[RCA Records] ***
Even if post-American Idol albums are as calculated and overblown as the show itself, they generally succeed at evoking a sound pop fans had forgotten. Before she reinvented herself as an expressive pop-rocker, Kelly Clarkson, the show's inaugural winner, recalled the sweeping, innocuous power pop of vintage Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. The same is true about Season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino, whose barnstorming, idiosyncratic vocals were a throwback to the churchy sounds of Southern soul circa 1967.
David Cook, the grand champion of Idol's ho-hum seventh season, loves the soaring alt-rock of the 1990s. His self-titled debut, in stores today, could have come out in 1996. Cook belts booming anthems of undying love and bruised feelings that crawl then surge then crawl again before fading out on a sustained note. The production throughout is glossy and bombastic, the lyrics sometimes sappy. The album is hopelessly predictable.
But Cook's big, expressive voice and undeniable passion for the material, no matter how lame some of it is, buoy the album. To help give his sound some authenticity, the Idol winner worked with a few of his musical heroes, namely Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace, who co-wrote three cuts. Kevin Griffin of Better Than Ezra co-wrote one song.
Cook's engaging, enthusiastic vocals bind it all. He's especially impressive on the harder rocking cuts: "Bar-ba-soul" is a standout. But even when he's knee-deep in sappy sentiments, as on "Mr. Sensitive" and "Life on the Moon," Cook manages to invigorate the songs with passion and warmth, the hallmark of a promising pop star.
Download these: "Bar-ba-sol," "Come Back to Me," and "Lie"
Also out today: Pop diva Beyonce unleashes her alter ego on I Am ... Sasha Fierce, '90s country-pop sensation Billy Ray Cyrus takes us Back to Tennessee, and rock group Nickelback rides the Dark Horse.