Newest Review: ... are so cliched that you want to flinch, Allen's songs do come with a touch of poetry. One of the best examples comes from the song "L... more
Kris won't Cross you with this album
Kris Allen - Kris Allen
Member Name: TheChocolateLady
Kris Allen - Kris Allen
Advantages: All the songs are good, good vocals, interesting collection
Disadvantages: The theme here is a bit cliched, the bonus track isn't his best version
There are two things on this album that one will notice are very prevalent in this collection of songs. The first being that the vast majority of them are about love - and most particularly, relationships that are having problems. The exceptions to that rule are the opening song "Live Like We're Dying", "Lifetime" and one of my personal favorites, "Red Guitar". There are also two songs that are more about chasing the girl, and those are "Can't Stay Away" and "Alright with Me", both of which are real toe tapping songs that depend lots on his acoustic guitar. But all the other songs seem to be about couples on the verge of heartbreak. While there's nothing wrong with that, it's just that it does come as a bit of a surprise that this would be the theme (albeit unintentional, I'm sure) of an album by one of American Idol's most happily married men (aside from maybe this year's "Big Mike"). One must admit that this subject matter is one of the most popular among most songwriters, so perhaps we shouldn't complain. Still, it does make one all the more appreciate artists like Regina Spektor who fill their albums with songs on such varied subjects as say, finding someone's wallet.
On the up side of this, rather than inane rhymes and lyrics that are so cliched that you want to flinch, Allen's songs do come with a touch of poetry. One of the best examples comes from the song "Lifetime" which includes this lovely metaphor (among others):
Living doesn't come first try/ it takes a lifetime of getting it right./ It takes a lifetime to learn how to sing,/ to find my place in the world's symphony/ to become the melody,/ the man I know I could be.
Now really, when was the last time you heard the word symphony in a modern song? There's quite a bit of these types of playing on ideas in this album. For instance, in the song "The Truth" there's the longest chorus I've ever heard on any song, but I have to admit that I do like how it was constructed. That marathon chorus starts out with:
Its the Elephant in the room/ and we pretend we don't see it./ Its an avalanche that looms above our heads/ and we don't believe it.
Well, that's one way of saying we're avoiding looking at the problem. Later in the chorus (and yes, there is a bit in between) he says:
While the floors underneath our feet are crumbling,/ the walls we built together tumbling,/ I still stand here holding up the roof/ 'cause its easier than telling the truth.
So although these metaphors are a touch mixed, at least he's got some poetry here. And speaking of metaphors, the song that really gives us the most to think about, is "Red Guitar" which is obviously from start to finish one metaphor. If you ask me "a metaphor for what?" I'd have to say - an experience you have had that effects you so much it becomes part of you for the rest of your life. Now, it really is unusual to think that this type of philosophical song with such poetry came out of a kid who is just 25 years old (the same age as my own son)! But there you have it - this song is something special - and by the way, the only one on this album that is 100% Allen's work.
The other interesting thing about this album is that unlike almost every other American Idol (aside from maybe the Country singers), Allen's album has the type of variety that keeps you listening from track to track. For instance, take that bit of upbeat fun and funk on "Alright With Me" coming after the heartfelt ballads "Is it Over" and "Let it Rain" that makes you sit up and take notice here. How refreshing after such monotone debut collections as Daughtry's or even David Cook's. But more importantly, Kris doesn't end up totally overdoing it with the production here. It seems to me that when one of these contestants gets into a professional studio for the first time, they're probably like a kid given free reign in an ice cream shop - putting every topping and sauce they could ever have possibly hoped for on top of as many scoops as the bowl will take! Yes, the production here is a bit on the slick and thick in places (why people think that adding a string section will make their songs sound more sophisticated is beyond me), but thankfully we still get songs with solo guitar and/or piano in acoustic mode on the ballads such as "Let it Rain" and "Bring it Back". This means that even in the more upbeat songs, we don't loose Allen's voice and can hear his attitude throughout the songs - both of which are the reasons he won last year's American Idol.
That's another thing about this album, and something which I think the judges this year are trying to bring out in the contestants. At one point during last year's contest, Kris started taking songs and making them his own, into something he'd want to put on his album. That's when he started to lead the pack, by following Adam Lambert's examples. While most people think his version of "Apologize" was the height, I think his version of the disco song "She Works Hard for the Money" was the real turning point for him. Unfortunately, the cover song he's included here from the competition is "Heartless" and it is by far the least successful of all the tracks here - being way over produced, and sounding almost disco. Still, it does fit the overall theme of the album, and it is a good song.
In all, this is a very nice collection of songs which showcases Allen's talent and unique abilities perfectly. He's got some rocky upbeat songs, including ones on the funky side, along with softer more heartfelt ones to make a nice balance. For me, this is perfect travel music - just the thing for a drive in the car or ride on public transportation. It won't bore you by having each song sound the same, and there is enough depth to the lyrics here to get you thinking. I can honestly say that I like all the songs here - and only wished he's had a lighter touch on some of the productions. So far, if you ask me, this is the best debut album from any American Idol contestant since I've been watching the show (with season 4). For that, I'll highly recommend it and give it 4½ out of five stars and hope it starts getting the attention (and sales) it deserves because of its artistic content - vocally, musically and lyrically (vs the controversy of his runner-ups album).
Davida Chazan © April 2010
1. Live Like We're Dying
2. Before We Come Undone
3. Can't Stay Away
4. The Truth
5. Written All Over My Face
6. Bring It Back
7. Red Guitar
8. Is It Over
9. Let It Rain
10. Alright With Me
12. Need to Know
This is available new on Amazon for £11.99, or through their marketplace from £7.67 or for MP3 download for £7.49 - if you choose the latter, don't bother with the bonus track of "Heartless".
Summary: Kris Allen, American Idol Season 8's winner has put out his debut album