Drowned in Sound: Daughtry: Daughtry

Drowned in Sound
Daughtry: Daughtry
by Kodi McKinney, DJ at U92
kodimckinney@gmail.com

Since the conception of American Idol as the ultimate pop star breeding ground, everyone with a dream of being the Next Big Thing has stepped up to test their mettle. Rock singers were bound to break into the competition, considering the vocal athleticism required in modern rock. The latest of them is Chris Daughtry, who declined to join Fuel in order to try a career with a self-named band. It's questionable that this was a good idea.
What you see before putting in Daughtry is not encouraging. Daughtry either wrote or co-wrote most of the songs, but the results look horribly generic. The song titles aren't vaguely interesting, yet the booklet beats you over the head with them by putting them in caps each time they appear in the lyrics. Add to the banal presentation, and it begins to look destined for the discount bin.
This assumption isn't far from the truth at first. "It's Not Over" is the lead single and first track, but it's merely the less-embarrassing part of the pitiful first half. That whole stretch of Daughtry is completely forgettable, with modern rock radio cliches aplenty but nothing to make the songs stand out. It's so formulaic you could choke on it.
This kind of music can be saved to an extent by decent lyrical hooks. Sadly, there are few to be found here. Practically none of this material has anything interesting or memorable to say. To offer a comparison, Nickelback's lyrics are okay, but they would never be mistaken for Bob Dylan; that said, the bland lyrics of Daughtry and his co-writers can hardly touch Nickelback.
If the words can't win the day, what about Daughtry's vaunted voice? He's a strong singer of course, but this is a case of untapped potential. He initially seems interchangeable with any other good modern rock vocalist. The subpar songs are part of the problem, because few of their melody lines are remotely challenging for Daughtry's range. When Slash inspires him to push it a little on "What I Want," the result is shockingly explosive. If you want the good stuff, skip directly to track 7.
Something strange happens after one-fifth of Appetite for Destruction shows up: Daughtry remembers to rock. "Breakdown" starts mediocre but gets pretty cool, and "Gone" is respectable with a solid solo from Daughtry's guitarist Phil X (he's not Slash, but he tries). "There and Back Again" was written with Shinedown's Brent Smith, whose "I Dare You" was covered by Daughtry during Idol; it's the album's other great song.
The Ben Moody-penned closer "What About You" is good too, but indicative of the central problem: Daughtry is highly derivative. It's best with the fingerprints of established musicians on it and suffers too much when Daughtry is left to his own devices. The potential he shows is encouraging, but the album's inconsistent construction really hurts him. Hopefully, the next release will better showcase what Daughtry can do.
Rating: 2 out of 5