‘Kris Allen’ | Kris Allen
It’s not often that a complete unknown in January would be able to garner at least some majority of the nation’s support come May and become a superstar, but it does happen at least once a year during the season of “American Idol.” The winner this year, Kris Allen, was criticized a lot during this season’s finale for being too bland, too wholesome, too straight to be the country’s Idol. So he had a lot to prove in his self-titled debut album, which dropped yesterday. And he definitely does prove that point on this record.
On the show, Kris got by week after week, not always through sheer vocal ability but by the sincerity and commitment he had in choosing songs that complemented his abilities, and he does this once again here. He’s an acoustic rocker with a mellifluous voice, and these songs are just extraordinarily pleasant to listen to. The first single, “Live Like We’re Dying,” is an upbeat jam talking about how life should not be taken for granted, but it never comes off as preachy. Hey, if I became a household name in a matter of months, I’d be pretty happy about it too.
Some of the songs on the album are pleasant to hear. You cannot help but nod your head along to “Before We Come Down.” “Red Guitar” is the only song on the album that was written pre-”Idol,” but it sounds just as sophisticated as the rest. There’s a sense of joy in this song deriving from how much Kris loves this, even from when it was just a hobby and not a lifestyle.
If you can imagine the later N*Sync oeuvre combined with a bluesy vibe, you would get “Can’t Stay Away.” Here, Kris sings about the love of his life he can never get enough of, in a sweet but still slightly seductive way, and it really works.
Naturally, there are a couple of ballads on the record, and songs like “The Truth” and “Bring It Back,” featuring a background piano line as the main accompaniment, give Kris a vehicle to sing his heart out in a way you would expect The Fray to sound. “I Need to Know” is incredibly raw: His heart has just been broken, and this song is a beautiful expression of the pain he just cannot hold inside of him anymore.
“Is It Over” sums up Kris’ ride on “Idol” and makes it my personal favorite on the album. Kris does not have a huge range, and he knows that. This song places a nice melody over really awesome background music and inverts some of the notes so they sound so wrong but, at the same time, exactly perfect. Ultimately, Kris and the song build up into gorgeous crescendo, which is exactly how he was able to win “American Idol.”
“Kris Allen” is a great record, and it is definitely one I would recommend, even to the world’s biggest Glambert fan. Kris takes on an acoustic coffeehouse vibe, but really makes it his own and does so in an incredibly beautiful way.
For fans of: Jack Johnson, The Fray
Tracks to download: ‘Is It Over’, ‘Live Like We’re Dying’, ‘Before We Come Undone’