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Chrismas shopping help - female music: Britt Nicole and more

Perhaps you are searching online for some ideas on music for someone who likes female music, and, like me, you don’t follow that genre too much.  There are some albums released since the summer you may wish to learn about.

Let me start by saying that I am not a huge fan of female backed music, in particular of the pop genre.  As such, it is likely a detailed review of this style of music won’t be coming from my fingertips.  I prefer the gutsy deep solo voice of Jennifer Knapp or the hard edge of the female fronted band Flyleaf.

But when I saw fellow staff member Brandon's post regarding Britt Nicole’s success on iTunes back in August when her sophomore album The Lost Get Found was released, I wondered what the fuss was all about.  I remembered that the pre-release had come across my desk, so I decided to have a listen.

First things first, there are 11 tracks on the album, put out by Sparrow/EMI CMG on August 11, 2009.  That is a plus for me these days; in a world of so many nine and ten song discs.  Not only that, but the songs don’t all sound the same to me, which is a change.

I know the dance/R&B/techno pop sound is enjoyed by many, but for me, I want the real thing.  Give me the original voice, not something so transformed that when something happens to the sound system in a live setting, the show is ruined.  Much to my surprise, Britt’s true solid voice is showcased more than once throughout the album.  My personal favorite is the last track, “Have it Your Way”; a personal song to God in which you sense she did not realize anyone else was in the room when it was recorded.

“Catchy pop songs” is a phrase that often makes me shudder.  Yet somehow I began to sing along with some of the songs, even on the first listen!   My first repeat song came with track 5, titled, “Headphones”.  “Any time you feel alone, put on your headphones/ Love, love's coming through your headphones…”  I may have even bopped with the beat as I listened.

Lyrically, I noted depth in the subject matter sprinkled throughout the disc.  Speaking about the songs “The Lost Get Found,” “Walk on the Water,” and “Safe”, Britt recalls in her bio, “They all have a similar message of having the courage to step out in faith and walk in what God has called you to do even when it’s scary. I don’t want to be selfish anymore. I don’t want to be safe anymore. When God tells me to step out and talk to somebody or believe for what seems impossible, I want to do it.”

Though I had seen Britt live before, I was probably working the merch table and did not pay much attention to her music.  Perhaps next time I will give her live set a chance.  And I may even keep this album in rotation.

Other pop female music on the market includes newbie Lara Landon’s Beloved, released on September 22, 2009, with GRAMMY award winning Michael Omartian at the helm as producer (Amy Grant, Chicago, Rod Stewart, The Jackson’s, Whitney Houston).  Described as Soul/Folk Rock/Ambient on her Myspace page, the variety of styles on the album is sure to suit many.  From her bio, “the tunes contained therein fall somewhere along the stylistic plane of Plumb, electronic innovator Imogen Heap, plus piano siren Tori Amos.

Not new to the scene, signer/songwriter Bethany Dillon is still making music with her fourth release, Stop and Listen, which hit the streets on September 8, 2009 on Sparrow/EMI CMG.  I wonder how much husband Shane Barnard of acoustic duo Shane and Shane influences her music these days.  Or perhaps her maturity in life and experiences in the music business have affected her latest effort.  Bethany explains, “Most of the songs are about the not-so-simple ideas of stopping, listening and waiting,”

Her bio explains my thoughts best.  “Sonically, Stop & Listen takes a decidedly different turn as well, not completely removing Bethany from the acoustic pop space she’s settled into, but giving her songs the layered, detailed attention they deserve.”  Catch Bethany on a Christmas tour with Shane and Shane and Phil Wickham.

Lanae’ Hale is not new to the scene, having been introduced to the scene with an EP in 2007.  Earlier this year, her first full length album Back & Forth was released on Centricity Records.  Described as “deep pop” in the bio, her style won’t reach anywhere near “most spun” for 2009 in my world, but she has a nice voice and thoughtful lyrics.

Experiences with cutting as a teen influences who Lanae’ is today, and shapes her songwriting.  "I want people who are suffering to know," Lanae' says, "that there really is hope on the other side of brokenness, because when I was struggling, I didn't have hope but I desperately wanted it. God worked miracles and literally saved my life. So if I can use the platform I have now to tell people that there is hope in Christ, and even beyond that there's freedom and life abundant, then that's what I want to do."  Lanae’ is on the road with Downhere and Jason Gray with the Bethlehem Skyline 2009 Tour.  Incidentally, Downhere released an album titled How Many Kings: Songs for Christmas on October 6th of this year which includes great renditions of familiar songs alongside original tunes.  Singer/songwriter Jason Gray put forth Everything Sad Is Coming Untrue on September 1st.   Both Jason and Downhere are also on Centricity Records.

For a bit of country flair, check out Chynna & Vaughan, whose debut album One Reason released on October 6, 2009 on Reunion Records/Provident Label Group.  The duo is comprised of Chynna Phillips, one third of the pop supergroup Wilson Phillips and independently-famed singer/songwriter Vaughan Penn.  From the bio, the album, “conveys themes of redemption, forgiveness, and hope with a musical canvas of authentic, organic, and honest instrumentations and harmony-rich arrangements”.

As I mentioned earlier, I would much prefer a female fronted alternative rock band such as Flyleaf, who happened to release Mememto Mori (A&M/Octone Records) on the same day as Switchfoot’s Hello Hurricane.  Maybe someday you will see an in depth review by me of this band with Lacey Mosley on lead vocals.  The album undoubtedly does not fall into the “sophomore slump” category.