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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
There are multiple groups and solo artists practicing this now (V*ENNA, Aurora, Rachel Lampa, Shine-MK, Whisper Loud, Stacie Orrico), but as far as I can tell the best one is coming out of Sparrow Records with the improbable name of ZOEgirl--what does that mean? According to Kristin Swinford, one of the members of the group, ďZoe means 'life'--the kind of life attained through living according to the will of God in Christ Jesus. We want our lives to be examples of that -- being a 'ZOEgirl.'Ē
Regardless, if this kind of music is your kind of music (even if you won't admit it in polite company) you will want to pick up ZOEgirlís debut disc. Not only is it imminently danceable, but the lyrics that get stuck in your mind wonít be embarrassing should you find yourself singing them out loud one day.
ZOEgirl is comprised of three young women (Chrissy Conway, Alisa Girard, and Kristin Swinford) who did not know each other before being tapped by Sparrow to form this group. Whatís unusual about that is these three women, after meeting each other and joining forces, wrote or co-wrote every song on their debut while in the studio recording it. And if their lyrics were puddles, youíd actually get more than the soles of your feet wet when you walked through them.
The first single, ďI Believe,Ē was written by Girard and tells the tale of a young woman who could not face the real world until finding hope and salvation in Christ:
I used to close my eyes and pray the time would pass me bySet that lyric to a catchy beat, which Girard did, and youíve got one memorable single. But, do that for 8 or 9 out of 11 tracks and you have a great debut album. Of course, some great producers, including Tedd Tjornhom, Quinlan, and Joey P ably assisted the trio.
The real test is whether the girls can carry a ballad -- without the benefit of drum machines, sequencers, and synthesizers. Truthfully, they can. Lyrically one of the strongest songs on the disc is the ballad ďGive Me One Reason,Ē written by all three singers. It is written from an unusual point of view for a Christian song -- that of a young woman who is sexually experienced, but after giving her life to Jesus embraces abstinence. In the song the woman is trying to explain to her boyfriend, who is not Christian, why she can no longer live the way she did before her conversion:
I always thought youíd understand the reasons whyThereís real life songwriting. This is a song that could speak to ďsecond-chanceĒ virgins and offer them encouragement that yes, it is possible to go back to abstinence. In the song, not only is the singer saying it canít be the way it once was, but, hey, by the way, she says, you need Him too:
Boy, I still long for your embraceWhat sets ZOEgirl apart, other than their intelligent lyrics, is their sincerity. These women are genuine -- and current. In the song ďUpside DownĒ (not a remake of the Diana Ross hit) the group sings about the shallowness of pop culture. OK, so thatís pretty nervy when you consider they are part of the culture, but it comes off all right because of the message:
Whatís up with all the obsession?ZOEgirlís debut is a great example of having your candy--and eating it too. Thatís what sets it above similar projects by other groups. Yes, itís pop fluff, but itís fluff fortified with the aural equivalent of the United States daily requirement of Vitamin C; itís also good for you.
Michael Ehret 10/9/2000