Sixteen-year-old Katelyn Tarver is certainly on the up and up. A finalist on Fox Television's American Idol Juniors, she soon signed with New York-based TC Music to release her debut album, with singles shopped to both Radio Disney and Christian radio. The Glennville, Georgia native will also star as Barbie in a forthcoming feature film about the timeless teenage doll.
Tarver comes from a Christian home, and has been known to discuss her faith and spiritual upbringing in interviews. But most of the songs on Wonderful Crazy aren't as outspoken, mostly focused on wholesome teen crushes ("Undeniable," "Rain," and the soulful "Closer to My Heart"). Yet there are still subtle references, even though she didn't have a hand in any songwriting. Scott Krippayne wrote the optimistic title track, in which she sings, "Don't know what's on the way … but with you it's a load I can carry." In the simple ballad "Life Was," she extols a life-changing love that could be earthly or spiritual, and the R&B flavored "I'll Make It Real" references following her own path and making her light shine.
While there aren't any overt declarations of faith, the songs still seem more meaningful than those of Jump5 and Aly & AJ, offering more bang-for-buck with well-produced music and subtle spiritual references. Tarver's voice is well suited for pop, and for the most part, the programmed music is skillfully produced, offering a fair measure of variation (particularly the bright reggae of "Everything"). Thus, Tarver seems a good Christian alternative to Hilary Duff, and though the album runs short of 35 minutes, Wonderful Crazy could well be the best teen pop effort by a Christian artist since Stacie Orrico's 2003 self-titled smash.
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