Music Review: Daughtry, "Daughtry"
by Paul Schultz
Published: December 2, 2006
So, I'm watching NBC's "Christmas in Rockefeller Center" and there's Taylor Hicks singing "White Christmas" as only the American Idol winner can. Before I can even get the words out of my mouth, my father utters our shared thought: "He's good... but he's not that good." Which brings me to Chris Daughtry, the beloved fourth-place finalist on American Idol's fifth season. Judge Simon Cowell as much as proclaimed him the winner, which made his subsequent elimination all the more shocking. To prove the show's political correctness to embrace musical diversity, surely they needed to crown a rocker. Thus, Chris had it made over soulful Taylor Hicks (already done with Ruben Studdard) and charming eye-candy Katharine McPhee (already done with Carrie Underwood, or Kelly Clarkson, take your pick). Voter complacency said otherwise, and the still-hotly-debated tally sent Chris off the show, along with thousands of suddenly disinterested viewers.
Chris had an eventful post-Idol summer. He turned down Fuel's offer to make him lead singer. He was a guest vocalist on a version of Live's "Mystery" (from their album "Songs from Black Mountain"), a song he performed on the season finale of American Idol (available through the Friends of Live website). He had the distinction of scoring the highest charting song from the "American Idol Season 5 Encores" CD when his rendition of Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive" peaked at #43. The North Carolina native formed his own band, forsook his first name for the sake of the group, and is ready to show the world, once and for all, that American Idol got it wrong.
Daughtry is (right to left): Chris Daughtry
(Vocals/Guitar), Jeremy Brady (Guitar),
Josh Paul (Bass), Joey Barnes (Drums),
and Josh Steely (Lead Guitar).
[Photo by Frank Ockenfels 3]
Will America listen? "Daughtry" debuted at #2 on Billboard's album chart, so I'd say the anticipation is there. The first single, "It's Not Over" can be heard on promos for Prison Break, so the new music is getting exposure. Was it worth the wait? Yes and no. As produced by Howard Benson, the self-titled offering comes across as a less-harsh Nickelback with pieces of 3 Doors Down, Creed and the like sprinkled in.
Chris' distinctive vocals range from explosive to powerfully restrained. He has writing credits on all but two of the tracks, and is well on his way to becoming a fine songwriter, through clichés occasionally creep in, as well as odd visuals, like in the mental health rumination "Breakdown" ("Open up the book you beat me with again/Read it off one sentence at a time"). Other than the aforementioned "Breakdown", only "All These Lives" strays into dark territory with its dwelling on the mind of a murderer ("All these lives that you've been taking/Deep inside, my heart is breaking/Broken homes from separation/Don't you know it's violation?"). Otherwise, Chris generally plays the victim to love's machinations.
Musically, it's straight down the middle of the road in terms of rock, with a few surprises thrown in. Slash (Velvet Revolver, Guns N' Roses) headlines "What I Want" which is harsher in vocals and darker in guitars than any other track. It sure is nice to hear a guitar solo every once in a while, too. "There and Back Again" springs from the speakers as well with heavy power chords and insistent attitude. When thing back down, they are equally effective. "Home" is a beautiful power ballad of missed love. The final track is a piano-driven number written by Evanescence ex-patriots Ben Moody and David Hodges, and it wasn't hard to imagine Amy Lee singing it, though Chris made it his own with male earnestness. I inexplicably dig "Feels Like Tonight" though I'd be hard-pressed to explain why -- there's nothing particularly distinctive about it.
In the end, that's something that could be said about the entire album. For all the talk of diversity and musical risk-taking Chris inferred leading up to this unveiling, the project as a whole suffers from an inherent sameness. When it's playing in the background, the tracks all run together and the lyrics just float above your head and into the ether. I'd like to blame it on the fact that "Daughtry" was recorded with studio musicians, and not the hand-picked band that Chris assembled and takes on the road for performances. It's good... but it's not that good. With Taylor Hicks' self-titled debut (and Katharine McPhee's album) coming down the pike shortly, we'll soon find out where Daughtry ranks with the expectations for an American Idol winner.
|Daughtry - "Daughtry"
|01. It's Not Over
02. Used To
04. Over You
06. Feels Like Tonight
|07. What I Want (featuring Slash)
10. There and Back Again
11. All These Lives
12. What About Now