So-called Contemporary Christian Music, sacred music explicitly intended for popular consumption, has led a contentious existence since its development in the “70”s and “80”s. Cynics have charged that it is a vapid product devoid of artistic relevance, a manipulation of the popular song structure to serve a purpose for which it was never intended. Such a viewpoint is, of course, prejudicial but there is something to be said for the assertion that, in a purely musical sense, the quality of the output of CCM artists pales in comparison to that of their secular counterparts. For almost every type of popular music taste imaginable there emerges a corresponding CCM act, whether it be the as-seen-on-TV eclecticism of Carman, the quasi-credibility of bands like dc Talk and Pedro the Lion or the pop-metal of P.O.D. and, yes, Stryper. All this begs the question: Can a CCM act establish for itself a unique artistic identity to be respected and enjoyed by the sacred music fan and secular listener alike?
Ginny Owens, a Jackson, Miss. born singer/songwriter, probably had this question in mind when she wrote and recorded her sophomore effort, Something More. On the opening track, “Prelude,” she admits the futility of self-righteous attempts to “change the world,” (read: bible-thump). This realization tempers the tone of the album”s remainder, which tends instead towards introverted material the resulting lyrical dtente allows the secular listener to enjoy what is contained therein without feeling ostracized by harsh religious overtones. Nor will the average listener be terribly offended by the music to which Owens” lyrics are set it never strays far from the adult-alternative model as established by the likes of Alanis Morissette that proved so popular throughout the “90”s. In fact, the music that Owens and her co-writers provide is surprisingly strong: The songs are consistent and focused, the melodies are immediately attractive, buoyed by her assertive, if indistinctive, alto and assisted by lively arrangements throughout.
Unfortunately, Something More”s strengths often double as its weaknesses. In an attempt to keep the arrangements hip, Owens & Co. frequently overlook employing a real drummer in favor of utilizing clichd trip-hop-lite percussion and tacky poptronica flourishes that only serve to weaken the material. And while she is obviously talented in the traditional sense both as a singer and writer, Owens does not always do enough in either department to distinguish herself as a unique artistic voice, relying too often on copying the sound of already successful singers in what reeks of a calculated attempt at radio play. So, while Owens has made a noble attempt at breaking free of the stereotypes associated with CCM and moving into the mainstream on Something More, she ultimately offers secular listeners nothing more than a pleasant, consistent listen to tide them over until the next Sarah McLachlan record comes out.