"Late 90s Spirit Pop" is a five-part review series about the unusual and interesting boom in "spiritual" pop albums during 1998 and 1999. For this series, I will explore five records indicative of this movement.
In contrast to the Zen element prominent among late 90s spirit pop albums (ie Madonna's Ray of Light and Alanis' Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie), Donna Lewis' Blue Planet turns its spiritual wonder to nature. In fact, nature serves as the metaphor for both romantic love ("Will Love Grow," "Harvest Moon") and divine fulfillment (the title track, "Beauty and Wonder," "Lay Me Down"). Lewis deftly intertwines these threads to create an album that feels ethereal, has a reverence for the natural world, and maintains a sturdy pop sensibility. The lead single, "I Could Be the One," is perhaps the most direct pop moment here, but it also represents the strong work on the LP: exquisite production, comforting melodies, and Lewis' trademark hushed vocal delivery. Blue Planet also has some fine experiments, like the seven and a half minute trance/rap opus, "Heaven Sent You," and the excellent number one club hit, "Love Him," which applies Lewis' naturalistic metaphors to crisp house music. What results is an album that shows not only the excellent music being made in the late 90s, but also the diversity among spirit pop. Albums like Blue Planet enriched the music landscape.