This is the fourth in the series of stories looking back at American Idol and imitators in 2011.
Today, a look at the top Idol albums and EPs from 2011.
She’s at it again, belting out pop-rock tunes you just can’t get out of your head. Fortunately, with a word change or two, I don’t feel too silly singing along with this set of love-gone-wrong songs. Album number five comes off as less contrived than number four, which was clearly an attempt to put the original Idol back in the pop mainstream after “My December” failed to sell.
2. Mandisa — “What If We Were Real”
The album was nominated for a Grammy as Best Contemporary Christian Album, and deservingly so. Who would have thought the ninth-place finisher from Season 5 would go on to be one of the most reliable post-Idol performers? To appreciate the range and diversity Mandisa shows on her third album, listen to track 8 (“Just Cry”) and track 9 (“Temporary Fills”). Phenomenal.
3. Daughtry — “Break the Spell”
The third album from Chris and the guys includes one of my favorite Daughtry rockers (“Renegade”) and my favorite Daughtry ballad (“Gone Too Soon”). My only complaint is the lack of a surprise gem like “Tennessee Line,” the country duet with Vince Gill that was included on “Leave This Town.” But, all in all, another solid album that won’t disappoint the band’s fans.
4. Lauren Alaina — “Wildflower”
Freed from the stress of performing in front of 20 million people, Lauren sounds young and fun again on an album chock full of catchy country-pop tunes. But she can also tug a heartstring when she needs to. Just check out “The Locket” and “Dirt Road Prayer.” In fact, lead single “Like My Mother Does” might have been the weakest song on the album.
5. Adam Lambert — “Glam Nation Live”
In terms of performance/vocals, this album ranks right up there with anything released this year. But I have trouble ranking a live album above CDs featuring new music. Even “Sleepwalker,” one of my least favorite tracks on his debut album, sounds fantastic when Adam performs it live. The first time I listened to this, I was reminded all over again of the silly Season 8 outcome.
Don’t miss EPs
In addition to the albums mentioned above, former Idol contestants delivered a couple of EPs worth a spot in your music collection in 2011.
Talk about pleasant surprises. Lacey finished 12th in Season 8. None of her performances on the show pointed to this — a brilliant little five-song EP, sorta country-pop, on which her quirky vocals work just wonderfully. Here’s hoping we hear more from Lacey in the future.
2. Jack and White, “Gemini”
White would be Brooke White, the fifth-place finisher in Season 7. Jack would be Jack Matranga, former Self Against City guitarist. Brooke does most of the singing on this delightful six-track EP that sprang from a simple songwriting session. And we don’t have to hope there will be more; Brooke is already promising another EP in late January.