THERE are a lot of “American Idol” vets this week on the Billboard chart, where John Mayer’s “Born and Raised” is this week’s No. 1. Last week, Season Eight runnerup Adam Lambert’s “Trespassing” shunted aside Season Four champ Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away” from the top spot, making him the first openly gay mainstream artist in history to debut at the top.
Interestingly, three notable alumni—Kris Allen, Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez—take their bow on the Billboard 200 this week, with contrasting results: Allen’s sophomore effort, “Thank You Camellia,” opens disappointingly at No. 26. Season 11 champ Phillips’ “Journey to the Finale” does better, at No. 11. Shockingly, Jessica seems to have lost steam after her second-place finish on the show, because her “Journey to the Finale” set could only muster a 126th-place debut. Where have all her voters gone?
While the Idols’ showing on the charts is sending mixed signals, this much is clear: The singing tilt has lost its reason for being because of its penchant for favoring personality over talent. This is reflected even in the ratings, where, for the first time in a long while, the TV show has been dislodged as the current season’s ratings champ!
Throughout the year, the Fox reality program has been “tracking 30 percent lower than last season, which was the show’s lowest-rated finale—until now.” So it would be unwise for the Idols to rest on their laurels and rely on the (decreasing) popularity of the talent search that turned them into singing stars.
As far as longevity is concerned, it doesn’t look like Lambert has anything to worry about—because his exceptional talent sustains his record-selling and crowd-drawing cachet. In fact, his prodigious gifts as a performer can turn mediocre tunes into palatable performance pieces.
In “Trespassing,” punk and glam rock find unlikely companions in electronica and alternative music, genres that allow snippets of Lambert’s multilayered personality to come through. So, as his different musical persuasions unfold, so does he.
Among the track listing’s crowd-drawing cuts are the irresistible “Kickin’ In” and Bruno Mars’ cute-as-fluff “Never Close Our Eyes.” You want to dance? You’ll enjoy “Trespassing,” a catchy, fun-filled hybrid of Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury. “Shady” sprinkles its funk-fueled hooks with lovely harmonies. Lambert’s dance numbers tend to sound the same, but his renditions “differentiate” one tune from the next.
On the other hand, his ballads defy pop music’s cookie-cutter mold: The power of “Broken English” rests on Lambert’s malleable pipes, while the ethereal “Underneath” shines with its persuasive theatricality. “Outlaws of Love” is a smooth ballad that demonstrates the singer’s depth as a performer—and his enviable octaves!
If you’re partial to middle-of-the-road pop, you’ll probably find the lineup of Kris Allen’s second studio release, “Thank You Camellia,” more accessible—and safe. To be fair, the album is much better than his debut recording. It also demonstrates that the voice of “American Idol’s” Season Eight champ is a voice best heard in middle to lower registers.
With its toe-tapping guitar licks, “Teach Me How Love Goes” is a stirring romantic ode, while the buoyant “She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not” is Allen’s cotton-candy-coated duet with Meiko (“The Bright Side”). Another note-worthy ballad is the piano-backed “You Got A Way.”
If you’re in the mood for uptempo tracks that you can groove to, you’ll find the radio-friendly “Better With You,” “The Vision of Love” and the reggae-tinged “My Weakness” irresistible.