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Album review: David Archuleta's debut

November 10, 2008 |  5:54 pm

David Archuleta Why do "American Idol" fans consistently reward male pop singers for being entirely sexless on the show? Pouty lips and flirty lashes are practically entrance requirements for female singers, and "rocker" guys can bellow and strut to their content. But there's a kind of elfish contestant who always does well despite the possibility of vanishing in a cloud of unicorn glitter were he to sing something arousing.

Which brings us to the curious case of David Archuleta's debut album. It's an exacting distillation of a 13-year-old girl's wholesome romantic aspirations as imagined by 50-year-old label reps. Yet the show revealed that image is actually true to Archuleta's personality (albeit, one creepily stage-managed by his dad). It's as if Archuleta's influences as a singer were solely previous "Idol" contestants, and he's a blank screen for viewers to project onto via millions of speed-dialed votes.

Archuleta has one magisterial single, "Crush," that will smother all who encounter it with the refinement of its craft. But the record is larded with awkward modernist R&B, Christian semaphore ballads like "You Can" and warm-milk mewling that makes David Cook, Archuleta's "Idol" foe, sound like Robert Plant.

The best teen pop is often code for exploring more dangerous ideas, yet Archuleta counts Tamyra Gray and Kelly Clarkson as influences in his liner notes. Kids deserve more salacious pandering than that.

--August Brown

David Archuleta
"David Archuleta"
One and a half stars