No, this is not a new David Cook album - this is the one that came out in November 2008. First, I can't believe it was that long ago. Second, I don't do a lot of album reviews, so why pick this one, right? The answer is that it's a good album, I'm listening to it today, and in honor of the new season of American Idol starting last night. This is very much not the kind of album I'd generally pick to review, but it's on my mind.
When David Cook was on AI, it was one of those few seasons that I actually watched all the way through. Usually, I watch some of the silly audition stuff right at the beginning, more because I'm excited that it's back on than because I really want to see it, though. That excitement always dwindles before Hollywood week even rolls around, usually, and I get tired of the joke singers that they put on the auditions just to make America laugh. (I've come to think that many of them are actors that Fox is paying to sing badly on national television just to boost ratings that first week and spur YouTube sensations, but maybe that's just the conspiracy theorist in me.) Anyhoo - My interest usually sparks again when there's between 7 and 4 people left on the show, because then at least I know they can sing. But there have been 2 or 3 seasons that I've actually watched beginning to end, and have felt some stake in the outcome (though I've never voted). Cook's season was one of them, and I had my money on him from day one. Say what you will, but the kid can sing, and I've always liked that he wasn't a fit-the-mold pop star.
I was understandably excited and interested when his solo album dropped, and I wasn't disappointed. I've liked the album, every song, beginning to end, since the day I downloaded it. It wasn't until this past October, almost a full year after first hearing it, that I realized exactly why I like this album so much. I'm an aspiring writer, and every November I participate in an online writing challenge called NaNoWriMo. Which means that I spend much of October getting ready for that challenge. "Getting ready to write" for me includes not only the standard plot outlining and character development exercises, but also picking the playlist that is going to score my hours and hours of banging away at a keyboard. As I was doing that, and I listened to this album with my 2009 NaNoWriMo novel in mind, it hit me just how emotional the album is. Damn. Kid can sing? Kid can sing in a way that can make you feel it, make you sit up and pay attention, even though a lot of the music on the album comes across at first glance as little more than good radio background.
Cook had a lot of help writing the songs on the album, from a lot of great songwriters, and it shows, but he didn't have any help in belting them out. On every track on this album, the lyrics, the music, and Cook's voice come together with such emotion, you can't help but be impressed. From love to loss to sadness to joy to hope, the range of emotions is seemingly endless, as is Cook's capacity to represent them with his voice. This is very much a pop-rock album, don't get me wrong. It's very mainstream and very accessible, and very radio-ready. No kidding, every single track could be on the radio tomorrow, and most of them would immediately be played to death by most top-40 stations. Like I said, at first listen it's a decent album, but the music doesn't stand out as anything more than radio background. Doesn't mean it's not a valuable album. In that way, I question what Cook could've done without the "AI Winner" badge hanging over his head. I think any album that comes out of an AI winner is to some extent a dilution of what they might truly be capable of in order to appeal to the masses. I think of some of the people I know who watch AI religiously, and then imagine how the powers that be try to package the winner in a way that will make each and every one of those people want to buy the winner's albums, and to me that's representative of everything that's wrong with the record industry and the major labels on the whole. But I digress . . .
Specifics: "Bar-ba-sol" and "Declaration" are my favorite tracks on the album because they rock just a little more than the rest. "Bar-ba-sol" has an almost funky feeling to it, and I think that's what draws me to it over some other tracks. "Light On" was the first big single, and I like it almost as much. The AI winner song, "Time of My Life," doesn't fit, IMO. I don't think it's really him, and I don't think it's an accurate reflection of his style or what he's capable of. That said, it's not a bad song, except for that garbage lyric about rainbows. "Permanent" is a beautiful, beautiful ballad about the temporary nature of life and love, and another of my favorites on the album. Overall, the album is so accessible, I think there's something for everyone, but more importantly, since this is my blog after all, I like it, and I recommend it.