Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Billboard CD reviews: Adam Lambert and Kris Allen


It doesn't rewrite (in hot-pink glitter ink) the entire rule book on what a pop record can be. But Adam Lambert's debut album, "For Your Entertainment," is still the most audacious, confident debut yet from a former "American Idol" contestant. And that's not even the best thing about the release, which includes writing and production contributions from a sizable portion of the top 40 A-list. Lambert's vocals were a thing of scenery-chewing wonder on "Idol," and here he successfully showcases the full range of his remarkable instrument, from skyscraping glam-rock sneer ("Music Again") to lush future-soul croon ("Broken Open"). Even when the material doesn't rise to the occasion -- as in the aptly titled "Sleepwalker," penned by Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic -- Lambert's singing gives the music a tactile sensuality. Not surprisingly, considering the expectations surrounding the album and its hasty mode of manufacture, "For Your Entertainment" can feel scattered and shallower than it should. Even so, it practically vibrates with pleasure.

ALBUM: KRIS ALLEN (19/Jive Records)

In a way, the media buzz surrounding Adam Lambert could be a blessing for Kris Allen. Unlike most "American Idol" winners, he's a perpetual underdog who mustn't live up to hype so much as defy reserved expectations. Allen does this with ease on his self-titled debut, continuing in the guitar-driven pop direction he established in the spring while sounding supremely confident. It's a wonder why the song "The Truth" wasn't chosen as the Arkansas singer-songwriter's first single, since it has the kind of anthemic thrust he'll need to please fans while recruiting new ones. The track "Before We Come Undone" boasts one of the album's catchiest hooks, while a Salaam Remi-produced version of his much-praised cover of Kanye West's "Heartless" throbs with a hip-hop backbeat. Allen doesn't straddle genres and octaves like "AI" runner-up Lambert, but he did co-write the majority of his album -- a rarity for an "Idol" -- and he overdelivers on the promise he showed on TV.

Order "For Your Entertainment" Now! from:
iTunes or Amazon

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