It’s impossible to separate Matthew Morrison’s self-titled debut album from the Glee phenomenon, since it’s his role on the wildly popular show that gave the erstwhile boy-band member and Broadway performer the cachet to record a studio album. And though Glee started its run with a promising balance of sincerity and self-referential irony, the show has quickly devolved into musical set pieces tethered together by the thinnest slivers of plot and character. Morrison’s debut, unfortunately, is similarly lacking in consistent character or tone, punctuated only by a couple of high-profile cover tunes and celebrity guests.
To that end, Matthew Morrison isn’t substantively different from any of the Glee cast albums. The laundry list of producers slather the songs in the most middlebrow and indistinct brand of pop that, on the drippy “It Don’t Matter to the Sun” and youth-pandering “Don’t Stop Dancing,” is never less than competent, but is never even the slightest bit innovative or noteworthy. Lead single “Summer Rain” is the best produced track on the album, and it still sounds like a castoff from any number of mellow singers like Jason Mraz or Kris Allen.
The album’s original songs are just as unmemorable. “It’s Over,” which Morrison co-wrote with Broadway composer Marc Shaiman, might play well as the closing number to a mediocre musical, but it’s tedious as a pop song. “Hey” and “Don’t Stop Dancing” were both co-written by JC Chasez, but they lack the slightly sleazy point of view of the former ‘NSync member’s solo singles. The songs are all professional enough: There’s nothing actively poor, but there’s also nothing that begs to be played on the radio or, you know, covered on Glee.
It isn’t that Morrison’s a poor singer: He actually has a pure, pleasant tenor that’s as limber and expressive as that of any seasoned stage performer. But having a nice singing voice isn’t enough to make the album memorable. For better or worse, the duets tend to draw more attention: His collaboration with Elton John is a poorly executed medley of “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” and “Rocket Man,” while Gwyneth Paltrow and Morrison trade verses on an easygoing rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Still, that the best things about Matthew Morrison are a couple of straightforward duets and that he didn’t include his cover of “Golddigger” suggests that Morrison has absorbed too much of Glee‘s poor taste.