Jump5 returns to the CCM dance-pop ranks with Accelerate, and though it isn't the "quantum leap forward" its liner notes suggest, it's a skillfully executed, cunningly cheerful album that prevails by embracing its own predictability. Naturally, it's impossible to figure out who's singing what, as the wispy vocal styles of Brittany Hargest, Lesley Moore, and Libby Hodges are nearly identical. And Jump5's boy quotient doesn't fare much better -- Chris Fedun and Brandon Hargest are relegated to supporting harmonies and the occasional "Hey!" or "Uh-huh!" Musically too, Accelerate is mostly whirring electronics, vague, powder puff guitar riffs, and tittering drum tracks that sound store-bought. But while their peers seem content to sell such vapidity at face value, Jump5 has God on its side, and the magnetic quality of a universal message called "FUN!" They have no use for the coy come-ons of Play's Replay, where the Swedish quartet toyed awkwardly with Destiny's Child-style sexual themes. Nor will they endorse the suburban thugisms that lurk in the androidal Aaron Carter's "Aaron's Party (Come Get It)." No, Brittany, Lesley, Libby, Chris, and Brandon want nothing more than to top off your self-image with their positive energy drink. "I hope I don't drive you insane/With my big right foot and unkempt mane," they sing over "Do Ya"'s primary color groove. "I know you love me the way I am." Sure, they're probably singing about God, and that might make some secular listeners awkward. They also drop the "Lords" pretty liberally throughout the album. But can you really preach effectively through a vocoder? In actuality, Accelerate is just an S Club 7 album minus two members and Bradley's bad rapping. "Every Part of Me" is able to conjure some slow jam atmosphere, and even features a tabla drum percussion sample. Good-natured covers of "Walking on Sunshine" and "We Are Family" are totally obvious, but the co-ed vocal tradeoffs on a run through Earth, Wind & Fire's "Shining Star" are infectious in a youth group pep rally sort of way, and the track is actually pretty funky. Conversely, the only thing funky about Carter's cover of the Strangeloves' "I Want Candy" is its shelf life. Accelerate works because it doesn't hide its happiness and genuine zest for life amidst mixed pop music messages. It's as shallow as it wants to be, but meaningful all the same.
by Johnny Loftus