Rachael Lampa: “All We Need”
Released: September 27, 2011.
The beginning of the millennium was an exciting time for music. Boy bands who dressed alike and danced ruled the charts. You didn’t even need to use real instruments to back up vocals. You didn’t even need good vocals-just good looks and a good backup team of singers and/or dancers. This was the formula for success during this albeit short-lived era of pop music.
Christian music A&R teams quickly picked up on the idea as well and thus, Plus One, ZOEgirl, Jump5, Take 6, Aurora and many like bands were birthed to capitalize off of the desperation of young tweens in need of positive role models. Many of these groups experienced immense success at the onset of their careers but slowly faded out. It was, needless to say, a disposable genre of music that they dedicated themselves to. As the mainstream music world moved away from bubblegum pop, so did they.
But what the mainstream music world did not have were girls as young as 14 with immense singing talent. That’s where Contemporary Christian artists like Rachael Lampa and Stacie Orrico came in. While Orrico would quickly skyrocket to fame , sign a secular record deal and record a platinum selling album before even graduating high school, Lampa was slowly making rounds within Christian circles. She had her successes-performing for Jay Leno, and at the 2008 Republican National Convention-but even after thirteen years in the public eye, she has yet to catapault herself into stardom.
The problem may have been an inconsistent image. Stacie Orrico, although fourteen, was not only an accomplished vocalist, but even a talented lyricist. She knew R&B tinged pop suited her voice and musical preferences. Rachael, on the other hand, seemed to be suffering from split personality disorder. On one hand, she was the child version of Celine Dion, belting out inspirational ballads like “Blessed”, or “No Greater Love”. On the other, she was a Britney-Stacie wannabe (“Savior Song”). She finally took control of her own career in 2004 with her self-titled third album and tested out a variety of genres-including adult contemporary pop and even ska-but the result was less than satisfying.
After releasing a few independent EP’s, Rachael returned full force in 2011 with her fourth studio album, “All We Need”. She was in her late twenties and happily married-all of which should have served as inspiration for new tunes. However, this offering leaves much to be desired. For one, Lampa’s vocals have matured, but not for the better. She seems to lack control over the same soaring sequences she so easily mastered as a teenager. This is particularly evident in lead single “Remedy” in which she sings about Christ being the only answer to life’s problems. The version on the album is different than the preview she posted on YouTube in 2011. Complete with a heavy backbeat and pounding keyboards, it sounds like a home-made track rather than the comeback of a seasoned veteran of the industry.
Opening track “All We Need” is a fast pop number that is a tad too busy at the chorus. The title speaks for its lyrical content. “Savior’s Face’” is a mediocre spiritual track while “My One and Only” is standard club dancefare. “Run to You” is perhaps the most heartfelt track. Slickly produced (and cowritten by Tao Cruz [!]) the song speaks of surrendering to God. Rachael’s vocals lace around the beat nicely. Other interesting tracks are “No Escape” (with a slightly Motown feel) and “Uncharted Territory”, which makes smart comparisons between Colombus’ conquest of North America and trying new things.
And of course, there are piano ballads. “Beauty’s Just A Word” builds up nicely, but the meaning of the words is unclear. The most mature track has to be “Feel“. She explains on her website that the song is about how she, as a wife, sometimes just needs to feel her emotions, whether it be pain or pleasure, and does not like having her husband trying to rationalize and explain them away. It may sound a bit kooky, but it works and are perhaps the most genuine lyrics of her entire career.
Lyrically, the album meets CCM standards, although none of these songs hit life’s bigger issues or struggles. She sings about following your dreams no matter what in “Elevate”, but this is clearly contradicting “Close to the Sun” from her 2010 EP “Human.” Based upon the legend of Icarus, the song warned against reckless abandon and pursuit of happiness. It’s quite disappointing that she would sing something with the exact opposite message now that she’s signed to a record label. It’s akin to “selling out.”
The problem with this album isn’t that the songs “aren’t good”-they just aren’t anything new and fall all over the musical spectrum. Lampa still hasn’t discovered her niche in the music world and is unsuccessfully trying to wet her feet in different genres. You’d think that after six years away from it all, she would have sorted herself out. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case and we’re left with a sub-par offering.