Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Katharine McPhee - Katharine McPhee

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The thing with not watching American Idol (or indeed any programme of that ilk) is that when the slew of albums reach the shops, because let's face it the programmes long ago ceased to be about the winner of a particular contest, I don't have any built in bias. I've not been there when a contestant has charmed and/or annoyed the viewing public and I've no preconceptions as to what the album should sound like.

I should of course point out that is was slightly familiar with McPhee thanks to her version of Black Horse & Cherry Tree (which, lets face it - despite how unpopular this view may be - helped the American public at large catch the Tunstall bug) but that was as far as my knowledge went.

Anyway, McPhee didn't win American Idol, but that didn't stop an outbreak of "McPheever" (see, I'm down with the lingo) and the anticipation for her debut album offering.

The album seems a mixed bunch of slower, Mariah Carey moments and more up-beat, R'n'B pop moments, a move which seems calculated to both capitalise on her Idol popularity and take steps to create a new identity for herself at the same time. It's telling as well that there are undoubted highlights from both sides of that equation.

Particularly effective from the ballad side of things are Home and Ordinary World. Both display that McPhee has a voice worth listening to and are genuinely affecting songs. On the other side of things Open Toes, as cheesy as it is, is as good as anything Beyonce could come up with (and is the kind of thing Britney's new album is calling out for) and if Joss Stone did something as souful as Love Story perhaps I wouldn't hate her as much. Then there is even a track like Neglected, which falls somewhere between the two stools but still manages to be a catchy tune, and has that all-important McPhee co-writing credit.

Of course she can't quite deliver a full album of great quality. There are too many by-the-manual numbers, such as Dangerous, which fail to spark and there is that nagging feeling that as of yet, McPhee hasn't got a "sound" to call her own. Still, as a debut album from a reality TV star goes, this is an enjoyable experience and proof that with the right breaks, Katherine McPhee might just be in it for the long-term.

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