The newest addition to the Gotee Records family, Stephanie Smith, seems to be a perfect fit for the label's diverse line-up of artists. Smith's upbeat pop/rock style is perfectly crafted to reach a young audience of teens and tweens as well as garner some serious radio play. Smith's debut, Not Afraid, could position her as Christian music's newest breakout star.
Not Afraid, as a whole, is a very solid debut record. Most of the tunes are enjoyable and share a positive message. Stephanie Smith seems to be focused on encouraging and reaching young women, especially teenage girls. The opening track, "Beauty" kicks off the album proclaiming "Hello world, here I am today/ I didn't feel like putting on make-up, is that okay?/ And you know what else? I didn't do my hair/ And I didn't take the time to figure out what to wear...beauty is in you, so just embrace it, you don't have to chase it." Smith's non-conforming message set to rock music is similar to the likes of BarlowGirl and Krystal Meyers. While no doubt written with good intentions, "Superstar" is a slightly overwhelming song, nearly shouting, "You know what you are, a superstar!"
Though these few songs are seemingly cliché for a young female musician to write, Smith at the same time offers several excellent songs for the listener's pleasure. The title track and "Waitin on You" both have a strong upbeat rock vibe to it, much like a good deal of Not Afraid. The power pop sounding "Over It" tells a heartbreaker that it's time to leave, while "In My Eyes" is a straight-up rock song admitting personal pain. "You Alone" and "What If I Made a Mistake" are both gentler tracks, displaying Smith's beautiful and versatile voice.
Stephanie Smith seems to be off to a strong start with a popular single at radio ("Not Afraid"), a good deal of media coverage, and many upcoming tour dates. She is a great young talent with a positive message who has a bright future ahead of her.
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She may not be Afraid but the album needs a little work| Posted March 25, 2009
In a year where albums from Superchic[k], Krystal Meyers, Fireflight, and Brooke Barrettsmith highlighted the girl pop rock it’s easy to overlook someone like Stephanie Smith. One of the bright stars to come out of Gotee Records, Smith’s debut album, Not Afraid, is built off of song about real life experiences that she has faced.
Sadly, to cut to the chase, nothing is new on Not Afraid. Smith plays it safe and enjoys the trail that has already been trail blazed for her. However that is not to say that Stephanie Smith doesn’t deserve any credit as she does put in an admirable amount of work, but she borrows from her peers a little too much. The opening song “beauty” is a fun upbeat pop song that starts off terrifically but steps back when it hits a less smooth chorus. A flaw in the album is that while the stanzas of tracks sound great the chorus doesn’t flow as well as revealed in “waiting on you”. The fun “love out loud” is a upbeat pop song that uses the synth controllably to add an electric spin in the melodies but the electronic twist on “superstar” gives the song an over the top feeling.
All of the songs before mentioned songs are solid but nothing spectacular, but Smith’s vocals rise to meet “renew me” and it’s one of the better girl rock songs. “In my eyes” leaves the big riffs of the opening verse behind for a very solid girl rock tune. Her youthful voice adds emotion to her light pop ballad like piano driven “you alone” but especially in the passionate “what if I made a mistake”. The one song farthest from mediocre is the aptly named ‘bonus’ track “last words”, where the music is brilliantly rolled together using music similar to that of Hawk Nelson’s “one little miracle” and combining it with the emotion of an Natalie Grant smash to complete the epic.
Alas the lyrics for the most part are predictable and almost intentionally borrow from other concepts and songs. The comparison with Jaci Velasquez “love out loud” with Stephanie’s being the most prominent: ‘Love out loud, let your love be your voice (Everybody come on))’ and ‘Listen up (listen up)/Everybody… Love out loud’). Smith’s stress that beauty should be on the inside rather than outside on “beauty” (‘Beauty is in you/You don't have to make it, you don't have to fake it’) is forgivable but the same and even weaker message on “superstar” was inexcusable.
