Posted by: dcmjlive | November 18, 2009

Kris Allen: An Album Review

I didn’t expect myself to revive this blog until next season but here I am riled up by Idol Album release season!!! Of course, when I get a hold of the full premium copies of the other idols, I’ll review them but of course, we should start with this year’s winner: Kris Allen and his self-titled album.

One word to describe the album: VARIETY. The album delivers a variety of staple radio-friendly sounds that mostly anyone can relate to. The album in itself deals a whole lot on relationships, which Kris himself said that its much easier to make songs about those significant bad moments in your life. But hey, that’s the magic of music, turning something bad into something great. Interestingly, what sets the album apart from other Idol albums is that it has that true feeling. Given that Kris wrote 9(11) of the 12(15) tracks, it shows that 19/Jive really gave Kris a lot of liberty to make the album the best it could be in such a short span of time of writing, recording and what not. So now, I’ll do a review of each track in the album and after, my final verdict on the album.

The carrier single Live Like We’re Dying is a great introduction to the music industry. Brand New Shoes showcased a lot of easy-listening alternative rock songs but with this track, you get a sense that his album leans toward pop-rock material. LLWD, as many have decided to coin it, has a good message that we don’t get everyday in our current music milieu. When the lines “86 400 seconds in a day” plays, the term seconds gives you that urgency to live your life as every second is precious. The Script also did a good job making the song pretty repetitive thus giving a “stick to your head” effect that songs like Single Ladies by Beyoncé has achieved. In effect, the track is well-formulated to give you a great message but still giving consumers a good listen.

If the first track dealt with consumer formula, Before We Come Undone uses a formula that actually tickles my fancy. The song is very progressive in nature thus the dynamics really help the song shine. It starts of with an alternative vibe but building to the chorus, it becomes pop-rock/dance like. By the 2nd verse, you already have an uplifted feel, which is reinforced again by the chorus and the momentum from the verse makes wonders for the subdued bridge and then builds perfectly again to a great finish. What makes this track even better is that it is very radio-friendly. Plugging it to my iTrip (MP3 player FM transmitter), driving became more of an ease despite heavy traffic in the Philippines.

The third track shows another facet of the album, a more sexy sound with great downbeats. Like Lyndsey Parker said, Can’t Stay Away really does have that Maroon 5 feel. This just shows how suave rock could actually be. Like BWCU, CSA also has that radio-friendly feel and I have a good feeling that the second single is either of these two great tracks. What makes the track a seller, the great bass arrangement from both the drums and the bass guitar.

After three upbeat tracks, the album slows down with a very moving track, The Truth. The song has that deep feeling of alienation that the desperation of the song becomes really prominent. The track also has great analogies. ignored elephants, unforseen avalanches, crumbling floors and tumbling walls are much better metaphors than hurricanes and mountains because as the latter are clichés, the former are innovative. My favorite line from the song is “Honesty is honestly the hardest thing for me right now.” Not only does it have a catchy ring to it but also a great feeling of melancholy that tells of the message perfectly.

Written All Over My Face gets back to the upbeat feel of the album. Another song from The Script, it has the same feeling as LLWD. Although as good as BWCU and CSA, I don’t expect this to become a single because of the said similarities. Despite of that, I love how the song just tells the universal truth of actions speaking louder than words, which is captured by the lines “If you want we could talk about it all day, but what’s to say, when it’s written all over my face.” What I love about this track is the catchy beat and how Kris has proven that he CAN compete in the vocal olympics.

Now having 4 upbeat tracks, the album decides to take a break from much of the bass electric guitar and gives more way to the piano. Bring It Back is a very teary heartfelt song about having lost love. Like The Truth, the song uses clever metaphors. “Think before you leave. I forgot what love is, bring it back, tell me that you believe” for me can pierce ones heart and that desperation of trying to have that love back really emanates from the way the song was constructed.

The only track Kris wrote before Idol and did not co-write, Red Guitar does not veer away from the total feel of the album. In fact, the song fits this album more than Brand New Shoes. I particularly like the story behind the song where the red guitar that he bought for his wife of which the wife did not learn to play became a metaphor of how much he loves Katy. It’s a funny sort of admiration but a cute one giving the song a very romantic sensual but pop-rock feel. And maybe I have a personal affinity to the song given that red is my favorite color.

