hats as were given her, and ironically, she all but found her voice.

Expect that to change with this eponymous effort, a record that sees Lampa teaming up with producer Tommy Sims (Eric Clapton, CeCe Winans, Jaci Velasquez) and overseeing a large portion of the creative process, at least lyrically. The outcome is a progressive and largely atypical pop album, one that relies less on the singer's trademark pipes and more on interesting musical ideas and off-the-wall dynamics. The bubblegum is gone, and all that's left is a left-field funk-infused collection of songs that bleed right into one another. Take the first track, the six-minute-plus "All This Time," a keyboard driven pop/rock tune with swirling strings, time signature shifting hooks, and no radio-friendly chorus. Or first single "When I Fall," a huge stadium-rock cut with verses that recall U2 circa The Joshua Tree.

Lampa also adapts well to the funky backdrops that Sims sends her way. The funk coronation of "Rubberhouse," for example, is a thumping, "Crazy In Love"-styled banger that calls for unity among brethren. "Outrageous" is a light reading of something the Red Hot Chili Peppers might do, squeaky guitars and all. And "The Good Life" features Robert Randolph in a spirited performance that's lighter than his own material, but that fits nicely in the context of the record. In what's probably the sharpest left turn on the entire album, Lampa tries her best Gwen Stefani impersonation on a track that's both fun and quirky, the ska-influenced rocker "Being Alive;" the fast pace, scatted vocals, and horn section make this song a total blast, but it's not necessarily something accessible enough to be worked to radio.

Such is the case with even Lampa's signature ballads. These are no longer sappy and overdone AC numbers like "No Greater Love" or "Always Be My Home," but a little more refined and subtle than that. Of the three ballads, "The Art" is probably the most beautiful of them all, a delicate admonition for depression victims to see life "as the art of living on." But as well-written and emotive as this song is, some might find fault with it as Lampa's enunciation tends to be somewhat muddy.

Lampa doesn't exactly reinvent the wheel with her self-titled album, but she does manage to reinvent herself, raising the bar for how a pop album should sound today. Depending on your expectations, this album won't necessarily floor you with one listen, but it may prove more rewarding after repeated spins. Chances are that Lampa's original two target audiences won't like it much, since it's too sophisticated for the teenybopper set and too eclectic for the average Christian AC radio listener. But it's for those very qualities that Rachael Lampa is so likely to impress anyone else looking for more than the simplistic and predictable pop so prevalent today.