Still admirable themes pop in the form of “waiting on you” as She decides that God’s timetable is the best since he sees ‘more than I do’ while both the title track and “what if I made a mistake” look to God as the only way to take away sin (‘It’s real relentless and it won’t let me go/I can’t fight this, this dirt on my soul’). Some flexibility shows up in the songwriting when Smith lets go of some angst on “in my eyes” but the best song on the album is “first words” which deals with the gripping tale of Stephanie’s broken relationship with her father and forgiveness.
Some diversity would have been appreciated, but it’s easy to see why Stephanie Smith and label stuck to the script. Not afraid might not be a smash pop rock album but it will be interesting what will be on the table the next time around for this talented young woman.
Stephanie Smith [Not Afraid]| Posted November 11, 2008 [MAIN REVIEW]
Most of us tend to remember our teenage years and sometimes forget how it really felt - the things that mattered then. The significant things like trying to figure out life, your own feelings, who you are and who God is in your life. In her album, Not Afraid, Stephanie Smith lets us into her world. Smith presents herself as an authentic medium relating to her generation in songs that deal with topics so relevant to them including stardom, beauty, acceptance and disappointment and God’s presence in it.
Like Avril Lavigne on the secular charts, Stephanie Smith reaches out to Christian audiences with an album poised to make its intended mark. Not Afraid superbly hits the highs and the lows; the speed ups and the slow downs. Its punk, rock and pop styles fuse together a multifaceted storyline. The songs on the album are laced with significance. Smith makes both cultural statements and personal, consoling ones as well. Her personal revelations impart truth that is truly cross-generational.
The music on Not Afraid is solid and well-orchestrated. The listener-friendly rock chords, rousing choruses and timely effects provide an ideal foundation for Smith’s poetry. Tracks flow one to the next creating a single combined soundtrack. The sound feels new and fresh and somehow innately familiar. Set apart from the lyrics, the music on the album is touching and motivating in its own right.
Alongside socially significant radio anthems like Beauty, Not Afraid (title track) and SuperStar are three brilliant and unmistakably Christian contemporary standards, Renew Me, What If I Made a Mistake and You Alone that really help to take the album to the next level. You’ll want to bookmark these three hits for your playlists because they’re intellectually honest, Christ-honoring and difficult to get out of your head.
All considered, Not Afraid is a fun and inspiring balance of energy and subtlety. If a successful album is about pure lyrics, solid vocals and great music, then Not Afraid is a resounding success. You won’t be disappointed. In fact, I think you’ll be encouraged to be bold and reminded that the Lord stands with you.
Listen for the solid sound and the feeling of young exuberance. Connect with Stephanie in her life experiences and Christian walk on the tracks Renew Me, What If I Made a Mistake and You Alone. The album Not Afraid will motivate and encourage you. In fact, I bet you’ll keep it on heavy rotation.
For more Christian Music Reviews By Aaron, visit: http://reviewsbyaaron.com
This Album Shows that Stephanie is a "SUPERSTAR!"| Posted May 07, 2009
Stephanie Smith first blasted onto the screen in the summer of 2007 with her digital single "Superstar" which did well at radio and gaining her a top 5 hit. Unfortunately, the album was pushed back and pushed back and pushed back and was FINALLY released over a year and a half later this last December. Well I'll tell ya, it was worth the wait!
The album opends up with the vivacious rock track "Beauty". The song's anthem about inner beauty may be a rock track (i.e. BarlowGirl, Avril Lavigne), but the song borrows a light pop track that fits well with this great song. "Superstar" is a little choppy and sometimes the music doesn't feel quite right, but when the song enters into the funky, danceable bridge, you just can't help but smile.
The album's effervescent title track is one of my absolute favorites. I find myself singing it all the time and it's upbeat pop tune makes me happy when I feel down. Probably the strongest track on the album, "Renew Me" is a danceable worship song that shows off Stephanie's great range and killer vocals. Amazing song. Unfortunately it's followed by the somewhat dry "You Alone", which leaves me feeling bored and wanting more.
