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t wasn’t just Eric Cartman’s awesome Faith Plus One that were making crazy dollars in the 2003 Christian music scene. Stacie Orrico, who managed to net herself two top 40 singles in pretty much all the major music markets (with “Stuck” and “(There’s Gotta Be) More To Life”) became, in a year of unlikely chart heroes (“So, right, what I think the charts should have is a guy under investigation on child sex charges talking about how well his parties are catered for four weeks, followed by a four week stay at number one by a Christian Goth band fronted by a woman that looks like Snoopy” “I like it, but one of the biggest selling singles of the year should be a trance remix of a four year old Eurovision song contest winner” “It’s a deal”) one of its unlikeliest.
It’s difficult to decide whether Orrico is the first mumblings of a movement that harks back to a more innocent era of teen oriented pop, or just the final death throes of that movement as it still stands. Ever since Britney discovered the alcohols and the nicotines, and Christina got her backside out and started punching women in luchadore masks, “wholesome” hasn’t really been stocked in the contemporary pop supermarket. When Beyonce’s autistic-eyed breast wriggling is meant to be as close to God as modern popular music gets, people start feeling left out. What’s left for the kids that don’t want to wear thongs aged 13? Where’s the soundtrack for the abstinence rally? What’s left for 13 year olds who want to, shock horror, act like 14 year olds?
So Stacie is the genetically engineered solution to all of this, except there’s nothing contrived about it. It’s so naïve as to be heartbreaking. The sound operates fully in the paradigm between P!nk’s first and second albums, so 90% of the time we get an R&B; artiste going guitary, or possible the other way round. It’s not of one definitive genre, but when Stacie does decide to place her foot firmly on the R&B; pedal, it’s like 1999 all over again, and it were all She’kspere as far as the eye could see when I were a lad. Remember 1999? Britney was still a schoolgirl and Christina was about to duet with Ricky Martin. Happier times, I’m sure we all agree.
“Stuck” was what got everyone interested here, though, and with good reason. It was the first mainstream guide to the Orrico format, moody verses backed up with big, sing-a-long in the back of the car choruses, and that retro-quasi R&B;, retro-quasi singer-songwriter vibe. Lene Marlin crossed with Mary Mary, if you will. It was a key single for the ‘03, though, its skill relying on how Orrico understands the interaction of voice and backing track, tempering her speed, volume, breath control… in a different time and place her flow would make her a rapper of note. Not so her wordplay, though, as her lyrics tend to switch between “GRRR RELATIONSHIPS GRRR” and “YAY GOD YAY” (more on that later). Unjustly maligned follow-up single “(There’s Gotta Be) More to Life” represents Nazareth’s finest son to the fullest, and its easy to see how “There’s gotta be more to life than chasing around every temporary high” can be seen as the motto of this new teen tribal movement, one you feel Orrico’s masterplan is to become, if not the queen, then at least the prom queen of. The Max Martin-esque key change in this song is also performed so appallingly as to be utterly endearing as well.
Inevitably, though, the album loses its way somewhat after that killer 1-2 combination. Take a look at these wonderful lyrics from “Instead”, wherein our Stace decides that world the world needs now is for someone to rewrite “What It’s Like” by Everlast, and probably has exactly the same “It is you that is the enemy, you HAPPY PEOPLE” video:
“It was 90 degrees in the Summer heat
She was veiled in black all the way down to her feet
This is America doesn't she know
Somebody take her shopping buy her some clothes
She came up to me I didn't understand a word
I was about to leave then another thought occurred
She must be really lost scared and frustrated
I should try again to see what she's saying”
My God, that’s bad enough to make a woman catch the first Ryanair flight back from her hajj specifically to slap the girl.
After that opening double shot, there really is precious little else to hold the attention, the songs blur into each other after a while. Some are a bit more guitar, some are a bit more R&B;, one sounds like “Bills Bills Bills” done slightly better. Maybe this isn’t the start of a revolution in the charts, but even if it is the last gasp of a dying culture, it’s a breath strong enough to knock down some of pop’s current straw towers.
Reviewed by: Dom Passantino
Reviewed on: 2004-01-09
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