Do you remember back in 2003 when Christians were infuriated at Stacie Orrico for letting her single "Stuck" be played on mainstream radio and MTV? People accused her of being a "sell out" and thought she was abandoning her faith because she left Forefront and signed to Virgin Records. If those people hadn't stopped listening to her music, I wonder what their reaction would be to Stacie's latest album, Beautiful Awakening.
Originally slated for release in 2006, Beautiful Awakening has yet to be released in the US, due to the merging of Virgin Records with Capitol. Stacie has announced her search for a new record label that will release this album the way she had planned. Until then, she has embarked on another hiatus.
That's right-the reason why you haven't heard anything from Stacie since the '04 Grammy's for her self-titled album was because the young starlet needed a break from the public eye. From the age of 12, she was writing, recording, and performing non-stop, selling nearly 4 million albums and touring the world. At just 18 years of age, Orrico had a rare maturity to realize the need to escape from all the glitz and glamour and truly discover herself. She moved into her older sister's dorm and worked at her uncle's fish and chips restaurant to experience the true teenagehood she had never had. It was during this hiatus that Orrico wrote 55 songs, 12 of which (plus a few rarities, depending on which country you purchased it in) have made it onto Beautiful Awakening.
The first single, "So Simple," starts off with an urban, R&B feel, a la Nellie Fertado, and is about enjoying the simpler pleasures in life: family, walking in the rain, and learning something new. Tragically, that is as deep as things get. It appears that most of Orrico's hiatus was spent dating: boy, after boy... after boy? As that is primarily what this album is about.
The interesting songs - sonically and lyrically - are "Is It Me" and "Don't Ask Me To Stay." The former is one of the most original love songs you'll come across, with Stacie questioning whether her failed relationships are her own fault, and not the boys she's been with. On the track "Save Me," Stacie asks someone to deliver her from heartbreak - whether or not she's asking God depends on your interpretation of it.
It seems pretty shallow for the writer of ballads like "Dear Friend" and "Strong Enough" - at the tender age of 14 and 16 - to now just write odes to ex-boyfriends. But, if truth be told, these songs are still pretty good. Some of them are honest, raw and soul-baring, and for that, Orrico should be applauded. Sure, "Dream You," "Easy to Luv You," and "Take Me Away" are just your average pop/R&B love songs - cliched, boring, and sometimes a little cheesy: "I wish you could be here all the time/ Ohh, cause baby you belong at my side." But the lyrics are harmless and are nothing like the overtly sexual dance songs or "man-bashing" ballads you hear on mainstream radio.
Nor do you hear songs promoting sexual purity on mainstream radio. "I Can't Give It Up" is a very personal account of Stacie's struggle to abstain from sex. "Hey what am I doin'/ Over here late at night on the sofa/ Kissin and touchin.../ Now in this moment candles burnin' oh, it's so easy/ Got me compromising with my sexuality/ And I know that you and I have got a real good thing/ But when I pause, think it over/ It ain't right, gotta tell ya..."
"Babygirl" is Stacie's shout-out to teen moms, which is given an awesome urban feel. She also explores new musical dimensions in "Wait" and "Beautiful Awakening," which are R&B ballads with a twinge of... country? But the others songs really need help in the production area. Some of them sound very similar to what's already been done ("Take Me Away"), whereas others sound like cheap demos ("I'm Not Missing You"). Honestly, who in their right mind would leave a genius like producer Tedd T?
And unlike Stacie's past efforts, this album does not leave you floored, wondering how someone so young could possess such great talent. It's evident that her voice has matured, but at times, she sounds a little nasally congested. The awkwardly placed reverbs and self-echos just worsen the effect.
All in all, this is clean, innocent stuff, the kind of album you can just pop into your stereo when you come home from school or work to unwind. It may seem like Orrico abandoned her gospel roots, but this album was based entirely on personal experiences, and the songwriting process didn't depend on "squeezing two bible verses into every song," as she put it. Nor is she trying to gain fame through this record. Otherwise, "I Can't Give It Up" would have been omitted. Whether or not you like this album will depend on what's more important to you: gospel lyrics, or honest songwriting about anything - even if it means several love songs. It is important to note that none of these lyrics contradict Stacie's faith; however, it matters on how you feel about her choosing not to have any overtly Christian songs for Beautiful Awakening.JFH Reader Review: Review date: 6/21/09, written by Alicia Prescott for Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Virgin Records
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