Emerging at the tail-end of the late-'90s/early-2000s explosion of female teen pop acts that spawned Britney, Christina, Jessica, and Mandy, contemporary Christian vocalist Stacie Orrico provided a more mature alternative to her former Mickey Mouse Club contemporaries with a series of albums which she not only performed on but also co-wrote and co-produced, too. Released in 2008, Best of Stacie Orrico cherrypicks the best 14 tracks from her three studio LPs, revealing that her blend of soulful R&B, melodic pop/rock, and spiritual lyrics deserved to achieve much bigger success than her measly two Billboard Hot 100 entries suggest. The daughter of Christian missionary parents, it's no surprise that her 2000 debut album, Genuine, recorded at the tender age of 14, focuses heavily on religious issues, particularly ones affecting her peer group. But despite songs based on worshipping Christ ("Don't Look at Me") and I Corinthians 13's sermon of love ("Without Love"), even non-believers can admire its subtle, harmonious, and soulful acoustic nature, with the exception of piano-based ballad "Dear Friend," which unfortunately veers into screechy Mariah Carey territory. The bulk of the compilation concentrates on her 2003 self-titled commercial breakthrough, whose hook-laden, streamlined sound produced a couple of genuine hits in both the U.S. and U.K.: "Stuck," an infectious hybrid of quirky urban pop and driving soft rock, and the empowering Pink-lite anthem "(There's Got To Be) More to Life." The Destiny's Child-esque staccato-led R&B of "Bounce Back," the melancholic orchestral ballad "Strong Enough," and the sizzling, guitar-driven electro of "I Could Be the One" continued to prove her adeptness at tackling various eclectic styles. But for her 2006 comeback album, Beautiful Awakening, her first since parting company with ForeFront Records, Orrico abandoned her genre-hopping ways in favor of a stripped-back vibe reminiscent of the rich and timeless neo-soul of both India.Arie and Corinne Bailey Rae. Its three inclusions here, the bluesy, Motown-ish title track, the slight hip-hop undertones of "So Simple," and the heartfelt, funk-inspired "I'm Not Missing You" are all accomplished and charismatic efforts which offer little indication as to why the album's release was shelved in the U.S. As Orrico has since retired from the industry, there's nothing on The Best of Stacie Orrico that her loyal fans won't already own, but for the previously unconverted, this greatest hits shows that mainstream Christian music doesn't have to begin and end with hard rock.
Best of Stacie Orrico Review
by Jon O'Brien