Jaci Velasquez may only be twenty five years old, but she's been the princess of Christian Latin music for nearly a decade. With Beauty Has Grace marking her tenth studio release in nine years (including her popular strictly-Spanish releases), Velasquez changes her musical direction entirely. Removing herself completely from the States, Jaci flew to London, England to work with British producer Martin Terefe (Cold Play, Ron Sexsmith). The album was written and recorded in four months out of England's own Kennsington Sessions studio. The end result is a complete rebirth for Jaci, incomparable with any of her previous ventures.
Beauty Has Grace opens with the pop/rock "I'm Not Looking Down," introducing a noticably more modest vocal performance from Velasquez. She presents the verses in a somewhat tired but passionate and tender way that compliments the songs on Beauty Has Grace quite nicely. "With All My Soul," co-written with City On A Hill writers Marc Byrd and Steve Hindalong (which clearly bears their signature songwriting style), is one of the album's first highlights. A surrendering of control to our Heavenly Father, "With All My Soul" is the perfect example of the honest fragility that permeats most of the album.
"Something Beautiful" is another album highlight, beginning as somewhat of a ballad before the chorus breaks out a bold electric guitar riff and crisp live drums that give the song a tasty pop/rock feel. "Tonight," a GlassByrd cover, features Birmingham, England native Michael Clarke on vocals, preceding the quirky "When You Hold Me." Blending electronic effects with a sonic guitar riff with Jaci's best Meredith Brook impression, "When You Hold Me" bends the worship genre in ways many will have to hear to believe. The album winds down nicely with the upbeat "Reason To Believe," the beautiful, piano-driven "Supernatural," and the slow-tempo and catchy "This Love."
Beauty Has Grace is a risky and bold stylistic shift for Jaci Velasquez. The Brit-influenced pop/rock flavor of the record makes Velasquez's songs much more accessible, but without a hint of Latin flavor to be found on the record, it may come as a shock to some long-time fans. Regardless, Beauty Has Grace is an intelligent and welcomed change for Velasquez and one that certainly makes me want to watch what this girl will be up to from now on much more closely.- Review date: 4/30/05, written by John DiBiase
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