The first album from Taylor Hicks, the winner of this year's American Idol competition, has put together a collection of songs that suffers from the somewhat disorienting experimentation with styles that has become common in first albums from American Idol competitors. However, the most comfortable tunes on the album point in the direction of a distinct, pleasing style that may find a significant pop audience.
Dinner Theater Glitz
Taylor Hicks kicks off with high energy in the form of the song "Runaround," expected to be the albums' first single. However, by the time you've made it halfway through the 3rd cut "Heaven Knows," a nightmarish mashup of "Ain't That Peculiar," cheesy backup vocals, and showman-mode Taylor Hicks, you may question whether you've wandered into a Branson dinner theater. This glitzy, stagey style wears thin quickly. Things don't get much better with a lifeless take on "Wherever I Lay My Hat" and the total mismatch between artist and song that is "Just to Feel That Way" by the writers of Nick Lachey's tearjerker "What's Left of Me."
However, halfway through the album it sounds like we hit the music Taylor Hicks was meant to record. He handles "Places I've Been," a trademark Diane Warren tune, just fine, and then sounds completely at home with new recordings of his own songs "Soul Thing" and "The Deal." Hicks sounds completely at home applying his soulful rasp to "The Right Place" by pop rocker Bryan Adams and his songwriting partner Jim Vallance, but then the whole thing is over.
Taylor Hicks has given us a taste of what he can be as a recording artist. He brings back the pleasant side of memories of 70's soft rock from the likes of Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins with a slightly more soulful edge. Unfortunately, he also seems to have an attraction to an annoying style of showmanship that translates particularly poorly on record.
Top Tracks on 'Taylor Hicks'
- Places I've Been
- Soul Thing
- The Deal
- The Right Place
Above Average American Idol Debut
In the brighter moments on Taylor Hicks, it's easy to see why he was appealing to such a broad range of the American Idol audience. It's also obvious his voice and style can translate well without watching him perform on stage. This collection will please his many fans, sell a significant number of albums, and create a strong argument for a continued investment in Taylor Hicks as a performer.
However, if he allows himself to be swallowed up by a stagey, glitzy alter ego, he may find himself a one-way ticket to celebrity B-list status. I'm on the side of hoping Taylor Hicks can take some cues from Kelly Clarkson and Fantasia and deliver fully on his potential with album number two.