Teen Pop: A summary of some young Christian bands

Thursday 1st February 2001

A phenomenal surge of youthful acts are now making a serious challenge to the Britneys and Westlifes of popdom. A decidedly old Tony Cummings reports on the young gospel popsters.

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This is followed by tales of mischief that only twins can get away with - wearing the same clothes, pretending they were the other twin and playing tricks on confused teachers. With their sibling connections, the band's dynamic must be interesting, to say the least!

The three girls were destined to make music together from an early age. Lauren remembers how it all started: "I'm only 11 months older than the twins so Mom had three little girls that she had to keep an eye on. So when she made dinner for our Dad, she'd put us up on the kitchen counter to watch us and sing to us. The first song we learnt when we were about three and four was 'Insy Winsy Spider' and we did a little choreography with it. She would sing the tune in my ear until I got it then sing the harmony in Rachel and Raquel's. That's how we learnt to sing. We took it on from there and started singing in church, at youth events and in school."

Not wishing to be pigeon-holed in their tastes, their musical influences span from Mariah Carey and Britney to Destiny's Child and Frank Sinatra. Today, they have a sound which would stand up to the other contenders in the charts, but, surprisingly, pop music wasn't where they started. Before they signed to Pamplin Records, Rachel would bash out self-penned worship songs on her acoustic guitar. The pop sound only came after they got on board with Pamplin, who had heard their earlier independent recording and asked them how they felt about doing a pop album - with all the songs written for them. Lauren continues the story:"We had always wanted to do a Christian pop record but because Rachel had written songs on the guitar; our songs didn't really have that pop sound. We're really excited that this is the direction the record label wanted to take us."

Rachel interrupts: "There's a real need for this music in the Christian market. You have Britney Spears and Christine Aguilera in the secular market but there's not really a Christian band with a pop sound that can sing about God."

Plus One
In the American CCM scene, the biggest new name for a while is PLUS ONE. The fact that their smash debut album on the new Atlantic distributed 143 label has STILL not received a UK release probably means little to the lads. For in the States they are Christendom's answer to 'Nsync, a hugely popular boy band whose constant touring and maximum radio exposure have meant that today the pictures of Jason Perry (18), Nathan Cole (19), Gabriel Combs (20), Jeremy Mhire (20) and Nathan Walters (22) adorn the homes of thousands of Christian teenage girls.

Intriguingly, the fan support the and now receives across America hasn't stopped the band from feeling lonely. Nathan Walters told CCM magazine, "We don't have time to develop relationships and friendships so we go back to Nashville, and we are so lonely. Thousands of people will wait in line to get our autograph and we have no one to talk to." Not that they're looking for sympathy, mind you. It's just another realisation of how much their lives have changed in just a few short months.

While the imaging, fame, adoration and even the loneliness are all part of the teen pop package, the members of Plus One say a primary concern for them is to stay on track spiritually amidst the mayhem, especially since God isn't just the reason for their group, but the "One" behind their name. To help keep that foremost in their minds, commissioning services were held at each of the band members' home churches at the suggestion of their manager, Mitchell Solarek.

"They didn't really get to say goodbye to us because it was all rushed when we got together," Mhire explained, so the group went back home to make sure those they left behind were committed to keeping them in their prayers and keeping them grounded. And since Cole, Combs and Jason Perry are all pastors' kids with strong Assemblies Of God roots, the guys are rarely lacking in spiritual guidance when they're out on the road. "Nate's dad has become sort of a spiritual leader for us," Walters added, noting a book the entire group is currently reading at Pastor Cole's suggestion.

That strong spiritual foundation will no doubt prove invaluable as Plus One attempt to navigate the tricky waters of the general market with the release of their first single to mainstream pop radio. It may seem like a risky move when they're still burning up the Christian charts, but this has always been the plan, and they're moving forward with a sense of purpose. "We wouldn't be completing our mission as a band if only Christians bought our music," explained Cole, "because what Plus One want to do is show a world that doesn't see a lot of positive things that God is there for them. We think God has really opened up these doors for a reason."

Perry added, "People will tell us, 'Don't water it down. All you talk about is love and peace and all the warm fuzzies that God gives and not the wrath of God,' but we don't feel like we have to defend ourselves. Everybody is called to different positions in ministry so we feel like we've got our own specific purpose and plan."

Plus One discovered their first taste of meeting the mainstream press on a recent trip to New York. On a tour of teen magazines, the questions turned particularly personal. Not only were they asked what they meant when they said they were a Christian band, a question they expected, "They were asking us if we were virgins, if we believed in sex before marriage. I mean, we went through the whole thing with some of these people," Cole said, adding that their honesty and convictions eventually won over those in attendance.


At their next stop, Atlantic Records' Manhattan office, they encountered more misconceptions. "They were scared of us. They were worried we were going to walk in robes," Cole said. "With big crosses," Combs added, laughing.

Rachael Lampa

The album debut by Rachael Lampa 'Live For You' recently received a 10 square review in Cross Rhythms. In America the whole music biz seems to be swooning over the voice of the 14 year old singer from Louisville, Colorado. Things are moving very fast for the 4' 10" diva with the huge voice. She recently was asked to record a duet with the legendary Aaron Neville, for instance.

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