The abstract "Waitin On You" has a strange string arrangement and the song itself feels like it's trying to be a standout, but it falls on its sword and fails to wow me. The Avril Lavigne's "Sk8er Boi"-esque "Over It" is a punk rock track that is about getting over a breakup. The gutsy, dark "In My Eyes" is a huge hit and a great addition to the album. The latter and the ballad "What If I Made A Mistake" both add depth to the album and are phenomenal tracks.
The bouncy, programmed "Love Out Loud" (co-penned by Britt Nicole) is a fun pop track that features layered-background vocals and a catchy chorus and hook. The album's closer "First Words" is a beautiful ballad that deliveres a cushioned ending to the album.
Overall, Stephanie's debut is a great gem in the punk pop/rock world and I can't wait for her to put out more music.
Debut Album Not A 'Mistake' For Stephanie Smith| Posted February 15, 2009
Stephanie Smith put out a fantastic debut album! I can listen all the way through without skipping any songs.
The first two songs, “Beauty” and “Superstar,” have similar lyrical messages: you’re beautiful, you’re a superstar, you don’t have to listen to what the world is saying. Sure, maybe it’s been done before, but how do you not sing along to the upbeat chorus of “Superstar”? “I may be just a girl to you/ Don’t have to listen if you don’t want to/ I wish that you could see from His view/ In his eyes, what you are/ He made you to be a superstar!”
From there on, the songs continue with the strong pop/rock sound and the sometimes cheesy but still meaningful lyrics. “You Alone” and “What If I Made A Mistake” showcase a different side of Stephanie, slowing things down a bit to show admiration for God (“I love You for You, You and You alone…not for all of your wonders, but all that you are/I love You”) and to admit that she’s done something wrong (“What if I made a mistake?/ What if I heard You but I ignored You?”).
“First Words” tells a personal story, the heartbreaking experience of meeting her father for the first time and he didn’t even get her name right. It won’t have many people relating to it, but is definitely still worth listening to.
“Love Out Loud” and “Get Up” end the album on an buoyant note, both speaking of the wonders that love can do if we just show it to others.
Fans of Krystal Meyers, Superchick, and BarlowGirl are likely to enjoy this album as well. Overall a great album predicting a bright future for Stephanie Smith.
03. Not Afraid
08. In My Eyes
09. What If I Made A Mistake
10. Love Out Loud
The Best Of The Year| Posted November 18, 2008
I can't believe in all that Stephanie Smith can do!! This album is simply the best of the year! The most beautiful songs are Not Afraid, Superstar, Renew Me and You Alone.
Stephanie is NOT AFRAID| Posted June 07, 2008
After being pushed back many times, Stephanie's debut finally came out on May 27---but still, in digital-only format. I have been anxiously awaiting this album ever since last summer when Steph's first single "Superstar" impacted radio, and that excitement only increased in the late fall when "Not Afraid" released as a single as well. Then earlier this spring, "You Alone" and "Renew Me" started hitting airwaves too. With already 4 singles released before the album even came out, it's clear Stephanie had a lot of hype around her. And now, I can see why.
Taking evident influences from Krystal Meyers, Superchick, Everlife, etc., it's hard not to sound just like them, as recently in the case of miss Brooke Barrettsmith. But Stephanie uses those sources to bring out the best in her. Her voice has a naturally raw rock edge to it. At times, it sounds almost identical to Julia Ross (of Everlife), especially in the song "In My Eyes." And after just one album, Steph is right up there with her counterparts like Krystal Meyers. Stephanie is not afraid (no pun intended) to let loose and rock, like in "Not Afraid," "Beauty," "Waiting On You," "Get Up," and "Love Out Loud," but the album is not without its share of poppier tracks like "Superstar," "In My Eyes," "Over It," and "Renew Me," and also a few ballads pop up with "What If," "You Alone," and "1st Words." There's a little something for everyone on here.
Personal favorites are: the uber-catchy pop song "Renew Me"; the fist-pumping anthem "Love Out Loud"; the Everlife-ish "In My Eyes; and the ballads "What If" and "You Alone." The award for lyrics goes to "First Words," even though it's not the catchiest song on the album. This song recounts meeting her father for the first time at 14, and again at 19.