2010 in Review: The year’s best Idol albums

This wasn’t the kindest of years to American Idol in terms of CD sales.

The three albums that hung around on the Billboard 200 the longest — Carrie Underwood’s “Play On,” Daughtry’s “Leave This Town,” and Adam Lambert’s “For Your Entertainment” — were all holdovers from 2009.

The only 2010 Idol release to make a significant dent in the charts: season four winner Fantasia’s third album.

But that doesn’t mean former Idol contestants didn’t release good music in 2010. Here are my picks for the five best albums.

Coming tomorrow: The top 10 songs of 2010. Followed, on Friday, by the top videos of 2010.

So keep checking back.

And if you want a look at my grades for all Idol albums from 2010, and most from past years, go here and check out a new section of Idol Chatter.

Now, my top five albums …

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Bo Bice's "3"1. Bo Bice: “3″

The album was supposed to be called “Different Shades of Blue.” Two months before it’s release, Bo shortened it to “3.” After all, it’s his third album. And Bo’s wife had just delivered the couple’s third son. Regardless of the title, it’s Bo’s best yet by far, with a nice helping of southern rock that was sorely lacking in his post-Idol debut and more country than fans might expect. Bottom line: It works, from start to finish. The song that was supposed to be the title track is great; so is the album-closing “You Take Yourself with You.”

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Crystal Bowersox's "Farmer's Daughter"2. Crystal Bowersox, “Farmer’s Daughter”

The reviews have been mixed. In my mind, it’s the best debut yet from an Idol finalist. And proof that an Idol finalist doesn’t have to sacrifice his or her identity when releasing a first album in conjunction with 19 Entertainment. In fact, many of the songs on this CD were written by Crystal before Idol, including “Holy Toledo,” “Speak Now” and the magnificent title track, “Farmer’s Daughter.” Crystal’s emotions come through strongest when she’s singing about trials she’s faced in the past, but this is far from a one-trick album. An example: “Mason,” a song written post-Idol with her husband, Brian Walker.

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Fantasia's "Back To Me"3. Fantasia: “Back to Me”

The album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 and number one on the R&B chart. It’s already produced two R&B hits singles (“Bittersweet” and “I’m Doin’ Me”). I like the playful dance tune “Falling in Love Tonight” better than either of those songs. I hate that Fantasia has a reality show. One episode was more than enough for me. But it’s tough to argue with an album that has been one of the most successful among Idols in sales and chart performance. Plus, it landed a Grammy nomination for Idol’s season three winner. And no one can argue with that voice.

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We Are the Fallen4. We Are the Fallen, “Tear the World Down”

The album spent just three weeks on the Billboard 200, which means it’s vastly underappreciated in my mind. For those who forgot — or never knew — We Are the Fallen is three-fifths former members of Evanescence, plus bass guitarist Marty O’Brien, plus former season seven Idol Carly Smithson. And Carly never sounded this good on Idol, belting out the rockers (“Bury Me Alive”) and the power ballads (“Sleep Well, My Angel”) with equal aplomb. Another highlight: “Paradigm.” So, who’s the little dark-haired girl standing amid all the destruction on the album cover?

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David Archuleta's "The Other Side Of Down"5. David Archuleta: “The Other Side of Down”

This was the toughest pick on the list. Should the honor go to Jason Castro’s hit-and-miss debut because of a few golden moments or to David’s second album for being solid from beginning to end. In the end, I chose David. Jason’s album relied on golden moments from Idol to make it more palatable; David put out a better sophomore album than his debut. He had a hand in writing more of the material, too, with credits on 10 of the 12 songs. And it’s just so darn upbeat and … well, David being David. It’s just a shame the sales numbers for the album haven’t been more upbeat to this point.

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16 Responses to “2010 in Review: The year’s best Idol albums”

  1. anne says:

    Have to disagree – love Jason Castro’s album – he is no. 1 in my book! NO COMPARISON!

    • Sue says:

      Yep. People should check out his
      performance on You Tube with Kurt Bestor
      “Glory in the Highest”. Guys got talent.

  2. lct says:

    Have to say The Other Side of Down was one of the most underrated albums. It’s got great songs like Falling Stars, Who I Am, TOSOD, Stomping the Roses. Not too often do you find an album with that many great songs! Usually you’ll get two and the rest are OK.

