Sounds like … pop with a rock 'n' roll attitude a la Garbage, Sarah Kelly, Kelly Clarkson, and Gwen Stefani

At a glance … a personal investment in her lyrics and a sassy rock sound makes Stephanie Smith's debut shine

While no one's about to confuse them for rock royalty like Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde, Janis Joplin, or Blondie's Debbie Harry. But it's nevertheless cool to hear young women really kick up the decibels and add a healthy dose of rock 'n' roll attitude to the pop music scene, especially Christians like Flyleaf's Lacey Mosely, Fireflight's Dawn Richardson, and now Stephanie Smith, Gotee Records' latest signee.

With her debut Not Afraid, Smith serves up 11 engaging slices of life that sparkle with inventive musicianship, impassioned vocals, and vulnerable songwriting. Aimed squarely at the teen demographic, topics like loving yourself despite your flaws and the age-old relationship struggles have certainly been tackled before by Superchic[k], BarlowGirl, and numerous others, but Smith's music still manages to stand out in a crowd.

In "Superstar," Smith is wise enough to anticipate objections from those who might think she's a little too young to be dispensing life advice at 23—"I may be just a girl to you/Don't have to listen if you don't want to." But Smith isn't afraid to infuse painful life experiences into her songs. On the piano-driven closer, "First Words," Smith tells the heartbreaking story of the awkward first-time meeting with the father she never knew for 14 years. Rather than speaking in generalities, her story effectively drives the message of forgiveness home.

Utilizing the same heart-on-her-sleeve approach is "Over It," the best break-up anthem since Kelly Clarkson's "Since ...

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Not Afraid
Our Rating
4 Stars - Excellent
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Release Date
December 23, 2008
Gotee Records
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