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Album review: Kris Allen's debut

November 16, 2009 |  6:11 pm
Kris_allen_jive_249 Kris Allen finished in first place on the most recent season of "American Idol," but did he really win? If this fresh-faced Arkansan had been cut from the show a few weeks earlier than he was, it's easy to imagine his post-"Idol" debut delighting his loyal fans, many of whom would've been perfectly happy with -- horror of horrors -- an entire album of Fray covers.

Instead, in an incident that might someday inspire a probing investigative report on VH1, Allen somehow earned more votes than Adam Lambert, the single most compelling contestant in "Idol's" eight-season history. So now Allen's album arrives freighted with expectations, very few of which it's in a position to meet.

Coming from an unknown singer-songwriter type, "Kris Allen" might get over on its earnest charm; as the major-label bow from one of America's highest-profile pop stars, it's a snooze and a half.

Not surprisingly, given the caliber of songwriters and producers the "Idol" franchise attracts, there are highlights: "Before We Come Undone" rides a zippy electro-rock groove by Greg Kurstin of the Bird and the Bee, while the Mike Elizondo-helmed "Can't Stay Away" throbs like a not-bad Maroon 5 outtake. Allen co-wrote "Alright With Me" with Joe King of the Fray, and, believe it or not, it's actually the liveliest thing here, an up-tempo acoustic shuffle with a sort of low-cal "Hey Ya!" vibe.

Most of the material, though, tends toward a flavorless pop-rock sound that doesn't even do much to flatter Allen's appealingly rumpled vocals. Maybe next time he'll adopt a pseudonym?

-- Mikael Wood

Kris Allen
"Kris Allen"
One and a half stars (Out of four)