In the mid-'80s, the flimsy wall that existed between CCM and secular pop music was gloriously kicked to the ground when A&M pushed Amy Grant through the barrier. Others followed, and it wasn't long before the field of CCM expanded to include country, rock, metal, and even rap; however, the radio-friendly pop that began the whole influx was pushed backwards as faithful listeners complained about the lack of spirituality in the music, prompting artists to retreat and rebuild that crumbled wall with overtly religious and sentimental songs. It seemed the days of crossover superstars like Amy Grant were over, but Kristy Starling has arrived on the scene with a chance to break through to the masses once again. On her self-titled debut disc, Starling combines faint spiritual messages with pop music that reflects the sounds of Celine Dion or Faith Hill, and the results trump any recent release by a secular diva. The success of the disc begins immediately with the surging chorus and elegant strings of "Water," a song similar in tone and texture to Vanessa Carlton's hit "A Thousand Miles." Vocally, Starling demonstrates that she is prepared to take on any pop powerhouse, as proven with her soaring voice on the finale of "Broken" and the beautiful choruses of "Something More (I Need to Praise You)," a Diane Warren-style power ballad. When revisited in the context of CCM, a couple of recent hits get their meanings tweaked, as Starling sounds more natural than Josh Groban on "To Where You Are" and more convincing than LeAnn Rimes on "I Need You." All the elements are there for a hit record -- quality songwriting, understated lyrics, beautiful vocals, excellent production (featuring famed producer David Foster), major-label backing from Curb/Warner Bros., and exposure from her appearance on NBC's Today Show talent contest. All combined, this successful debut should help escort Starling through the CCM crowd and into a world where pop music lovers can sing her praises as well. The word "star" is not simply part of her name, it is what Kristy Starling deserves to become.
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AllMusic Review by Aaron Latham