The Rubyz made a name for themselves last year as the first artist to release an album under the newly-launched iShine Records label. They have since been busy performing for thousands of kids with iShine's fall and spring tours, as well as the holiday Believe tour. After Marissa Milele decided to leave the group, the duo of Alexis Slifer, 16, and Cammie Hall, 18, kept going. Now they are ready to release their "sophomore album," (if you can call it that, more on that later), Sound Off.
The main thing that upsets me about this release is that it's being marketed as The Rubyz's "sophomore album." To me, five songs do not an album make. It was a neat idea to add the karaoke tracks, but it seems like another twisted marketing ploy. I understand that the target audience for this would be 10-13 year olds, but there are older fans, like myself, who find this bubbly, catchy pop goodness to be a guilty pleasure. The sing-along tracks may be okay for a tween girl who prances around her room singing into a hairbrush, but they're certainly not for everyone. A better way to release this would have been to put out an EP of the five new songs, and make a separate EP of the sing-along tracks.
My first thought when I heard the new material on Sound Off was that the music was a lot more mature than their debut. The Rubyz have definitely stepped up their game to go right along with mainstream peers, and "grow up" with their audience. First off, the music itself sounds just like the songs we would hear on Top 40 radio---complete with autotune and electro-pop beats. Although there's much controversy on the whole "autotune" issue, it's used here sparsely and only when it gives a cool effect to the song. There's no doubt that Cammie and Alexis have amazing vocal talents, and don't need the assistance of a computer program to prove it. Every single song here is extremely catchy, in the "gets stuck in your head easily" way. Although there are no cover songs here, "Watch The Girl" does cleverly interpolate the Eurythmics' 80s hit "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)."
The lyrics on the album are definitely more mature as well. Gone are the teeny girly sleepover songs in favor of more socially conscious tunes. Four of the five tracks are shout-outs to this generation's boys and girls to step up and be the men and women God called them to be. The only debatable thing here is that "Ladies & Gentlemen" seems a bit harsh towards the boys, making it sound like the guy should be at fault in every bad relationship, and that most of them "like to talk, like to brag." At the same time, it does offer an encouragement in the chorus to them to not take advantage of the girls: "Boys, boys, making some noise/This is your time now/Gentlemen, don't mess around." "Watch The Girl" switches the message and is about a girl who takes advantage of guys, and encourages the guys to stay away from these types of girls.
The Rubyz are very open about their faith in the next two songs. "Stuck In the Grey" is again encouraging guys to "act like a man" by making up their mind as to what they believe. "Got The Memo" is a song to girls about being the women God created them, and tells them, "In His eyes, you are a ruby." The closer, "Give You My Heart," is a smooth pop track that's about the closest thing to a ballad on here. I interpreted the song as being like a note of encouragement to a friend that you will always stand up for them and love them, though it can also be taken as being from God to us.
The Rubyz have stepped it up a notch with this new batch of songs that's sure to please their targeted tween audience. While not straying from their faith, Cammie and Alexis offer words of encouragement to boys and girls alike, at a time in their young lives when they need it most. Sound Off is a worthy follow-up to The Rubyz's impressive debut, even if it is just an EP (yes, iShine, it is an EP). Hopefully this means we'll get more new music sooner…- Review date: 10/26/09, written by Matthew Watson of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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