Sparrow Records, 2000


REVIEW BY: Michael Ehret


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 there's - Plus One and that's 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, "Zoe 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.'")

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 ZOEgirl's debut disc. Not only is it imminently danceable, but the lyrics that get stuck in your mind won't be embarrassing should you find yourself singing them out loud one day.

ZOEgirl is comprised of three young women (Chrissy Conway, Alisa Girard, and Swinford) who did not know each other before being tapped by Sparrow to form this group. What's 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, you'd actually get more than the soles of your feet wet when you walked through them.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The first single, "I Believe," 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 I'd hide away from everything I didn't know what was real; I didn't 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 I'll shout it from the mountain That I'm 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 you've 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 "Give Me One Reason," 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 you'd understand the reasons why Why I don't 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?

There's real life songwriting. This is a song that could speak to "second-chance" 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 can't be the way it once was, but, hey, by the way, she says, you need Him to:

Boy, I still long for your embrace But what I've found in God, oh, it could never be replaced Still I pray for the chance As you slip through my hands you'll come around But your hearts so far away from the words I'm trying to say Wish I could hold you both and still be true There's only one thing left for me to do Baby, I love you But I can't 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 "Upside Down" (not a remake of the Diana Ross hit) the group sings about the shallowness of pop culture. OK, so that's pretty nervy when you consider they are part of the culture, but it comes off all right because of the message:

What's up with all the obsession? What's in and what's out? That's what it's about ...Talk shows, ecstasy, horoscopes, DVD's, pop culture, magazines, chatrooms, MTV Protein diets, Internet, the story isn't over yet the psychic network really cares? WHO WANTS TO BE A ZILLIONAIRE?

ZOEgirl's debut is a great example of having your candy - and eating it too. That's what sets it above similar projects by other groups. Yes, it's pop fluff, but it's fluff fortified with the aural equivalent of the United States daily requirement of Vitamin C -- it's also good for you.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2000 Michael Ehret and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sparrow Records, and is used for informational purposes only.