After thrilling the nation week after memorable week on “American Idol,” Kris Allen and Adam Lambert are back in the spotlight with their respective debut albums, “Kris Allen” (guess whose that is) and “For Your Entertainment.” I got to hear both their CDs in the last couple of days, and I was glad–and very relieved–to find that I generally liked both.
First, let’s get the negatives out of the way. It becomes clear pretty early on that a lot of songs on both albums followed the Mad Libs template, i.e. “Kris/Adam, this song is how we want you to sound like, so just fill in the few blanks we left for you.” Neither Kris nor Adam succeed in breaking out of the formulaic boxes that were designed for them and becoming true creative artists. But that’s of course understandable; the months of AI spotlight shouldn’t make people forget that these are their first albums, their first artistic baby steps in their career.
And now for the good. Kris and Adam both step up to the plate and deliver with their vocals. Kris manages to sound both sweet and strong throughout, while Adam displays a remarkable versatility, handling pop, rock, electronica, and what else have you with a cool confidence. And as much as a lot of the songs sound like “boxes,” they’re also very pretty and well-constructed boxes much of the time. They may not be life-changing, but the songs are certainly good enough to bop your head and enjoy yourself to. It’s good, sweet, solid pop (pop rock for Kris, a pop variety pack for Adam), no more and no less.
Here are my favorite tracks from both albums. “I Need To Know” is the one song which strips away all the glossy production and pares it all down to the piano and Kris’ voice. It’s simple and beautiful. With Adam, “If I Had You” is the song where Adam seems to be having the most fun and just being himself, not trying so hard to be the next coming of Freddy Mercury.
P.S. As for Adam’s whole American Music Awards brouhaha, I like what Adam had to say afterwards: “I’m not a babysitter.”