When we think of the music that American Idol has brought to the world, our mind immediately goes to Top 40 pop, the sort of sappy radio ballads that feature disposable, photogenic vocalists with blandly flashy singing styles. But despite the amount of Clay Aikens that the mega-hit show has created, there has also been room for a few rock-oriented performers such as Chris Daughtry, who was in the final four during the program’s fifth season but eventually lost to Taylor Hicks. But while Hicks’s subsequent recording career flat-lined, Daughtry has enjoyed tremendous post-Idol success.
"American Idol" Is Still in His Blood
Though ostensibly a hard rock album, Daughtry represents a watered-down version of the music’s most potent components. It’s not as if good arena-ready music can’t be made from hard-rock conventions – Dave Grohl has become a multi-millionaire by doing just that with Foo Fighters – but Chris Daughtry’s band practices such a lukewarm variation on the form that it’s tempting to think that he and his handlers simply decided to photocopy Nickelback’s sonic playbook and called it a day.
The Man Has Pipes
As a singer, Chris Daughtry projects a certain amount of charisma, going for a yearning, sensitive quality on power ballads like “Feels Like Tonight” and “It’s Not Over.” Considering that most of Daughtry consists of tortured love-gone-bad mid-tempo numbers, he negotiates a balance between seeming ruggedly masculine but also puppy-dog vulnerable.
A Formulaic Sound
For a few tracks, he manages to make this strategy work to his advantage, but the album’s insistence on the same formula throughout starts to feel cynically calculated and monotonous. Producer Howard Benson (who has also worked with bands like Seether and Papa Roach) gives Daughtry a slick sheen so that every guitar hook is milked for optimum dramatic effect. But whereas most hard rock has a propulsive urgency with a thick bottom end, Daughtry’s bright, shiny tunes feel weightless, as if they could float away if you’re not keeping an eye on them.
Some Strong Songs, Although Not Enough
The album does have its moments, such as on “Over You,” which builds from a simple acoustic opening into an addictive chorus fueled by politely rocking electric guitars. But ultimately Daughtry is too much like the show that launched the man’s career: perfectly fine to have on in the background but criminally low on substance once you really start paying attention.
Release date – November 21, 2006