Saturday, June 22, 2013

Music Review: All We Need by Rachael Lampa

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun songs with variety of styles
Cons: A few lyrically shallow songs
The Bottom Line
A welcome return
With fun collection of songs
Will please patient fans

All We Needed Was Rachael Lampa's Welcome Return to Christian Music

When I started to learn about the groups on Season 3 of The Sing-Off, I was surprised to find that one of the newly formed groups included Rachael Lampa.  She exploded onto the Christian music scene at 15 in 2000, but pretty much vanished after a third disc was released in 2004.  But there she was on the show in the group The Collective, a group of solo artists who have put their careers on hold to try the a cappella thing.  And, in a stroke of irony, the very next day saw the release of Rachael's new studio disc, All We Need.

When Rachael debuted in 2000, she was part of the wave of Christian female ten pop artists trying to be the answer to Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.  She has stayed with the strong pop sound, and it's very hard not to find yourself taping and humming along almost immediately.

While Rachael is still a pop artist, her sound has matured some and definitely updated.  The disc opens with "All We Need," a slick track filled with drums, guitar, and light piano.  Like many of the tracks on this disc, the song is upbeat and fun.

But Rachael has never been content to stick with just pop, as she shows with "Remedy," which also is the first single.  There's a definitely hip hop bent to this song as she sings about Jesus being the remedy for sin.

The hip hop doesn't stick around for too long, and Rachael is back to pure pop with "Savior's Face," a song that reminds us that all of us are sinners who need God's grace.

My one complaint with Rachael's music over the years is that it can be shallow lyrically.  There's certainly some of that here.  The first two tracks alone are fairly familiar ideas with little depth.  But the pop is so slick that it makes the familiar fun.  Likewise, "No Escape," her cover of Taio Cruz's "Run to You" and the song for her new husband, "My One and Only," are more flash than substance.  Not that I mind since I'm humming along tapping my toes without even thinking about it.

Some of the other songs, however, are amazing when you really listen to them.  "Beauty's Just a Word" talks about the hard times in life and how we appreciate the good things more because of them.  No, not a new idea.  But just check out the lyrics.  "It's dark so you can see the light and it's hard so you can know it's right/And pain beauty's just a word without you."  Something about the way the lyrics are set up makes it seem more poetic than many of the songs I know on the subject.  Couple that with the strings on the slower verses that discover into the faster chorus and you've got a beautiful song.

I also really like "Uncharted Territory."  A mid-tempo track, this one looks at someone facing a major change in their lives.  It's a song of encouragement to take those "baby steps" into the unknown.

"Feel" closes the original tracks on the disc, and it is written from the point of view of someone in pain who just wants a friendly shoulder to lean on.  "I don't need you to try to fix the world this time/I just want your heart to break every time I cry."  Again, it feels wonderfully fresh to me.

There are a total of 12 tracks on the disc, but the final two are songs she's already released.  "Human" was actually the title of an EP she released through her website last year (that I'm going to have to track down after learning about it).  It's a duet with Jonny Lang and speaks of the disparity between who we truly are and the face we put on to hide our weaknesses.  It's the slowest track here and has a pop/blues vibe that I find interesting.

Finally, the disc closes with a completely new version of "Live for You."  This was originally the title track from her debut disc in 2000, and a huge hit at the time.  It's a bit simpler musically with your basic drums, piano, and guitar, but it's been mixed so it still sounds like a contemporary pop track.  I'm often disappointed by an artist trying to cover their own classic, but this one is such a fun update that I like it.  I think it will appeal to Rachael's fans old and new.

Yes, I wish many of the lyrics were deeper and more poetic.  But the pop music is so much fun I can't complain too much.  All We Need is going to be another disc I'll enjoy for some time to come.

CD Length: 45:12
1. All We Need
2. Remedy
3. Savior's Face
4. Beauty's Just a Word
5. No Escape
6. Uncharted Territory
7. Elevate
8. My One and Only
9. Run to You
10. Feel
11. Human (featuring Jonny Lang)
12. Live for You (2011)

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