As the Stephen Curtis Chapman hit song proclaims, "This is life we've been given, made to be lived out...live out loud." Spensha Baker, the latest urban gospel sensation, has taken every opportunity to live out loud ever since she first graced the world with her sturdy pipes and an uncompromising faith in God. This vocally gifted fifteen year old balances work in the recording studio with a very active personal appearance schedule, all of which she has taken in stride.
When she stepped onto her first musical stage, it was apparent that her natural talent and sheer determination was the key in earning a spot as a finalist in a national talent spotlight. The satellite radio audience fell in love with Baker's first single, which remained on the air for over one year even before her first CD was released. To top this all off, the Virginia native is in good company as the first gospel recording artist signed to a major label that currently features urban superstars Mary J. Blige, Keyshia Cole and Macy Gray on their roster. On Baker's debut entry Outloud!, there lies a dynamite voice that easily compares to R&B divas Whitney Houston and Beyonce Knowles, and definitely holds a candle to her gospel peers Kierra â€˜Kiki' Sheard and Stacie Orrico.
The journey began at age seven when Baker's mother, Marcy Baker, discovered there was a flexible voice inside her daughter that generated lots of lung power compared to people twice and three times her age. Her first major exposure was on the Inspiration TV Network's Christian Artist Talent Search, the longest running Christian talent contest on television. After paying some dues, the door opened to another popular television spotlight - Star Search - which aired on CBS TV, where Baker persevered for nine weeks and made the finals before losing to Tiffany Evans. Those nine weeks were well invested as opportunity knocked again, thanks to one of the Star Search judges - Ron Fair, the chairman of Geffen Records - who immediately signed the then twelve year old to a recording contract.
Life for Baker has completely gone into overdrive since she became a traveling ambassador for God and the music industry. In just this year alone, she was invited by CeCe Winans to perform on Trinity Broadcast Network's Praise The Lord. Baker has also sung during an honorary ceremony saluting President Bush in front of over 25,000 military personnel. She was handpicked to sing at a major Hollywood charity event, the â€˜Chrysalis Annual Butterfly Ball', where various actors and other celebrities embraced her moving performance.
The initial song that introduced Baker to radio audiences is "Purpose," the buzz single from Outloud! and a regular staple on XM satellite radio for over a year. This deeply personal song unveils a vulnerable side of Baker's heart as she apologizes to God for her prideful attributes; not something that persons may expect from a teenager, but which speaks loudly of her stance as a Christian.
Baker fully demonstrates her capabilities as a classic gospel communicator throughout the pulsating praise and worship of "Hallelujah," originally recorded by the legendary gospel family, The Clark Sisters. She also credibly handles another cover, this time with the Sounds of Blackness's funky and motivational hit from the early nineties, "Optimistic."
Despite a voice that can shatter glass, there are moments on Outloud! on which Spensha does not belt. She is keenly aware when to restrain and let the message speak for itself, as beautifully captured on "Thank You For Not Answering," illustrating that God's timing isn't always our own timing. The same holds true for "Teach Me," describing a willingness to be teachable in areas like giving to others without expecting something in return.
Gospel and soul music lovers will appreciate Spensha Baker's mature vocal chops for many years to come. Many audiences should also appreciate how she sincerely lives her life, just like the CD title implicates, whether its praise and worship or trying to steer someone in adjusting to life's everyday ups and downs. Baker never could have it any other way but to live life to the fullest - totally loud.
By Peggy Oliver