Begin, a New Journey For Archuleta
- Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Artist: David Archuleta
Before there was Bieber, there was Archie. As in David Archuleta, the pint-sized teen crooner who swept his way into America's hearts on season 7 of American Idol. Now 21, Archuleta's path to stardom has gotten a bit rockier. He was let go from his major label deal in February of 2011 - a sad postscript for many an Idol favorite - and goes the indie route on Begin, his fourth studio album. As the title suggests, Begin marks a new path in Archuleta's career, and sees the pop vocalist returning to his Idol roots, since nine of the album's 10 tracks are cover songs, ranging from standards like "Bridge Over Troubled Water" to well-chosen chestnuts like Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush's sublime duet "Don't Give Up."
In choosing covers, Begin would seem to be right in Archuleta's wheelhouse. After all, Idol is the most popular karaoke singing competition of all time. The song selection is ambitious; Archuleta takes aim at some of pop music's most distinctive voices, among them Christina Aguilera, Michael Stipe, Sarah MacLachlan, Bono, and Keane's Tom Chaplin. From a vocal standpoint, Archuleta acquits himself nicely. By going toe-to-toe with these vocalists, he showcases his prowess as a pure vocalist, sort of a Josh Groban-lite, with just an ounce of Brian McKnight soul tossed in.
Begin reveals Archuleta to be a more confident, self-assured performer, but this collection amounts to more of a pit stop, rather than a new direction. It doesn't really do much to define the nature of Archuleta's identity as a performer. That's bound to happen when slipping on the costume of cover songs, but in this case, the vanilla arrangements and almost universally positive-pop nature of the songs add to the generic feel.
And this is the chronic problem for talented vocalists who aren't songwriters; they need someone else to write their stuff. That's fine when the Jive Records hit-making machine is behind you, but when the well dries up, many a fine pop star has struggled to keep going. And it's hard enough to find an audience in the ever-changing teen pop landscape. Begin seems like a tiny step toward finding a more adult audience, but one hopes Archuleta and his team take a more confident move in that direction next time out.
*This Review First Published 8/15/2012
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