Rock

Published on August 18th, 2015 | by Andy Sedlak

‘Daughtry’ – Daughtry [2006]

‘Daughtry’ – Daughtry [2006] Andy Sedlak

Summary: What you saw on 'American Idol' was what you got in Chris Daughtry's debut. You could expect familiar themes and spotless production. Just don’t expect any surprises.

1.5

Regrettable


User Rating: 0 (0 votes)

Length: 42:00  |  Released: Nov. 21, 2006

Producer: Howard Benson

Label: RCA

Peak Billboard position: #1

Top 40 U.S. hits: 5

It’s been almost a decade since Chris Daughtry embodied a dad-approved shakeup on American Idol. Bo Bice might have come first but Daughtry changed American Idol’s discourse when he cited bands like Soundgarden and Live as influences. His raspy wail punctuated a semi-radical shift for the definitive talent-seeking program of the era.

His solo debut, however, had all the personality of a Kohl’s store. I struggled to get through it in a single sitting.

Released in 2006, Daughtry does everything it should and I believe that’s part of the problem. It’s as conservative as rock & roll can possibly be and it’s no secret that much of its success is owed to the historical nature of the program its popularity was born out of.

The fifth season of Idol – in which Daughtry wound up finishing fourth amid a sea of controversy – was the most-watched in Idol history. An estimated 30 million people tuned in per episode. Katharine McPhee, Kellie Pickler and winner Taylor Hicks all found themselves on the charts after it wrapped but it was Daughtry who truly swept up after he was marketed for the edge he brought to the Fox juggernaut.

That’s a little like being the thinnest kid at fat camp, but it worked. Daughtry didn’t stray from the formula and more than five million people now own his self-titled debut. That’s roughly the population of St. Petersburg, Russia.

Chris Daughtry performs Fuel’s “Hemorrhage (In My Hands) on American Idol.

If multi-platinum certification isn’t enough for you, know that Daughtry is the fastest selling rock debut in Soundscan history. That dates back to 1991. And although it didn’t win, the record was nominated alongside releases from the Foo Fighters, Bruce Springsteen, John Fogerty and Wilco in the category of Best Rock Album at the 2008 Grammys.

Behind the numbers and momentary accolades, however, we find paint-by-numbers production, painfully familiar lyrical snapshots and an entertainer whose better-than-average vocal range still translates into zero charisma. There isn’t much flair, spontaneity or surprise on Daughtry. Even Slash’s cameo on “What I Want” feels carefully orchestrated.

How do you neuter Slash?

Enter producer Howard Benson. With him, Benson brought a bland record of success. Kelly Clarkson, Hoobastank, Creed, Gavin DeGraw and Rascal Flatts all cashed in with him. And if you put those acts into a blender, Daughtry is pretty much the result.

The heart and soul of Daughtry is “It’s Not Over.” Released six months after Daughtry was voted off Idol, the soaring chorus checks all the requisite boxes and not a bit more. If you bother with the lyrics, the narrative about dedication and the pursuit of a former flame comes off as denial at best and criminal at worst.

Someone tell this guy it is over, already.

From “It’s Not Over:”
I try to see the good in life
But good things in life are hard to find

The video for “It’s Not Over,” a breakout hit for Daughtry.

It didn’t take long for Daughtry to repay Fox for his breakthrough. Shortly after its release, “It’s Not Over” was used in a promo during the second season of Fox’s Prison Break.

One of the album’s highlights comes early. The rickety giddy up of “Over You” manages not to take itself too terribly seriously and the record finds itself exhaling as a result. Later, “Feels Like Tonight” serves up a clumsy shot at redemption with redeemable sincerity. The song, which peaked at Number 24 on the Hot 100 in 2008, became one of the record’s notable contributions.

Unfortunately, after the success of “Home,” it also cemented Daughtry as a Power Ballad Guy.

To me, “Home” sounds like a coded ode to Idol’s homecoming episodes. And it’s an odd choice to include on a debut album. We find the 26-year-old singer road-weary a few months after what was perceived as the breakthrough of a lifetime?

From “Home:”
I’ve not always been the best man or friend for you
But your love remains true and I don’t know why
You always seem to give me another try
So I’m going home…

The music video for “Home.”

One deep cut had teeth. “Gone” puts up an arrangement that starts semi-hypnotic and then sprawls out to reveal those Soundgarden influences. All of it punctuated by Daughtry’s ascending vocal. The only thing wrong with it was that it’s not even three-and-a-half minutes long and ends before we can fully appreciate its direction.

The rest of the album – released before the band’s set lineup was in place – brings a mix of beefy guitars and airbrushed acoustics. Little drum fills lead right into choruses about seizing the day or the hard wait for redemption. But Chris Daughtry’s true wonder is in how he makes weighty topics seem so dull. In swaying between a rocker guy’s determinism and a tender guy’s contemplation, his collective output feels neither imperative nor decisive. Readings are obligatory. Songs like “Breakdown” and “All These Lives” try to push all the important buttons but they probably belong on a Jason Aldean record.

“Used To” crystallizes the lack of depth you’ll find on most Daughtry tracks. It’s a typical lament of the where-did-we-go-wrong variety.

From “Used To:”
I look around me and I want you to be there
‘Cause I miss the things that we shared

Comparisons have been drawn between Daughtry and bands like, say, Creed. Or Nickelback. But there’s nothing on Daughtry as interesting as Creed’s “Beautiful,” which was a highlight on 1999’s Human Clay. Nor is there anything with the bump or impish humor of Nickelback’s “Rockstar.” Whatever you might be expecting from Chris Daughtry’s debut, don’t expect him to mix it up.

Image: Daughtry Performs On NBC's "Today"

Daughtry on stage, likely singing a power ballad.

Some reviewers were fairly good to Daughtry after his record was released in late November of 2006. AllMusic has Daughtry down for a rating of 3.5/5 stars. It received a “B” rating from Entertainment Weekly. Ultimate Guitar gave it a score of 8.5/10.

Others slammed it to death. What did Ken Barnes of USA Today hear? “FuelNickelStaindback”

It’s on “What About Now” where the record finally bottoms out. There are just too many generic power ballads that feel focus-group approved.

By casting such a wide net, Daughtry and his co-writers overlook the details that allow characters to breathe. There are no deep breaths or pounding fists on his debut. Characters’ veins are without blood and their heads empty of thought. There is only triumph and failure, with not much context either way. Daughtry reports from the bottom line damn near all the time.

Broad arrangements that play not to lose underscore the latest entry into the corporate rock canon. Music is scrubbed free of risk or intrigue. The playing doesn’t divert from Daughtry’s brand, which seems to shoot for reliability. Except in life, and in music, warts are pretty interesting. And we’re ultimately reminded of the slim line between reliability and redundancy.

Inevitably, Daughtry’s album sales have decreased since his commercial breakthrough. Although 2009’s Leave This Town topped the Billboard chart and sold over a million copies without the Idol push, a third full-length album peaked at Number 8. The band’s latest, 2013’s Baptized, stalled out at Number 6.

“I’m not sure I’m seeing a hell of a lot of charisma here,” Simon Cowell told Chris Daughtry after his first American Idol audition. “I’m not sure I’m looking at a standalone star.”

Simon’s crystal ball wins again.

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About the Author

Andy Sedlak is a former television reporter who lives in Dayton, OH. He grew up in a household that pumped Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel every weekend. He instantly became a new man when he discovered Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” in junior high.



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