What does a 17-year-old female pop singer usually sing about? Boys, womanhood, and stardom are some usual suspects. It's a bonus if the artist is beautiful and dresses provocatively. It helps guarantee TV time and get songs on trendy soundtracks.
For Stacie Orrico, that's kid stuff. She's already beautiful and has already thought about relationships. She prefers addressing spiritual matters. "I don't always understand / But I'll follow anyway cuz / There is a bigger plan, a destiny / I can't waste this precious time", Orrico writes in "Maybe I Won't Look Back". The song puts value on decisions made today, so that Orrico can live up to the song's title.
OK, so it's nice that Stacie Orrico has a brain and a soul. But can she sing? Is her music interesting?
Orrico's voice is matched by few teen stars. Only Christina Aguilera is better at this expressive vocal style. Orrico's backing music is basic urban R&B, although it's very focused. There are no horn sections or guest rappers. Percussion is varied, and the soundscape is dynamic. Choruses add guitars and rock a little, but the music stays sparse. Orrico knows what she can do -- excellent melodic pop -- and doesn't try to push any boundaries. At this time in her young career, this clear path is a benefit.
The reason Stacie Orrico stands out, however, is her solid melodies and songs. Orrico's 2000 debut, Genuine, was a four-star record. Almost every song was extremely catchy. Her self-titled Virgin follow-up, though, doesn't quite keep pace.
The CD begins with "Stuck", Orrico's first venture into TRL and mainstream radio play. The single's offbeat verses and pre-chorus show off Orrico's creative vocals. The album creeps on with the strong "(There's Gotta Be) More to Life", the album's second single. "Bounce Back" has a similar feel, with a rolling R&B beat.
However, a couple of weaker, moderate-tempo songs prevent Stacie Orrico from matching Genuine. "Security" and "I Could Be the One" sound like Janet Jackson songs, and don't add to the album. But "Instead" is a winner with great melodies throughout, and the urgent lyrics and delivery on "Maybe I Won't Look Back" make the song jump out of the speakers into your soul.
"Strong Enough" is a pure ballad, completely written by Orrico. It's a nice break from the R&B beats. Generally, Orrico uses a whole slew of writers -- over a dozen on this album. To her credit, the sound and vocals are so consistent throughout, listeners may never know.
Orrico's vocal delivery is stylistic within R&B the same way that Jewel is within rock, though the two sound nothing alike. Both women craft their words in a unique fashion and can grab the heart of the listener. Like Genuine, Stacie Orrico is well-crafted and focused. It has an addictive draw that keeps the CD spinning and growing on listeners. It can be appreciated by R&B and pop fans, and even those who usually avoid teen-pop.