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The New American Sweetheart

For those who have taken the Idol crown, life after the single biggest reality show in the world is packed with showers of adoration from fans, media frenzies and work with first-rate producers in the business, who would eventually set them on the path of global music dominance.

Of course, there are exceptions to this superstar-creating formula (think Season 2‘s Ruben Studdard and Season 5‘s Taylor Hicks).

But for the laid-back, awkwardly charming and unbelievably humble Kris Allen, who recently won the eighth season of American Idol, playing at smaller venues and crafting his own tunes for his debut CD seemed like the only thing to do; or the only thing he wanted to do. Unlike the glitzy Glambert who recently went to Michael Jackson’s This Is It premiere with his celebrity pal Katy Perry, the shy Arkansan native chose to work with his less splashy or flashy friends like Joe King of The Fray, Jon Foreman of Switchfoot and Greg Kurstin of The Bird and The Bee.

So the biggest question among fans is probably whether we’ll get to hear Kristopher Neil Allen do his own thing on his debut album, since previous winners have aspired to do so. And most importantly, can the man of the hour live up to the great expectations that freight his first real foray into the spotlight?

As we’ve come to expect, the draw of Kris’ performances is the man himself. His emotional connection and ability to relate to his audience makes his debut album hard to resist in a music store full of “artistes” who are nothing more than well-packaged and well-designed products to meet the needs of their customers.

The New American Sweetheart
The New American Sweetheart

Sonically, Kris Allen is a smorgasbord of different musical styles – combining the guitar-driven singer-songwriter charm of blues-rock musician John Mayer, power-pop/alternative fare of The Fray and the adult-contemporary ballads of Lifehouse to produce an overall collection of songs that sound like they were conceived by and for a radio station.

The standout tracks are a real delight for fans and will likely see some new converts: “Before We Come Undone” sticks out from the rest of the album with its insanely catchy chorus and has the most potential to stir up the pop charts, while “Alright With Me” is likely to resonate with radio audiences with its pulsating beats and highly engaging vocal performance. “I Need To Know” sounds like the “Heartless” singer’s most vulnerable yet; the track is drenched in melancholy that is perfectly executed with the Idol winner’s natural flair for weaving narratives. He pleads: “Feels so far away / I want to see your face / Are you even there? / Can you show me? / Can you make me believe? / I need to know…”

Can’t Stay Away” is a particularly rousing number that borders on flirtatious and funky with all the right finishes like something you’d hear on Maroon 5’s latest music endeavors, which makes the track a major contender as a follow-up to the album’s upbeat lead single “Live Like We’re Dying”.

Aside from the poppy choruses and radio-friendly car tunes, Kris actually sounds superb when he’s left on his own. “Red Guitar”, a track that he wrote entirely on his own even before Idol, is really nothing about the colour or the instrument in general, but a sweet and endearing love song dedicated to his wife: “It may not be the best one/ It may not be like the rest of ‘em/ But she makes it sound so sweet/ The melodies she makes it sing…”

The best thing about the disc, however, is that the horribly written Idol coronation single “No Boundaries” has been left out and replaced by a new and improved “Heartless”, whose previous acoustic version was the real reason Kris managed to secure a spot in the Idol finals anyway.

That said, the married boy-next-door still has a long way to go if he wants to crack the Top 40. While the outstanding tracks are terrific, they are a rare find in his otherwise bland album. Having his hand in 9 of the CD’s 13 songs may be the perfect opportunity to showcase his songwriting capabilities, but the show-and-tell should have been left to future releases when Kris has matured both as an artiste and as a person. We say, let the pop maestros help make some really sensational music first to confirm his place as a recording star, and when the singer-songwriter in him feels ready, the opportunity will present itself for Kris to transform into one of music’s leading men.

And that’s the beauty of American Idol. Aside from its over-the-top commercial airtime and hilarious auditions, the talent show gives the man on the street a platform to show the world how understated he has been, and let viewers at home decide who they want to fall in love with.

It’s not a competition for the best vocalist. Neither are the voters looking for the next hotness that is Megan Fox or Robert Pattinson.

It’s really the search for the new American sweetheart; someone whom the world can listen to all day and feel like they’ve known him like an old pal.

So here’s to Kris Allen, the reigning Idol champ whose remarkable win is perhaps bigger than the man or his music itself. He is proof to the world, and young people especially, that you don’t need a voice with a bazillion octaves or a commanding stage presence to win people over. Nobody needs a vocal god to sing to them through the times; they need a friend who can make them feel like he understands through his story, his music and his lyrics.

I think Kris Allen has done, and will continue to do just that.

The UrbanWire gives Kris Allen 3/5 stars.

This review is the second part of a 3-part series on American Idol. You may check out Part 1 of the article here. And be sure to check back soon for our ultimate American Idol playlist!

Release Date: Nov 17

Artiste: Kris Allen

Album title: Kris Allen

Track List:

1. “Live Like We’re Dying” (3:33)

2. “Before We Come Undone” (3:32)

3. “Can’t Stay Away” (3:20)

4. “The Truth” (4:40)

5. “Written All Over My Face” (3:35)

6.  “Bring It Back” (3:43)

7. “Red Guitar” (4:28)

8. “Is It Over” (3:34)

9. “Let It Rain” (3:30)

10. “Alright With Me” (3:08)

11. “Lifetime” (3:38)

12. “I Need To Know” (3:34)

13. “Heartless” (3:42)



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