Lachey better on TV than on CD

New on CD

Music: in concert, CDs

January 08, 2004|By Teresa Gubbins | Teresa Gubbins,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Thanks to the MTV reality show Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica, Nick Lachey has become a guy you want to like. His role as the harried, good-natured husband of Jessica Simpson practically earns him sainthood status, not just because of his patience but also because he transmits a persona that is hard-working and genuine.

His solo debut, the irksomely titled SoulO, is much like the man on TV: uncomplicated but likable -- characteristics, unfortunately, that don't play as well on disc as they do on TV. SoulO lacks the kind of fire that makes you crave the sound of it again and again.

He sticks to the turf he worked in boy teen-pop quartet 98 Degrees: R&B-flavored pop, interspersing upbeat, danceable numbers with heartthrob ballads. He has a pleasantly boyish voice, hitting the soprano range gracefully and sometimes sounding like George Michael, most noticeably on the song "Could You Love." But he can also belt it out powerfully when he wants to.

He receives co-writing credit on most of the songs; it looks as if he wrote the lyrics. Whether up-tempo or down, most of the songs -- "Can't Stop Loving You," "Could You Love," "Fall in Love Again" -- are about the L-word. His writing partners include the trio known as the Matrix, which has written songs for Christina Aguilera (among others), and teen-pop producer Guy Chambers.

A good half of the disc is forgettable pop, songs that go in one ear and come out the other. But there are a couple of catchy moments that stick, such as the opening track, "Shut Up," a funk-driven groove with pretty harmonies that hook the ear.

On the ballads, he exhibits a nice quiver, infusing his words with emotion. Not all the ballads are sure things. "This I Swear" has all the bite of a Celine Dion epic, and "Edge of Eternity" is horridly sappy. But when he's doing it right, as on the breathy, emotive "I Fall in Love Again," or the corny but affecting "You're the Only Place," ballads seem to be his destiny.

Nick Lachey: SoulO (Universal) **

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