There was a label tagged onto bands like Bon Jovi and Def Leppard in the 80's - "corporate rock". This descriptor's purpose was to neatly sum up the type of populist, slick music that record companies knew would connect with audiences, "shift a lot of units" and fatten their bottom line. I always found the term dismissive (along with the "hair band" label), but then people always seem to feel the need to categorize things, don't they? Obviously I was a huge fan of both bands.
That tag would surely land around Chris Daughtry's neck today. The season five American Idol finalist hit it huge right out of the chute, achieving massive success with his 2006 self-titled debut. In fact, it was the best-selling release of 2007. Initially, I resisted Daughtry's music...mostly because of the Idol connection and, well, the dude's weird facial hair and propensity for wearing black eyeliner bothered me. Lame reasons, yes, but ultimately, after being totally unable to escape his ubiquitous presence on the airwaves or online, I succumbed and went to the dark side. And I loved it. "Home", "Over You", "What About Now" and "Feels Like Tonight" are top-notch songs...not very original, mind you, but who cares?
I similarly resisted the charms of Kelly Clarkson when she put out her first album, again due to the Idol association and also because her first album (other than the song "Beautiful Disaster") was a pile 'o crap. Then the lead single ("Since You've Been Gone") from her sophomore release hit and I was knocked on my ass by her talent. The two albums she's put out since then are excellent as well, especially this year's All I Ever Wanted.
Leave This Town, however, sees Daughtry taking a step back with his career. Remember that atrocious movie called From Justin To Kelly that Clarkson did around the time she released her debut album? Daughtry's latest doesn't quite sink to those depths but certainly qualifies as a misstep. Only one song matches the level of any of the four songs I mentioned from Daughtry - that would be the country-tinged shuffle "Tennessee Line", with a low-key vocal accompaniment from Vince Gill. Most of the rest of the album just doesn't stand up to repeat listens. Opening track "You Don't Belong" employs that generic detuned guitar sound that defines nu metal and the song comes off like a forgettable Linkin Park discard. Virtually all of the other heavy songs are filler between the multitude of acoustic driven ballads/power ballads which are decent enough but cry out for a spark of life. First single "No Surprise" reeks of Nickelback and so it's not a shocker that Chad Kroeger from that band co-wrote it with Daughtry.
Chris Daughtry has proven he's capable of achieving more than the end result of Leave This Town leaves us with. Hopefully the two to three year wait for his next album will be worth it.