Los Angeles native DeNetria Champ has the pipes. Boy, does she have the pipes.
Champ spent most of the last decade providing backing vocals for other artist such as James Ingram and Patti LaBelle, as well as performing in Gospel plays around the country. However, her vocals are so strong and distinctive that it was clear that she would eventually move beyond a backup role. With a voice eerily similar to Aretha Franklin's, circa 1970, Champ was destined to be a Soul or Gospel soloist.
Champ was signed to JDI Records and released her solo debut album I Really Love You in 2005. It is a fine showcase for one of the most exciting new vocalists I've heard in the past couple of years. Others must feel the same way, too, as Champ has been nominated for a Stellar Award as Best New Artist.
The Aretha vocal comparisons jump out from the opening cut "DeNetria's Church Medley," but her performance is not derivative in any way. Urban Adult Contemporary radio should be all over the title cut and "Thank You For Your Love," two decent ballad compositions that are uplifted by Champ's expressive interpretation. Most of the rest of the songs on the album are fairly typical (but quite melodic) modern Gospel cuts, with pleasant nods to the Winans on "Can't Forget" and to the currently popular dance/church sound on "Say the Word." Through it all, though, Champ is clearly up-front, and she makes the album her own. Special kudos to producer Professor James Roberson for putting together a nice package of songs and musicians while not diluting the effect of extraordinary talent in front of him.
A very nice find and a wonderful new artist worth tracking.
by Chris Rizik