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DIFFERENT KIND OF FREE (2003)
Different Kind of Free - Click to view! For me, music is all about singing along. It frustrates me when artists neglect to put lyrics in the CD jacket, as if they expect me to give in and listen passively. There's nothing I love more than cruising in my car, belting out the words of my favorite song. My interest in Zoegirl's latest album, Different Kind of Free, actually began in this familiar setting with their radio single "You Get Me." Its simple but powerful lyrics spoke to my solitary mood one day, reminding me of what I needed to hear. ("Doesn't matter what they do, what they think, what they say / At the end of the day I'm okay, anyway / 'Cause Lord you get me.") Skeptical but curious, I braced myself for a barrage of sugary pop and gave the album a spin. To my surprise, Different Kind of Free met and surpassed my hopes, offering catchy, genuinely enjoyable songs with lyrics I could relate to. Reaching for the jacket to sing along, I was thrilled not only by a complete set of lyrics but also by the Bible verse that inspired each song, reminding me why I first came to love Christian music.

Following in the tradition of Zoegirl's earlier work, Different Kind of Free delivers a healthy-sized dose of female pop. Although sure to please bubblegum fans, its distinct rock undertones will also appeal to an older, broader audience. The CD opens with "Beautiful Name," an invigorating song of devotion driven by a lively electric guitar that flavors most of the following tracks. And while upbeat tracks like "Inside Out" and "Feel Alright" rate significantly higher on the pop meter, their meaningful, pertinent messages save them from being overly sugar-sweet. A variety of musical influences ensure that the rest of the CD is equally appealing. Subtle harmonies and gentle echoes perfect "Unbroken"'s softer sound, creating a track not unlike Sixpence None the Richer's "Breathe." In contrast, "Wait" has more of a hip-hop groove, while "She" combines hip-hop and harmony to claim a comfortable place on the fence. This blend is an effective vehicle for the song's modern-day adaptation of John 8 and its caution against "throwing stones."

Unlike many CDs, which start with a bang only to fizzle out midway, Different Kind of Free is consistently great. Zoegirl maintains a high level of song quality that convinces me to keep listening, often for a second run-through. No track proves this more thoroughly than the title track, number ten in the line-up. Lyrically it captures the essence of the CD, describing the ultimate freedom that can only be achieved through Christ: "Take my life, my liberty / It's all but a breath in the grand scheme of things / Oh I have found eternity / It's a different kind of free / And they can't take it from me." A rap bridge, courtesy of Gotee's James Katina, spices up the already catchy song and sets it apart from the rest of the album.

Different Kind of Free is a different kind of album; an unexpectedly pleasing synthesis of pop and R&B. Zoegirl has moved beyond a clean alternative to Britney Spears, proving they can grow and explore while maintaining their signature sincerity. This project is a perfect balance of slow and fast songs, of spirituality and fun, and a CD that any Christian pop fan should rush to add to their collection.
- Becca Tuttle
April 2004
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