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Wonderful Crazy
Artist: Katelyn Tarver
Label: TC Music

Talk to me enough about music, and you'll know that, among other things, I'm all about the 'tween pop. Give me something that's a must-add for Radio Disney's playlist by some aged-in-its-prime demographic, and so long as I'm not embarrassed (that, readers, takes a lot), I'm happy with my frothy, so-called guilty pleasure.

That's why I was rooting for Katelyn Tarver. The perky, blonde high schooler not only has the kind of looks that could land her a modelling contract. She's Christian, too. Good.

That may be more than can be said for much of the American Idol Junior finalist's debut. A bevy of writers, including Christian market adult pop staple Scott Krippayne's titular tune, don't drum up much in terms of memorability (Krippayne's contribution has more of a hook than most cuts here). Production values neither punch with a zip-bang-pow (the usual 'tweener prerogative) nor proffer a conscientious subtlety in touch with Tarver's natural breathiness; they're just "there."

And some of the songs she was given! The chorus of "Life Was" gives us the existential conundrum "There is no love without love." Oh, dear. In "Keep Your Eyes On The Prize," our heroine offers her romantic faithfulness under conditions that he's already hers. Huh?

Happily for all concerned, Tarver saves her best for last. And would you belive her best is a reggae song? "Everything" makes the Spice Girls or Backstreet Boys sound astute by comparison, but Tarver sounds committed to the tune's quixotic couplets over a poppily bubbling lover's rock reggae lilt.

Unless she and her handlers can summon more similar surprises, here's looking for her in Vogue soon.

Jamie Lee Rake  November 26, 2005

Katelyn Tarver is a name that may be familiar to you if a few seasons ago you were watching American Juniors where she appeared as a finalist. If you haven't seen this talented young woman in action before now, get ready for the next teen sensation to hit the airwaves. Katelyn Tarver who turned sixteen on November 21st already is poised to become the next sweetheart of the American public. 

Her CD release Wonderful Crazy is packed with feel good pop songs about your first crush and pursuing your heart's dreams. The title track written by the very talented Scott Krippayne will be released through dual mainstream and Christian radio stations during the month of January. 

The music scene has been devoid of an uncompromised musical icon for far too long. With songs such as; "Undeniable," "Closer to My Heart," and "Keep Your Eyes On The Prize," Tarver may just fill that void. Time will tell, of course, but it is refreshing to hear a sixteen year old singing something other than sex, drugs bad vibes, or how someone done you wrong. The words to Eran Tabib and Gabriel Dorman's "Closer to My Heart" are a good fit for Tarver.

     I called you on the phone and I left you a message
      Told you everything I was feeling inside
      Suddenly I wish you were right here beside me
      Cause, baby, I'm feeling so lonely tonight
      But there's no chance for romance
      If you don't wait for a slow dance 

Glenville Georgia's teen sweetheart worked with producers Tom and Concett Bradley to create Wonderful Crazy. The producers create an ambience that fits with Tarver's mid-teen's bubbly personality. They aren't trying to dress a barely sixteen year old up and pass her off as an early twenties jaded rock mamma. 

In addition to the writers already mentioned, Sean and Kevin Kumar, Mattias Gustafsson, and Nina Ossoff receive writing credits for this CD. They have created songs that when combined with Tarver's vocals will pull at the heart strings of teenage girls everywhere. Her soft vocals combined with her comely looks will break the hearts of many a teenage guy who imagines taking her to the prom.

If you are looking for an album boasting dance music, deep grooves or edgy tunes you aren't going to find it on this recording. If you are looking for easy going pop love tunes that remind you of your first love or your next love this is probably the album you will probably want to roll down the windows of your car to and sing your heart out. 

The producers do however tease us with something a little different on the closing track "Everything." This song features some funky island drum beats provided by Tim Leitner on percussion and drums. The producers coaxed Tarver's voice a little closer to that lazy sleepy feel of the Caribbean rather than the bubbly vocals associated with the other songs on the disc. The song features some excellent guitar work by bassist Gabriel Dorman and guitarist Roman Zeitlin. 

No doubt Tarver will take her fair share of hits from scribes and critics that want to carve her up saying there is nothing earth shattering about her music. It seems to me our parents danced in the fifties and sixties to feel good songs and in the seventies, there was an entire generation that either flailed to disco or lost their eardrums on heavy metal. In more recent generations, we have had punk, recycled punk, grunge, and new wave. Can most of them really be considered earth shattering? Katelyn when the detractors raise their heads ignore them and just keep on doing what you are doing. After all, it has all been done before; some of us just aren't old enough to remember when.

Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved

Joe Montague is an internationally published journalist / photographer. His ministry is dedicated to the memory of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18. All copyright and distribution rights remain the property of Joe Montague. 

It is difficult not to dismiss Katelyn Tarver's debut album as prefab pop aimed at the teen set.  Heavily promoted on Radio Disney, and a finalist on American Idol Juniors, Tarver has built up quite the impressive resume at the age of fifteen, as she also appears in commercials and has an upcoming movie.

Wonderful Crazy, however, is just that ten songs written by other people, slickly engineered and packaged by studio wizards, and marketed in such a way to attempt to combine cuteness with an assumed sophistication that tries to make her appear older.   In short, Tarver is being pushed much in the same manner as Ashlee Simpson, although she definitely is more talented.

The title track, written by Scott Krippayne (!), will undoubtedly be the radio single. "I'll Make It Real" takes an R&B turn (not all that well), while "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize" travels the same ground, but tries to infuse some street credibility.   "Life Was" is the typical CCM "is this about God or my boyfriend?" type of song.

Tarver has some potential she can sing. Some guidance and an experienced guide in the studio would help better choices can be made that would be more suitable to her vocal style.   Older listeners will unfortunately not see this disc as "Wonderful," but repeated airplay may drive them "Crazy."

Brian A. Smith
29 December 2005



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