Time to do a short review of the debut releases from the 2 break-out stars of last season’s American Idol. Taylor Hicks was polished and has a friendly persona, but the guy always seemed so calculated in his choices. It won him enough votes from the Clay Aiken audience to win the show, but it makes him a really lame rock star. His self-titled debut at least doesn’t contain the worst song of 2006, his single "Do I Make You Proud", but it is sadly the album you thought he would release. Warmed over white-boy soul. Truly, if you like this stuff, just pick up one of Michael McDonald’s recent Motown tribute CD’s, because the former Doobie Bro is a superior singer and the songs are brilliant pop classics. Hicks’ only hip song choice on American Idol was covering Ray LaMontagne’s "Trouble". I mention LaMontagne, as if you want to hear a modern day white soul singer, check him out. LaMontagne is to Van Morrison…as Hicks is to Curtis Stigers.
The contestant that most thought would be in the finals against Hicks was Chris Daughtry. One problem he had from the beginning had to be choosing a name. Since he’s trying to sell himself as a rocker, he couldn’t go by his complete name like Hicks, but at the same time to take advantage of his AI celebrity, he had to mention it. The compromise name is a band he fronts called "Daughtry". Hey, I don’t know what else he could have went with, but the name sounds like some Southern rock band who would be opening for Molly Hatchett.
When watching Daughtry on American Idol, the question was would he go in a more of a creative direction like a band he professed love for like Live or would he follow the sell-out Nickelback style? He is somewhere in between, which is what he needed to do to get played on modern rock radio. (It’s been a long time since the Secret Samahdi days.) While the songs are formula in style, Chris Daughtry’s pipes are so good that he raises the quality of the product. Remember that Paul Rodgers’ Bad Company or Lou Gramm’s Foreigner music was pretty unimaginative, but their strong voices were capable of making the songs memorable. As someone who grew up listening to classic rock, I still am capable of giving props to someone who can sing for his supper and Daughtry is one of the best I’ve heard in awhile.
While some critics compare his new album to Nickleback or Creed, I would suggest his music is more influenced by bands like Tonic and Vertical Horizon. When he rocks out more, it’s done in a Shinedown vein. Hey, I like bands like The Hold Steady, but there are times when I want to get some ear candy. While it’s not saying a lot, Daughtry has put out the best debut of any American Idol contestant. I doubt he can follow-up with one as good as Kelly Clarkson’s second offering, but he has shown that he is not strictly some reality show creation.
Oh and if you were interested, Elliott Yamin (the best singer in American Idol history) is set to put out his debut release in 2007.
NOTE: Our annual Top 10 music lists will be appearing here sometime during the next week. This will include a return of ESPN’s Will Carroll. Make sure to check in to find out if Clay Aiken finally makes our best of the year countdown.