You want reviews? I got yer reviews. And opinions. And analysis. And kvetching.

From The Rocky Mountain News:

If not for the show, Hicks might have landed an indie contract by now. He could be a modestly successful singer-songwriter eking out a living with what credibility he could muster from his mediocre songwriting talents and undeniable vocal charisma. Yet the Idol victory adds pressure on Hicks to be more than that, though to be fair, less has come to be expected of Idol contestants over the years. That’s good for the Alabama singer, because Taylor Hicks is paint-by-numbers neo-soul with a slightly more vivid palette than usual.

Taylor Hicks’ songwriting is rather mediocre, but he does show glimpses of brilliance with songs like “Somehow.” I’d luurve to see him get picked up by American Recordings and work with producer Rick Rubin, who is widely known as a slave driver willing to beat good songs out of his artists, if that’s what it takes. (Just ask Neil Diamond. No, seriously, ask Neil Diamond. And then go listen to his 12 Songs album.)

And this from Mary Colurso (although yeah…she may not be the most even-handed reviewer):

During an interview in late November, Hicks was evasive about radio play, saying his team wasn’t going to force a single onto the public airwaves. The right song, he hinted, would somehow pop to the surface and appear more naturally. (Ed. note–you mean an Arista focus group team that floated and tested four songs for public consumption is “natural?” Heh.)

Granted, he’s worked hard and done a very decent job with this 12-track debut, produced in a six-week flurry after the “Idol” tour concluded. It’s a highly professional CD, with enough of Hicks’ gritty personality to please fans and enough of a pop focus to satisfy the record company. But it’s as simple as this: You can’t see him. As his TV appearances prove, Hicks’ essential appeal has a strong visual component. Watching him sing makes the vocals really hit home. It adds to the pleasure. It makes “eh” turn to “ooh!” Any recording artist needs the right material ” Hicks’ disc scores in that regard about 50 percent of the time ” but the fact remains that he’s a highly physical performer. For maximum oomph, you need to use eyeballs as well as eardrums.

No. I disagree. I do enjoy watching Taylor perform, but at the same time, I find his best moments to be undoubtely purely vocal. “Somehow” and “In Your Time” from his first CD; “Hell of a Day” from his second; “In the Ghetto,” “Something” and “You Are So Beautiful” from Idol are my favorite Taylor Hicks performances…all performances where his sweet, sweet growl is the star, and his crazy antics are…well, not there. I think that was part of the mistake of this album–many of these songs are “whomp”-y and high-octane, and they are performing songs. There’s simply not enough of Taylor’s vocals on this CD.

Trouble arises, however, when Hicks attempts to pull off songs I can only characterize as filler ballads. Diane Warren’s drippy “Places I’ve Been,” for example, plays to his weaknesses instead of his strengths. Hicks’ vocal limitations come to the fore, and you just don’t buy the performance. Same goes for the forgettable “Just to Feel That Way,” which usually induces my finger to push the skip button. Hicks fares better with “The Right Place,” vocally shaping the number into a tender Ray Charles homage.

Yeah, “Places I’ve Been” sucks, and Taylor does nothing with it. But I do like “Just To Feel That Way,” and I hate sappy pop ballads, because Taylor works it. And why Colurso is including the Brother Ray gospel number “The Right Place” in a list of pop songs is beyond me.

Clive could have made better decisions here. He could have shipped Taylor off to, say, the Burgundy devision of Sony/BMG, enrolled him in an intense crash-course in songwriting, let him churn out a John Legend or John Mayer-ish album, and marketed him as Idol’s answer to neo-soul, tailor-made for the Starbucks crowd. Instead, the album Taylor wound up putting out (whether it was Taylor’s idea from the get-go, or Clive’s, or some kind of compromise) did nothing other than reinforce the stereotypes that people already held about him. If you loved his monkey dancing and penchant for upbeat music on Idol, you ate this CD up with a spoon. If you saw him as nothing more than an unfortunate Tourette’s case, this album didn’t change your mind. And that’s one hell of a missed opportunity.


5 Responses to “You want reviews? I got yer reviews. And opinions. And analysis. And kvetching.”

  1. 1 MaryS-NJ January 5, 2007 at 10:50 am

    “Clive could have made better decisions here. He could have shipped Taylor off to, say, the Burgundy devision of Sony/BMG, enrolled him in an intense crash-course in songwriting, let him churn out a John Legend or John Mayer-ish album, and marketed him as Idol’s answer to neo-soul, tailor-made for the Starbucks crowd.”

    Oh how I would have loved such a Taylor Hicks album. But that would have taken more time than Clive and Co. wanted to wait to wring as much fast cash out of the “American Idol” as possible. I wish these guys would just look at the big picture. If wishes were horses…

    I actually think this album is pretty good as Idol debuts go, but that’s not really saying much is it? Taylor wanted to mix things up, so to some degree I think this is the reason we got up-tempo performance (whomp?) songs, but it’s clear to me that this was made with Top 40 in mind rather than Adult Alternative which is where I think Taylor’s own music naturally fits better.

