Artist: Kris Allen

Title: Thank You Camellia

Label: 19 Recordings/RCA Records

American Idol season eight winner Kris Allen may have been the first champion whose debut album didn't reach the gold sales landmark, but wouldn't it be something if this follow-up, Thank You Camellia, defied the odds and outpaced its predecessor?  

Maybe it needs to happen just to further dismantle Idol's tired chart-by-numbers rise and fall pattern—and Allen's new set really is graceful, catchy pop that can stand on its own. The songs throughout Camellia seem best positioned to fill the spot once ruled by John Mayer and Jason Mraz. As those guys move into more reflective, multi-layered artist territory, Kris is still hitting us up with easy, breezy love songs that are lots of fun.

"Better With You" could be seen as a bubbly relative to Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine," a choice Allen scored points with on Idol. With bright acoustic guitar, hints of reggae, and a falsetto hook, he tells us being near his sweetheart makes everything better.

Comparable ingredients and tasteful OneRepublic-like production make first single "The Vision of Love" even stronger. Kris also hints at his church and missionary background in socially conscious lyrics like, With a little faith we can't go wrong / When our heart breaks and the world shakes will we stand for the vision of love?

The upbeat love fest continues on "My Weakness" (so happy it includes whistling), and "Rooftops" reaches heart-dizzying heights as well (I'm in love with the girl, want to scream it from the rooftops all over the world). The latter's light-rap California sound will make many nostalgic for laid back ‘90s radio favorites Sublime and Sugar Ray.

Likewise, the innocence and whimsy on acoustic pop charmers "Teach Me How Love Goes" and "Loves Me Not" (a duet with indie singer Meiko) are hard to resist, their melodic strengths comparable to what people have liked about Colbie Caillat.

If there's a no-thank-you moment on Thank You Camellia, it's the relatively edgy "Monster" wherein this boy-next-door sings about his dark side while the backing rhythm hints at an industrial thump. Don't go there, dude. The music scene needs your positivity.

Thank you, Kris Allen.

*This Review First Published 6/4/2012