Nerves may have gotten the best of her post-American Idol performances, but just one listen to season one’s fourth-place runner-up Tamyra Gray’s debut, The Dreamer, and it’s obvious she had the pipes to take it all the way to the final two. More Mariah than Whitney, the former Miss Atlanta shows promise as a songwriter but she falls too easily into the trappings of pageant-show “you’re gonna make it” anthems like the sassy but archetypical “Star” and season three winner Fantasia Barrino’s new single “I Believe,” which Gray wrote specifically for the show (perhaps an indication that Idol producers are fully aware of the girl’s talent.) Even her assured, impressively over-the-top vamping can’t elevate such painfully by-the-numbers drivel like “Raindrops Will Falls,” the bombastic “Faces,” and “U’ve Only Got 1,” a socially-conscious ballad that adds up to blah. (To Gray’s credit, the worst of the album’s lyrics—“Put some love in your heart, put some heart in your love”—is found on the title track, the one song she didn’t co-write.) Instead, Gray is brightest on the infectious, sweetly nostalgic “The Only Thing,” “Yesterday/Today,” the delicately restrained “Like A Child,” and the horn-filled “Legend.” There’s yet to be an American Idol release that’s lived up to the show’s claims of finding America’s next big superstar, but aside from Kelly Clarkson’s Thankful, The Dreamer might be the closest we’re gonna get. At least, until Fantasia’s debut.
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