Is It Over, a track Kris fought for over the iTunes exclusive bonus track to be discussed later because it was co-written by his buddy Cale Mills, really has that grunge factor. If Red Guitar fits this album, this track reminds me of the sound in Brand New Shoes more, particularly Beautiful Moon. And that’s not really a bad thing because it puts the album back to the Kris we learned to love in American Idol. Message-wise, it’s actually interesting that the confusion is better seen in the words but the denial is seen more in the music. Instead of being a disconnect, the two work well together.

From the ashes of being defeated with the album’s rendition of Heartless and other similar falls, Let It Rain is a metaphor of such a feeling. “I know this is not the way that you imagined it would be but nothing you say is gonna stop me” may apply to the writing process but the song can apply to just having that sheer determination no matter what brings you down. It is reminiscent of Mariah Carey’s Through the Rain but it has that originality to it. A good track really.

I guess the next track is a way to get away from the gravity of the previous track. Alright With Me is aight with me dawg. It even makes my favorite list…but then again, everything’s a favorite. But it’s one of the ones that are higher ranked. The “last song syndrome” factor is strong with this track and its somewhat happy-go-lucky feel reminds me of Jason Mraz’s I’m Yours.  Interestingly, behind that happy exterior, the song is one of acceptance of being denied. Maybe this is the acceptance stage and the previous track shows the other 4 stages of grief. All in all, I just love this song because of its sheer simplicity.

“I wake up, put my poker face on” is the line that get stucks in my head when hearing Lifetime. It’s just a weird start for a song especially because it reminds me of Lady GaGa. But anyway, back to the song, I think the track is one of the weaker songs. Despite the repetitive formula of “It takes a lifetime” again and again, the music being a bit down makes it sound a bit annoying. So what if it takes a lifetime to get things right? I don’t need someone nagging me about that point. However, it does remind us that we can’t expect things to always be perfect, which must be the intention of Jon Foreman. In fact, the song is very Switchfoot-themed. It’s just too grave for my tastes though.

After a nagging song, you have a song of desperation again. I Need to Know seems like a sequel to Is It Over. But the feel is just so heavy that I have a hard time appreciating it. I’m really a more happy type of person so this doesn’t gel with me well. However, the last repetitions of I Need to Know have such a distinctive and beautiful emotion-filled delivery that I sometimes ignore the heaviness of the song.

We then go with the bonus tracks, which in fact, I actually don’t consider so bonus. We start with the staple of Kris on Idol, Heartless. Instead of the acoustic feel we got used to with Kris though, the track feels like a rock-fied version of Kanye’s with a lot of the spirit-vibed background music. However, the rock progressions really make up for the “new” feel of Heartless from Kris with the lines “you run and tell your friends that you’re leaving me…” All in all, the track justs reinforces that the album is more rock than acoustic, and that’s alright with me. Even if Kris did not like it, I think it helped the cohesion of the album.

I’m jealous of those who have the WalMart album because Send Me All Your Angels is a good addition to the album. You can trace the Daughtry feel in the track actually but I don’t mind. I noticed from No Boundaries that Kris does sing pretty similar to Chris. Anyway, the song is just a good radio-friendly track. Weirdly, or not so weirdly, the track fits in Daughtry’s Leave This Town album. I love how the track ends and melds well with the last guitar stroke. The track shows finesse.

People are divided with this iTunes exclusive track, From the Ashes. Personally I like it because it brings back upbeat to the album. By Bring It Back, the tracks become a bit too grave and with this track as an album ender, it helps make a bridge back to the first track if you do love putting albums in repeat. The progression of the song also helps me like the song and it like a lot of the songs here has a radio-friendly feel. Other things I love about this track is the use of the violin and just the basic theme of rising from the ashes as if you were a phoenix, being born again and finding purpose.

As a whole, the album takes you on a (forgive me for being cliché) roller coaster ride of emotion. The album isn’t at all static and the album being dynamic really makes for an adventurous ride. What I like most about this album is that most of the songs are really radio-friendly and hopefully, Kris would be able to make it big with these staple sounds that everyone can like. Sure, I didn’t like the gravity of some songs but I do appreciate how well written they are. In a whole, I give this album two thumbs up! I’m so happy Kris was able to make his own album without the producers being too manipulative with it.


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