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Love Reality 
Artist: Charmaine
Label: in:ciite / Word Distribution 

Singers who only go by their first name either believe in the uniqueness of their moniker and/or the uniqueness of their music enough to have it associated with just one name. 

Charmaine makes it on both of the aforementioned criteria. Back when she first reared her pretty head in 2002 as one of the signers on the brief-lived Elevate label, she made it on the first point. 

Eight years on, 24 year-old Charmaine is more her own young woman. Vocally, if Tal & Acacia shared a long-lost half-sister with Sixpence None The Richer's Leigh Bingham Nash and Alison Goldfrapp, Char' could be the likeliest party to be questioned. 

Musically, Goldfrapp's eclectic electro-danceability also provides a clue as to where Love Reality resides. But so do the less beat-heavy, more atmospheric electronics of The Postal Service, Owl City and '90s Britons such as The Beloved. 

For the market to which Charmaine is being primarily pitched, she may be unique. And even if she has readier points of comparison outside the Christosphere (although their aren't any gal singers on the U.S. pop chart presently), she has the goods to bring her thang to the world at large.

In part, that's because she tends to twist Christo-pop tropes in disarming enough ways to rob them of cliche. If the bright lilt of "Tokyo" sounds like its accompanying another "the Lord's my boyfriend" lyric, the relationship sounds less icky than it would with a less deft voice. And the kind of BFF-to-BFF-via-Jesus sisterly advice Britt Nicole might give in a way that makes her sound like a morally sound Britney Spears with a nth of the chutzpah (and hooks), Charmaine manages to redeem with edgier imagery and vibes on "Tied To The Ground." Charmaine even casts the idea of Godly grace from a novel perspective on "Not Fair."

She may try a touch too hard toward album's end when trancy synths abut sitar and plucked classical strings on 'Epiphany." Nor does every Australian chick singer have to follow in Kylie and Danni Minogue's dance diva stilettos, but with all the keyboards and such, a couple more clubby turns beyond the sumptuous "Run" would have done her well. That said, maybe she can't be blamed for wanting to distance herself far as possible from her kiddie pop roots (dance beats aplenty populate Radio Disney and the iShine catalog). And, the Minogues might have some trouble at the surging mid-tempo confessional that closes this set, "Revolutionary Thought."

Charmaine's Love Reality works as a wholly believable reinvention from an artist one could have assumed lost to eight years' absence. Christian radio might have a collective conniption fitting in her forward-thinking hookiness, but it's great to have her back.

Jamie Lee Rake 


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