Exactly the kind of pleasant and ultimately forgettable album that most of his American Idol performances predicted he would make, Kris Allen is at least a slightly better John Mayer album than the new John Mayer album. Other than a handful of cuts that attempt to incorporate a bit of rhythm and funk into the mix, Allen’s debut consists entirely of an inoffensive and indistinct brand of Mellow Show rock. Lead single “Live Like We’re Dying” lacks the specificity that gave depth to a similarly named Tim McGraw hit, but it does have the type of strong melodic hook that banal cuts like “Bring It Back,” “The Truth,” and “Let It Rain” all lack. Only the jaunty “Alright with Me,” one of the nine tracks on which he shares a co-writing credit, gives Allen a real chance to showcase the effortless likability that catapulted him to an unlikely Idol win. The album closes with a reprise of the cover of Kanye West’s “Heartless” that sealed that win over then-frontrunner Adam Lambert. The surprising and effective acoustic arrangement of West’s song demonstrated that Allen has some genuine interpretive skill, but the studio version here layers on a heavy-handed drum machine that sounds like Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight” and pulls focus from Allen’s performance. It’s just one of the miscalculations that makes Kris Allen yet another lackluster, characterless Idol debut.
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