  3. djafan says:

    I agree with your comments on The Other Side Of Down, great songs, lyrics, melodies, and that incomparable voice.

    Most reviews have been really good, he’s becoming a great singer/songwriter/performer and only see good things for the coming year.

    David has a concert tonight at The Grove in Anaheim and lucky me will be there!

  4. cathy says:

    “The Other Side of Down” by David Archuleta is such a great album! It is so under-rated and that makes me sad!! If you haven’t purchased this album, please do and you will be in for a treat. He co-wrote 10 of the 12 songs and that makes it even more special!!

  5. JHM says:

    I love David Archuleta’s album “The Other Side Of Down”! Such great, upbeat songs with great melodies and wonderful lyrics in many of the songs. This album makes me feel very good, thank you to David for that.
    Love the substance in this album, fun yet meaningful with a couple of gorgeous songs like “My Kind Of Perfect” and “Falling Stars”. Love the whole album. I agree it is underrated, definitely worth getting!

  6. prd9601 says:

    This is a very strong list. Think I would have Archuleta’s under valued album at #4 and Castro in at #5. Don’t think We Are The Fallen really belongs on this list.

  7. nancy says:

    The reason David’s 3rd album didn’t sell as well is the plain fact that his record co. Jive practically abandoned him. They got him no airplay and I mean none. They gave him hardly any promotion for this album. It is an amazing album that should have sold tons, but when you have a label that does nothing for you what do you expect……

  8. iavarg says:

    I agree 100% with the #1 pick for album of the year. This album proves what a talented songwriter and musician Bo Bice is. He wrote and co-wrote all of the songs; and, produced and co-produced all of them in his own recording studio. His video has been in the Top 20 Countdown on GAC for several weeks and was #45 on the Top 50 Videos of the year. Not too shabby for an indie artist. Too bad he doesn’t have the $s to compete with the big label executives and promoters. Thanks again for giving credit to someone who really deserves it more than anyone.

  9. [...] blogs include the best of Idol in 2010, the worst of Idol in 2010 and the top 5 Idol albums of [...]

  10. laurirose says:

    And I’d put Crystal’s album Farmer’s Daughter at the top of the list.. Brilliant debut… expecting strong sales in the weeks to come as she gets on more TV shows in the beginning of 2011..
    Have seen her live a number of times post-Idol and super-impressed each time..

  11. Andy says:

    The two Idol albums I bought this year were Bo’s and Crystal’s–who also are my two all time favorite Idols. My very unbiased opinion is that both albums are awesome!

  12. Karen says:

    My pick is David Archuleta’s album. I love it, play it all the time. The songs are great. David has a voice I can never get enough of, plus he’s got looks and charm up the wazoo. I’m smitten with the Archulator.

    Some of the others sound interesting. Maybe I’ll check them out if I get the time.

  13. vickie says:

    David’s new CD The Other Side of Down is amazing. Thank you so much for recognizing a phenomenal artist like David. He has worked very hard to produce a collection of songs that are meaningful and authentic to his values and beliefs while still connecting to hia “pop” audience. I wish Jive would do more to promote David and his music. He is definetly an artist that deserves their attention.

  14. Sue says:

    I think you completely missed the boat on Jason Castro’s self titled debut CD. Best of the lot in my opinion. He wrote some very good songs and performed them very well. A couple written by others were stand out in my opinion as well.
    “You Can Always Come Home” is one.
    The other CD release “Who I am” in Nov.
    had some great additions as well.
    “You Are” is currently at 20 on the Christian Songs list for Billboard.

  15. [...] to check out the other 2010 in Review blogs, including the Best of Idol, the Worst of Idol, the top albums of the year and the top songs of the [...]

  16. suziq says:

    Mason (from Crystal’s album) was written pre-idol.

    I love the Bo Bice song “You Take Yourself with You.” Wouldn’t have heard it if not for your column. Thanks!

  17. Linda says:

    David Archuleta with The Other Side of Down is my pick for number # 1. The album got great review from critics but hasn’t sold too well. IMO, the reason for low sales is what everyone above me is tating– little to no promotion from his record label. Amidst the release of his new album, JIVE was and still is undergoing major changes in their management team which is seems, David got the short end of stick. He is clearly one of the best artists out there today and deserves so much more attention and promo than he’s gotten from his label. I hope they wake up soon.

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