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Gospel Music According to Disney?

Never listened to the station with "We're All Ears!" for a motto? Though it can't hurt to be a kid of 4 to 15 or a parent of one, don't fret. Its satellite-fed, eclectic array of pop, sometimes cleaned up by the artists to meet family-friendly Disneyan specs (e.g., Lou Bega replaced the liquor store in his "Mambo No. 5" to a candy shop), makes for clean, mostly upbeat listening. Other than the times the ingratiating DJ's annoy by playing, say, the more vapid works of The Baha Men or Lenny Kravitz, it's worth having on your satellite radio preset. Especially so when you're driving alone and no one can question your maturity by your station selection. 

No surprise, then, that Radio Disney has added to Stacie Orrico's and Switchfoot's crossover play. Following the less lewd leads of pop radio means there's no shortage of Kelly Clarkson on RD either. ZOEgirl, Barlow Girl, Superchic[k] and others have made the cut when they're not speaking too directly of the Most High. If the the Maker can arrange for such bands' more bubble gummy songs to testify between SmashMouth and a Mary Poppins Read-Along, good for all involved. 

Some of the most fun synergy comes when other Disney entities use Christian artists' music, thereby upping their probability of RD airplay. Such relationships are happening more than ever in recent months. 

One of the subtler examples comes in a rather unexpected place. Orrico's "(There's Gotta Be) More to Life" found its way into at least one episode of the Disney Channel's supernaturally-themed series That's So Raven. From there, the hit shows up on Disney's Karaoke Series:That's So Raven (Walt Disney Records, as is most everything else from here on). As with so many vocal-less sing-along discs for American Idol wannabe's, the original track is supplanted by a faithful recreation. Substitute singer Terry Wood goes for the same tremulous soul-searching Orrico lent the song. Whether she invests in it spiritually as Orrico does remains a mystery.          
The symbiotic relationship between 'tween-targeted foursome Jump 5 and Disney goes back a few years. So many are their contributions to entertainment products from the Disneyverse that their publicist no longer sends out press releases about them. 

One of their earliest Dis-commissions, a re-recording of the theme to Beauty And The Beast for the movie's DVD release, found its way onto The Very Best of Jump 5 (Sparrow). Like their remake of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless The U.S.A.," recorded at the behest of RD to help kids cope with the World Trade Center bombing, the 5's "Beauty And The Beast" is at least as good as the original. What a shame their rendition of Katrina And The Waves' "Walkin' On Sunshine," done for another Disnesy flick, isn't here. A take on Michael W. Smith's evergreen "Friends" could give them multi-format Christian radio respect; the kickin' "Don't Run Away" and "Beautiful To Me" are likelier candidates to keep FoMs (Friends of Mickey) grinning. 

The Jumpers' closest competition among their kin in faith comes from sister trio Everlife. Lite rocker "I'm Over It" from their self-titled debut (ShelteRecords) made enough of a splash on RD that it was included on Radio Disney Jams 7. The girls were thusly favored to add their take on Phil Collins' "Strangers Like Me" from the Tarzan cartoon movie to Disney Mania 3, the series allowing RD faves to put their personal touches on numbers from its parent company's voluminous catalog. Jump5 collect royalties from the same compilation as their nearly too-giddy "Hawiian Roller Coaster Ride," from the series based on the endearing Polynesian-meets-alien 'toon movie Lilo & Stitch, numbers among its 15 cuts. J5 completeists also parted with greenbacks for another L&S:The Series piece, an extended version (!) of "Aloha, E Komo Mai" on Disney Channel Hits:Take 1.     

Let recipients of Christian press ink and/or retail distribution be warned that Clay Aiken and Nick Lachey & Jessica Simpson also all take their turns at numbers from the Aladdin soundtrack on Disneymaina 3.

Orrico and J5 represent on last Christmas season's Radio Disney Jingle Jams with songs from each act's own holiday album. Skip those and head to "I Love Christmas" by RD regular Fan_3. The white gal rapper with an underscore in her moniker and a lackadaisical East Coast sass in her simplistic rhymes kids about being half-Jewish and waiting for eight days of Hannukah goodies. Her insistence in the same tune that Christmas is about more than the gifts she enumerates has me wondering whether girlfriend's in the Shepherd's fold. Since you are not going to hear "Christ" minus the "mas" on a Disney album, and there's no mention of it on her own website, there's research to do. 

Ditto Hilary Duff. The star of the perpetually rerun Disney Channel staple Lizzie McGuire parlayed that fame into a series of thus-far middling movies and a recording career. All that's common knowledge. Less commonly known is that she and older sister Hayley (played Pedro's school election nemesis in Napoleon Dynamite) were interviewed for short-lived Christian teen mag' Beautiful Girl. Some of La Hilary's subsequent career moves may belie whatever got her that interview. She's still a firm enough fixture in the Disney pantheon to have earned spots on more than one of the previously mentioned albums. 

Lastly, the soundtrack to Disney's latest cinematic cultivation of feminine pre-teen fantasies, Ice Princess, boasts a soundtrack rife with godly girlies. A recent Superchic[k] oldie ("Get Up") rubs shoulders with what, for me, is the least appealing Jump 5 offering since their Christmas album ("Just A Dream"). Adding her own pizzazz to the show tune that gave Bjork her highest U.S. profile before her swan dress at the Oscars, "It's Oh So Quiet," is Lucy Wodward. She co-wrote Orrico's "More To Life"  and had her own pop radio success with the gender-positive "Dumb Girls" a bit ago, too. 

Two saintly sweethearts who have relied little on Christian media also find their way here. Diana DeGarmo, Ameircan Idol runner-up and daughter of !Hero composer Eddie DeGarmo, duet partner of Dana Key, offers inspirational balladry on ""Reachin' For Heaven." 

Nataha Bedingfield, already a steady pop chart presence in the U.K., makes what looks like her U.S. debut on Ice Princess, too. As with DeGarmo, music runs in her family. If you remember her brother Danny's transcontinental hits, such as "Gotta Get Through This," earlier in the '00s, you're recalling her brother. The siblings joined forces as DNA Algorhythm (an English friend of mine saw them doing DC Talk's "Heavenbound" on TV in Ol' Blimey) before embarking on solo work. While Danny's sophomore CD approaches, sister gets her mid-tempo groove on with Gospel choir accompaniment on soundtrack closer "Unwritten." Whether she'll follow Danny's lead and lend her voice to anything by poppy Brit praise rockers Delirious has yet to be heard. How about something with Darlene Zschech instead, Nat'? 

Regardless of protestations to the contrary by some cultural activism groups, the Disney brand has kept much of its original family friendliness and moral soundness. Long as Christian musicians record songs that aren't too overt in their Godward intent, count on the continuied mainstreaming of believers into the workings of one of the world's most proflic entertainment media purveyors. Babysteps to crossing over? Sounds good to me.            

Jamie Lee Rake 


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