    That said, I was pleasantly surprised by JTFTW which should counter-intuitive for an artist like Taylor, but he makes it work really well. I still don’t see Taylor as a convincing Top 40 artist, however.

    I hope Taylor gets a chance to make that neo-soul album later, but the expectations for huge sales concern me. If he doesn’t meet expectations with this CD, does that mean he’s even less likely to have artistic control the next time?

  2. 2 idolicious January 5, 2007 at 11:59 am

    I will say that even before all the hoopla about “what will the single be?” started, I KNEW they would go with JTFTW. It just sounds like a hit. Musically, structurally, it has hit elements. I hate to sound uppity about it, and I don’t mean to come off that way, but I have a bit of an ear for what songs will be hits and what will be flops. Maybe I’m just a human Platinum Blue. Maybe there is something to be said for all this talk of clusters and elements and ingredients.

    Now, just because JTFTW SOUNDS like a hit, doesn’t mean it WILL be a hit. DJs may refused to play him because they resent his win, or because there’s no room on the playlist, or because Arista failed to wine and dine the ClearChannel gods to their liking. Conversely, Arista may choose to quietly float the single, see what happens, and if it’s a flop, shrug their shoulders and say “oh, well, we tried.” Do I think they’ll do that? No, I don’t. I think they’ll push for Taylor. If Clive didn’t give two shits what Taylor did, he would have kicked him around Sony like he did with Carrie. But Taylor seems to have gotten the “very special album” treatment. Not as badly as Bo Bice, mind you, but there was still a lot of compromise.

  3. 3 MaryS-NJ January 5, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    Yes! I heard JTFTW and felt it was most likely to be a radio hit also. Loved it from the first play and it’s not at all what I would associate with Taylor’s sound, based on what he did before but it definitely works.

    Taylor is an interesting cat. He’s almost the anti-Idol and he seems to evoke strong reactions among the critic class – some because he’s not AI enough and some because he is AI, and some just because critics are human and have their favorites too. I’ve never watched AI before this season so I don’t know if this critical schizophrenia is typical or especially acute this year and specific to Taylor. I don’t know what that means for his reception by the program directors and DJs, honestly.

    Also, I’m not sure what to make of Clive and his position in regard to Taylor, to be honest. So much has been said and speculated about and conspiracy theories abound. I’ve read Clive’s comments in which he talks about the need to broaden (Taylor’s) fanbase with some trepidation, and I have no doubt that he brought his considerable forces to bear on Taylor’s album. I mean, Diane Warren and Rob Thomas? One is ubiquitous on Idol releases and the other is a name brand pop/rock songwriter. I will confess that Taylor’s looking more like a Bo Bice than a Kelly Clarkson right now. I hope that I am wrong in the long term.

    What is evident, is that Clive wants to make money not lose it. If Taylor’s album doesn’t sell a million copies – or whatever the break even point is, that does nobody any good. I would guess that Clive knows Taylor’s buzz on AI wasn’t a fluke, but how that translates into record sales will be a question mark for a while. If he is smart he’ll know that Taylor’s a special case and not to repackage him too much.

  4. 4 DaniCalifornia January 5, 2007 at 11:47 pm

    I prefer the orignal arrangements of his three songs on his albums. I hate hate hate the new ones. And the lyrics are different in them as well. They took the personalization of the lyrics, and the soul out of the music, and instead replaced it with meaningless words and poppy tunes. It makes me sick listening to it, especially with the thought that no one will ever hear how good the originals are. And MaryS-NJ, I believe you are right on the money with everything you said.

  5. 5 MaryS-NJ January 7, 2007 at 8:24 pm


    I prefer the accoustic simplicity of the original arrangements of Taylor’s three songs too, but I don’t hate the new ones. It’s just a different flavor. I think anyone who becomes interested in Taylor will eventually hear the originals. I wouldn’t worry about that.

    I just think it’s frustrating that Taylor’s single is not being added for radio right away. And I don’t understand how if Katharine’s single isn’t been released to radio on January 30th, it’s already getting some spins and Taylor’s isn’t.

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January 2007
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What the kids are sayin’

"I hate them all. The judges, TPTB, the blatant manipulation, the songs, the contestants, everything. I'm a die-hard Cook fan, but for the love of god, at least try to look like you're enjoying yourself up there! Please? Syesha was awesome but she ruined it by being completely shameless and disgusting. Yes, being on American Idol is exactly like the civil rights movement, except for the part where you're fighting to make the world a better place."

"All I can say after the disgusting display tonight of favoritism towards the mediocrity that is David A. - good luck trying to market and make money off of that kid, American Idol. (Not to mention good luck dealing with his father.) All the teeny boppers may buy up his American Idol coronation single, but they will quickly forget about him before the album comes out. And I shudder to think of a David A. album - song after song of unrelenting sameness and heavy breathing. Why they are pimping him for the win is beyond me."

"This show was simply a hot buttered mess tonight. And Jason "needs to be arrested for what he did to I Shot the Sheriff. But I hope he stays. He amuses me. "

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