Like Amy Grant before her, Jaci Velasquez became a Christian music star as a teenager, was a darling of the industry for years afterward, and then hit a grey area when her first marriage ended in divorce. Sales suffered, doors closed, and new artists with less baggage filled the gap.
That happens, but so does redemption. Today, 32-year-old Jaci is married with two children, does some acting, and co-hosts a family-friendly morning program that airs on Christian music radio stations around the country. Newly aligned with the reputable Inpop Records (newsboys, Mat Kearney), she presents a worthwhile comeback effort with the autobiographical Diamond.
Mixing chart-friendly adult contemporary tunes and candid faith ballads with a sprinkling of crossover pop, Velasquez exudes a confidence and consistency that could not have been there half a lifetime ago, and it's duly engaging here. In full Latin heritage voice, she turns the opening title track from despair ("I was a stone cast out . . .") into an empowering song of freedom.
"The Sound of Your Voice" and "Tell Me Again" are just as grand and stirring in their direct focus on listening to what God says rather than what the world whispers. "Tell me again that I am loved; tell me again what my heart cannot hear enough."
Jaci has said on record that Diamond reflects the past seven years of her life, slowly realizing, "God can find something the world may toss awayâ ”'Poof, sorry, you're not cool, go away now'â ”and He can say, â No, I've got plans for you.'"
With that, she cuts loose on the club-flavored "Trust in You" and tight rocker "Guilt." There's an even better command of her creativity on "Stay," a fun, romance-based soft pop number that makes you want to stroll through the park in the 1970s.
Not forgetting where she began, "Give Them Jesus" is straight-down-the-middle Christian pop about mission trips, helping the local homeless, and being Christ to others. And "Girl" gives powerâ ”via horn-driven power popâ ”to young ladies struggling to find their place in the world.
The best cut on Diamond is closer "Good Morning Sunshine." Backed by piano and a flicker of strings, her voice gently celebrates God's daily grace ("I'm so excited just to get out of bed; let's see what we find") and the hope we all have for a bright future. Sure enough, Jaci Velasquez comes out shining.