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ZOEgirl
Artist: ZOEgirl
Label: Sparrow Records
Length: 11 tracks

Sample
I Believe
Boy groups, schmoy groups. The real action in high-energy pop these days, at least in Christian circles, is girl groups. When it comes to boy groups thereís -- Plus One and thatís about it. But there seems to be no shortage of young, good-looking, girls willing to go solo or in a group to create the current version of disco music. Yes, I said disco. Get over it. Because lo, this kind of disposable pop music will be with you always, until the end of the world--only now they call it dance music. 

There are multiple groups and solo artists practicing this now (V*ENNA, Aurora, Rachel Lampa, Shine-MK, Whisper Loud, Stacie Orrico), but as far as I can tell the best one is coming out of Sparrow Records with the improbable name of ZOEgirl--what does that mean? According to Kristin Swinford, one of the members of the group, ďZoe means 'life'--the kind of life attained through living according to the will of God in Christ Jesus. We want our lives to be examples of that -- being a 'ZOEgirl.'Ē

Regardless, if this kind of music is your kind of music (even if you won't admit it in polite company) you will want to pick up ZOEgirlís debut disc. Not only is it imminently danceable, but the lyrics that get stuck in your mind wonít be embarrassing should you find yourself singing them out loud one day.

ZOEgirl is comprised of three young women (Chrissy Conway, Alisa Girard, and Kristin Swinford) who did not know each other before being tapped by Sparrow to form this group. Whatís unusual about that is these three women, after meeting each other and joining forces, wrote or co-wrote every song on their debut while in the studio recording it. And if their lyrics were puddles, youíd actually get more than the soles of your feet wet when you walked through them.

The first single, ďI Believe,Ē was written by Girard and tells the tale of a young woman who could not face the real world until finding hope and salvation in Christ:

 I used to close my eyes and pray the time would pass me by
 So I could fly away in my dreams to anywhere unreal
 And Iíd hide away from everything
 I didnít know what was real; I didnít know the truth
 There was a day when somebody introduced me to You
 And You breathed your life in me, You set me free...
 Now Iíll shout it from the mountain
 That Iím not the same that I used to be
 I believe in God, believe in God
Set that lyric to a catchy beat, which Girard did, and youíve got one memorable single. But, do that for 8 or 9 out of 11 tracks and you have a great debut album. Of course, some great producers, including Tedd Tjornhom, Quinlan, and Joey P ably assisted the trio.

The real test is whether the girls can carry a ballad -- without the benefit of drum machines, sequencers, and synthesizers. Truthfully, they can. Lyrically one of the strongest songs on the disc is the ballad ďGive Me One Reason,Ē written by all three singers. It is written from an unusual point of view for a Christian song -- that of a young woman who is sexually experienced, but after giving her life to Jesus embraces abstinence. In the song the woman is trying to explain to her boyfriend, who is not Christian, why she can no longer live the way she did before her conversion:

 I always thought youíd understand the reasons why
 Why I donít want to do the things that I used to do
 Now that my heart and my soul, belong to God and God alone
 ...How can you expect me to
 Walk with Him and give myself to you?
Thereís real life songwriting. This is a song that could speak to ďsecond-chanceĒ virgins and offer them encouragement that yes, it is possible to go back to abstinence. In the song, not only is the singer saying it canít be the way it once was, but, hey, by the way, she says, you need Him too:
 Boy, I still long for your embrace
 But what Iíve found in God, oh, it could never be replaced
 Still I pray for the chance
 As you slip through my hands youíll come around
 But your heart's so far away from the words Iím trying to say
 Wish I could hold you both and still be true
 Thereís only one thing left for me to do
 Baby, I love you
 But I canít stay with you unless you love Him too
What sets ZOEgirl apart, other than their intelligent lyrics, is their sincerity. These women are genuine -- and current. In the song ďUpside DownĒ (not a remake of the Diana Ross hit) the group sings about the shallowness of pop culture. OK, so thatís pretty nervy when you consider they are part of the culture, but it comes off all right because of the message:
 Whatís up with all the obsession?
 Whatís in and whatís out?
 Thatís what itís about
 ...Talk shows, ecstasy, horoscopes, DVDís, pop culture,
 magazines, chatrooms, MTV
 Protein diets, Internet, the story isnít over yet
 the psychic network really cares?
 WHO WANTS TO BE A ZILLIONAIRE?
ZOEgirlís debut is a great example of having your candy--and eating it too. Thatís what sets it above similar projects by other groups. Yes, itís pop fluff, but itís fluff fortified with the aural equivalent of the United States daily requirement of Vitamin C; itís also good for you.

Michael Ehret 10/9/2000


 

   
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