Daughtry: The Album
It may have been for the best that Chris Daughtry didn't win American Idol. He got the 19/BMG record contract anyway, plenty of good publicity out of his unexpected ouster from the show, and seems to have gotten the green light to do just the album he wanted to -- writing or co-writing 10 of the 12 songs and going for the surname-only, quasi-solo/quasi-band, almost-mythic identity of Daughtry.
As an album, Daughtry is a very airplay friendly album of formulaic, but tuneful contemporary rock, sung with fervor and restraint and considerable skill. Here's USA Today's track-by-track insight into Chris Daughtry's much-anticipated record:
1. It's Not Over: Takes one song to establish the formula on which most of the songs are built: subdued , melodic opening into cranked-up, catchy chorus. Nothing wrong with that at all, as bands from Nirvana to Nickelback could attest.
Daughtry definitely leans more toward Nickelback than Nirvana; the good thing is he sings in a less-mannered style than Chad Kroeger, who's got the formula down pat but makes me want to punch a radio button every time we hear that overfamiliar growl. Lyrical mood: desperate to patch things up.
2. Used To: More of the same, pleasant but unexceptional. Lyrical mood: desperate to patch things up.
3. Home: More of a light-rock texture until the bridge steps up the pace, sounds very commercial. Lyrical mood: pained, regretful.
4. Over You: Jumps into its soft-centered rock chorus more quickly, the most pop-oriented track yet until it ratchets up the intensity and angst toward the end. Lyrical mood: pained, regretful, vengeful.
5. Crashed: Closest thing to Nickelback yet, very predictable, yet quite likable, as with most of these songs. Lyrical mood: obsessed.
6. Feels Like Tonight: Daughtry didn't write it, but it follows the quiet/loud formula perfectly and is perfectly pleasant. Lyrical mood: desperate to patch things up.
7. What I Want: By far the most cranked-up track so far, with an impassioned vocal to match guest guitarist Slash's fretwork. Kind of lost the tune, though. Lyrical mood: regretful but touched by paramour's loyalty.
8. Breakdown: This track stands out impressively, with the greatest contrast between its softer side (featuring Chris' nimble falsetto) and its hard-rock crunch. Lyrical mood: resentful but trying to hold something dysfunctional together (for reasons that are not apparent).
9. Gone: Once again redolent of Nickelback, with another fast jump into the catchy chorus. Good guitar break, and overall one of the stronger tracks. Lyrical mood: desperate.
10. There and Back Again: Worst track on the album, nondescript and sadly tuneless riff-rock. Lyrical mood: supportive, vaguely inspirational.
11. All These Lives: Strings, acoustic guitar, big Nickelback-esque chorus, nicely pulled off. Lyrical mood: very dark.
12. What About Now: The other non-original, co-written by ex-Evanescence guy (and Kelly Clarkson collaborator) Ben Moody, is lighter, with pop single potential, again nicely pulled off. Lyrical mood: desperate to patch things up.
The tracks tend to run together in similarity, both musically and lyrically (angst-rock lives), but it was rarely less than listenable even if it wasn't exactly distinctive or ground-breaking. It's not an album that can compete in the rarefied league of rock's titans; it's not up there with U2 or Green Day or Red Hot Chili Peppers, and probably wasn't aiming for that status anyway.
If the goal was to establish a niche within the narrower accessible hard-rock realm of Nickelback, Staind, Hinder, Seether, Fuel, Shinedown or 3 Doors Down, the Daughtry band succeeded. But he still hasn't come up with the distinctive, career-making "Kryptonite" or "Broken" or "How You Remind Me" that will stand out in the crowd. We'll see if he gets there.