Idol vs. Idol… A few weeks back I made mention of the first single from American Idol season 10 winner Scotty McCreery and how I found it less than impressive. I had no intention of listening to the rest of Scotty’s debut when it came out on October 4, but with a record-breaking number one album and an astonishing 197,000 units sold, one can’t help but take notice.
McCreery is the first country act to debut at the top of the Billboard charts, and at 18-years old, he’s the youngest male to debut at the top with his debut album. He’s also the first Idol winner since Ruben Studdard did it in 2003 to enter the charts at number one. This is very good news for American Idol producers and the credibility of the show. In the last few years there have been record numbers of votes during the season (122 million were cast for the season 10 finale) only to see winners make horrible chart debuts and fade away to obscurity – Kris Allen (#11) and Lee DeWyze (#19).
But, is Scotty McCreery the next Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood? Or is his season 10 runner-up, girl-next-door country darling Lauren Alaina, the real deal? One thing is for certain, country music fans are loyal and show their loyalty by actually going out and purchasing music as well as concert tickets so both should do well riding the country wave over the next few years.
Skip It… Clear As Day is Scotty McCreery’s debut album, and although Scotty won Idol and sold a heap of copies in his first week, the album itself isn’t very good. I understand that Scotty is being positioned as a throwback country crooner in the style of Randy Travis and Conway Twitty, and there’s no denying that the tone of Scotty’s voice is pure country gold. The problem with Clear As Day is not Scotty but the material. The song writing and production is cheesy at best. If I were to judge the album like a former AI judge out of the U.K. might have, I would say that Scotty is 18 years old and at times sounds like he’s 80. You can be retro, but still be cool and contemporary (Michael Bublé and Norah Jones come to mind as good examples). It’s not surprising that the most up-beat and enjoyable track on the album is the Keith Urban penned “Walk In The Country”. The good news for McCreedy is he knows who he is and he knows his limitations. He just needs better material to demonstrate his talent. Must-have track: “Walk In The Country”.
Add It To The Collection…Lauren Alaina was runner-up on season 10 of Idol and she’ll probably finish a distant second place to Scotty in terms of sales and notoriety for their debut albums. But if you take a listen to Wildflower you can hear a bright future for the 16 year old from Rossville, Georgia. Her voice has the power of Kelly Clarkson and, unlike McCreery, Alaina’s material is more like the contemporary country-pop crossover style of Carrie Underwood and Shania Twain. Alaina sings about southern girls on “Georgia Peaches”, mommas on first single “Like A Mother Does” and life in the South on “Tupelo”. And, while the material is age-appropriate the album doesn’t stay stuck in first gear like Clear As Day. This album may not sell as quickly as Clear As Day but it might have multiple top-10 country singles and will put Alaina on the map. Must-have track: “Georgia Peaches”.
Worth another listen… The only true idol who released new music this week is 80 years old, a native of Montreal and a television icon. William Shatner has literally done it all over the course of his six decade career. Despite being best known for spending close to thirty years wearing tight mock-turtlenecks as Captain James T. Kirk and winning Emmys and Golden Globe Awards for his work on TV dramas Boston Legal and The Practice, Shatner has also had a storied, if less than appreciated, career as a recording artist. Beginning with 1968’s The Transformed Man, Shatner has used spoken-word and dramatic pauses to recreate and re-imagine some of the greatest pop songs of the last 100 years. His latest project, Seeking Major Tom, is a double-disc collection of space-themed cover tunes delivered from the point-of-view of Major Tom (the main character in David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”) who leaves his family behind only to find himself lost in space. From “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen to Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man”, the album’s theme of isolation and regret are carried throughout and held together by the 1983 Peter Schilling hit “Major Tom (Coming Home)”. The album may be pure schmaltz, but there’s no denying this collection of great material combined with an amazing line-up of special guests including Sheryl Crow, Peter Frampton, Zakk Wylde, Steve Howe and Brad Paisley. Must-have track: It’s a toss-up for me between “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Duran Duran’s “Planet Earth.”